A lot of people around the community know the name of Shnabubula. His virtuosic piano skills coupled with his talent for chiptunes have been explored in the past, as in his Free Play and Game Genie albums, respectively. Now the two come together in what has been called, “face melting in its finest form,” by Metroid Metal, and other compliments that are probably too vulgar and/or obscene to mention here. Suffice it to say, NES Jams is probably the best album Shnabubula has released so far, and it’ll probably only get better from here.
The story picks up immediately whereÂ Game GenieÂ ends. A young boy, Tommy, has just defeated his Game Genie, and in its place is a mysterious NES cartridge. Upon placing it in his NES, something wondrous occurs; the message PREPARE TO JAM appears and Tommy approaches his brother’s keyboard. Suddenly, the game and his fingers begin to play music together! Now, this is just a brief summation of the album’s story; the real beauty is the album itself. Just read with me as I take you on an aural tour through the 11 tracks contained on this album. Let us begin.
1. Underwater (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) Â Â 2:51
Starts out calm and aquatic sounding… 0:20 brings in some piano work. 0:40 brings in a nice little jazzy part. Pretty nice track; great way to kick the album off. 1:09 kicks off a bit of a calm section, and 1:18 or so is where it really kicks off with some nice arrangement. The piano and the NES accompaniment work phenomenally together. 1:56 or so brings in a series of crescendos. 2:10 is where you can tell the end is coming. Everything keeps on getting better and better until the finale begins at 2:44.
2. Temple (Zelda 2) Â Â 3:16
Source kicks off right away, of course. Sam keeps it simple, sticking to the source pretty tightly with minor changes with the accompaniment. 0:29 is where the accompaniment takes off, and the keys follow shortly after. The source is held tightly for the first minute, and then some nice arrangement comes in at 1:09 or so. This is probably one of the best renditions of this theme I’ve heard, and I’ve heard a few. 1:52 brings a breakdown, and it starts to pick up once again at 2:04 or so. 2:16 is where some real awesome piano comes in, and it only gets more awesome from there. The source is loosely held throughout this segment, and comes back in full force with crazy accompaniment at 2:56 or so. Final at about 3:09.
3. Alien Lair (Contra) Â Â 3:06
This one starts out kinda tense. 0:17 changes that in an instant; some big stuff is going down somewhere. 0:37 brings even more tension in, with force put into each and every piano note. 1:06 brings a very brief break. This song definitely has a nice feel to it, one that captures quite a few intense emotions in its many layers. 2:04 brings this point home, and even moreso at 2:15. The accompaniment goes pretty nuts from here on out. The end is definitely near at 3:01.
4. Night Sea (Little Nemo the Dream Master) Â Â 3:45
And now a well-placed calm spot; don’t be fooled, it’s just the calm before the storm. Shnabubula actually releasedÂ a video of this trackÂ onÂ his Youtube channelÂ as a teaser for the album; it was the second such teaser. 0:32 brings in some nice bass. Nice work on the keys at 0:56 or so, and great accompaniment at 1:04 on. This song definitely has a great flow, one that makes me just want to sway back and forth to the rhythm. Some nice solo at 1:55 or so; back to the source at 2:10 with some embellishments. Naturally; wouldn’t be a Shnabubula track without them. Okay, so maybe not so calm; 2:40 or so brings some pretty crazy piano, and it calms down at 2:56. Very calm at 3:10 or so; it remains this way until the end of the track. The true finale begins at 3:34.
5. Dwelling of Doom (Castlevania 2) Â Â 3:16
Funky, just the way I like it! It starts getting even funkier at 0:22 or so. Even crazier parts begin at around 0:56; this song is focused mostly on the keys and the accompaniment only adds to the experience. It starts getting pretty crazy at 1:30 or so; breakdown at 1:50. It really picks back up at 2:07; signature Shnabubula insanity comes in not too long after. I’m still amazed that he can moves his hands as fast as he can; seriously, he must be part machine or something, because this skill is near-inhuman. The finale begins suddenly at 3:10.
