Album of the Day: MASTER BOOT RECORD, “Direct Memory Access”

If Yngwie Malmsteen had grown up with computers instead of guitars, MASTER BOOT RECORD’s synthesis of chiptune and baroque metal might not be such a wonder. The mysterious solo Italian recording project—self-described as “100% Synthesized, 100% Dehumanized” on social media—shares the kind of chugging rhythms, blasting percussion, and precise arpeggios favored by the pioneering metal guitarist. But MASTER BOOT RECORD does all of that it minus guitars and plus a lot of 1s and 0s, adding a healthy diet of bleeps and bloops that will sound instantly familiar to students of 1970s and ‘80s arcade games. That combination—menacing metal and glittery game sounds—is something unique, similar to early Daft Punk’s marriage of vocoder, techno, and disco sounds.

MASTER BOOT RECORD has built a cult following for its prolific and recognizable sound over the past two years, releasing both original music (with album and song titles that function as easter eggs for programmers and computing hobbyists) and covers of classic video game themes. But unlike previous releases, new LP Direct Memory Access finds MASTER BOOT RECORD collaborating with a vocalist—the unpronounceable French singer Öxxö Xööx, from Blood Music labelmate Rïcïnn—and further expanding the project’s sonic palette. The vocals meld nicely, and range from tuneful (“DMA 2 FDD CONTROLLER”) to beastly (“DMA 4 CASCADE”). The guest spot, along with the signing to an established Finnish metal and electronic music label, should help cement MBR’s street cred. But even the new album’s instrumental tracks, like the operatic and ever-shifting opener “DMA 0 DRAM REFRESH” contain a new sense of structural adventure.

On one hand, these are absolutely perfect songs for driving confounded parents insane. But between the project’s musical complexity and its absolute confidence in pioneering an aesthetic that feels more developed with each new release, MASTER BOOT RECORD is just as compelling as it is mysterious. And like any good internet sensation, the fascination is growing at an alarming rate.

-Casey Jarman

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