Synth Album Review: "Switch On The Gadget!" by Zitilites
In this world where musicians have so much choice for digital music production, even handheld gaming systems can be used to create music. KORG Gadget is music creation software that’s available for the Nintendo Switch. This makes it accessible to a wide variety of music makers.
Zitilites’ latest album Switch on the Gadget! was composed on a Nintendo Switch using Gadget. Zitlites recorded the music from the Switch and finished it on PC. He explains, “A few tracks have had some elements added or changed later” but most of the album was created using Gadget.
Switch on the Gadget! is a playful, energetic album full of chip tune sensibilities, interesting virtual instruments and synths from the Gadget program. The melodies and musical elements create an overall feeling of fun and experimentation. I was pleasantly surprised by the quality and variety of tunes on the album along with how good it sounded.
One of the first elements that hit me about this album is the solidity of Zitilites’ melodies. He has a flair for making playful, energetic melodies and to my ear they often have the quality of retro video game melodies in that they’re strong, catchy and make the most of the tools used to create them. I could hear elements of the great Japanese composers of NES music and on “A Bit of Seafoam” there was a powerful “Monkey Island” feeling that harks back to Michael Land, Clint Bajakian and Peter McConnell’s music for that game series.
I was also struck by Zitilites’ ability to work with 8-bit sounds on Switch on the Gadget. He has a good sense of how that limited sound palette can be utilized to produce music that sounds much richer. It may all be emulated through the KORG Gadget, but it has an authenticity to the 8-bit sounds of early consoles like the NES.
There is a playful exuberance to the virtual instrument choices that Zitilites used on the album. From accordion to clarinet to xylophone and even steel drums, his choices of instruments suit the tracks on which they are used. They match up to the fun and engaging melodic content of the album and add a light and even humorous quality to Switch On The Gadget!
My Favourite Tracks
“A Bit Runny” has a flying, energizing melody that dances through the track along with fun vocal samples from the OutRun videogame. I also liked the throbbing beat and the overall bouncy feeling of this track. There’s a lot of movement and propulsion in the faster rhythm that comes into the music as it evolves. As the song moves towards a close, I enjoyed how groovy everything got before resolving into the flying melody that opened the track.
I was charmed by the combined reggae vibes and the accordion playing sea shanties on “ A Bit of Seafoam.” As I mentioned, I got a strong sense that this tune was inspired by the music of the LucasArts Monkey Island adventure games. I was also a fan of the virtual clarinet in the track, especially the jazzy solo that it takes as it spins and dances through the music.
“Chipper Dandy” is a tune full of driving 8-bit goodness and a rocking melody that cascades and leaps through the music. The classic 8-bit bass sounds contrast with a secondary high melody line that really has a jumping energy to it. There’s some classical elements to the “C” section melody and the overall chippy vibe of the track was very enjoyable.
I was most attracted to the melody on “A Bit of Spice” because of the ancient, folk music-like quality it has and how that melody contrasts with the groovy bass. There are some instrument sounds I enjoyed here including the pan pipe synth and a xylophone emulating virtual instrument playing tight clusters of energetic notes.
“Daftwave” had some strong synthwave vibes from the drums and bass on the track. I enjoyed the sharp edged synth playing an intricate, energetic and moving lead synth melody. The synth pattern jumps and soars, flickering and moving through intricate lines. There’s a lot of quick, sliding movement and fast runs of notes in the lead melody that give it a lot of movement. It was a track that made me feel uplifted and full of happiness.
I was pleasantly surprised by Ziitlites’ choice of virtual steel pans on “Beach Jam.” There’s a really warm, positive vibe in the main melody and it sounds good on that steel pan virtual instrument. The steady rhythm adds a nice energy to the track. It conjures up the feeling of enjoying a day running around on the beach. I was also interested by the second half of the track which felt a little darker and had some classical music influences as well.
“Journey’s End” features a winding, wandering chip tune melody that moves delicately through a landscape of ethereal slow arpeggios, played on an instrument that reminds me a little of a hang drum. The slowly revolving, rich sound of the arpeggios begins to create a hypnotic effect that lulled me, but didn’t lose my interest. I also enjoyed the contrast between the more “organic” sound of the arps and the clarity of the chip sound on this track.
Zitilites has created a characterful, enjoyable musical journey with Switch On The Gadget! In limiting himself to using one major piece of software to create the album, he has found unique ways to express his very individual musical vision. I liked the way in which he combined musical genres, virtual instruments and chip elements to produce an interesting final result.