6. Kung Fu Alley (NES Original) Â Â 4:42
This is completely original, and completely lacks the keys of all the other tracks. Fitting that it’s the middle track; five are before it and five are after it. Very nice rhythm, and very nice to listen to. Apparently, the track was supposed to loop at some point, but it wouldn’t. Ah well, it’s a great song nonetheless. Pretty nice part at 1:32 or so. Short breakdown at 1:58 or so, that goes into another great part; sounds like it could be a stage set atop some cliffs or something. 2:28 brings in some nice duality between dominant parts in the track, and 2:42 brings in some nice backing effects. 3:06 adds in a whole different part that fits in perfectly. Again, the song has some great flow and rhythm to it. Everything fits together perfectly, and it sounds phenomenal. There’s a feeling of something coming at 3:56 or so; probably signaling the finale. And the finale does come in at 4:28 or so.
7. Title (Double Dragon) Â Â 3:34
This was the first song Shnabubula releasedÂ as a teaser on his YouTube channel. Source comes in at the ten-second mark. Very fast-paced, and great to listen to. 0:32 brings a slightly slower part. 0:54 kicks off more source usage and also signals the beginning of some awesome arrangement; check out 1:24. Just when you think the source is gonna kick off again at 1:38, Shnabubula switches it up with a rather beautiful breakdown. It starts picking up again at 2:02. Everything that follows is just pure greatness and insanity, especially at 2:32. Source leaps back in at 2:43, maintaining the same speed from the insanity. The finale kicks off for this song at 3:14. Yes, a 20 second long finale. Great work though.
8. Gemini Man (Megaman 3) Â Â 3:57
This is probably one of the more underrated MM3 tracks; let’s see what Shnab can do with this one. Some nice flair comes in at 0:12 or so in the form of source usage. More source usage at 1:06 or so. The accompaniment on this song works so well with the keys, and really helps to set the mood. 1:38 kicks off a nice arranged section. 1:59 brings in a breakdown, and it starts to come together once again at 2:17. 2:51 brings the source usage back into full force, with the usual additions and arrangement. 3:08 is where the accompaniment really adds a feeling of finality to the track; the end is definitely near. 3:24 on reinforces this point, and the finale finally begins at 3:48 or so.
9. Stage 1 (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2) Â Â 2:59
This kicks off instantly with a great speed and feel. 0:27 makes you just want to yell out HEROES IN A HALF-SHELL! TURTLE POWER! 0:52 has a pretty nice section of keys. 1:12 has the HEROES IN A HALF-SHELL part once again. 1:28 signals the start of a pretty sweet section, focusing on keys with some great accompaniment. 2:14 keeps the speed going with some awesome section, building and building until 2:35 when the finale starts with the HEROES IN A HALF-SHELL part and truly ending at 2:55. Such a great fast song.
10. Area A (Shatterhand) Â Â 3:25
In comparison to the previous track, this song is rather slow. But it’s still great; it picks up at 0:17. Okay, maybe it’s not slow; it’s pretty nice. A really smooth section begins at 0:47; 1:14 or so signals another pretty nice section. 1:38 has some more arrangement, and everything’s put together in a wondrous fashion. A sense of finality almost comes in at 2:17 or so; a small breakdown at 2:24 or so also sounds like it is leading up to the end. Some really awesome piano comes in at 2:46 with great crescendos on the accompaniment. The end is near at 3:10, and the song ends at 3:23.
11. Wood Man (Megaman 2) Â Â 3:37
Here it is, the final track on this album. Sticks to the source pretty strictly at the start, then takes off at 0:32 with the accompaniment first, and then it really begins with the piano at 0:42. There’s a great breakdown at 1:14, and it continues for some time. This part loosely adheres to the source, keeping the same rhythm but adding in many many more parts. Great work on the keys from 2:00 on. 2:19 keeps the insanity going. I’m surprised his hands aren’t on fire by now; this is such an insane speed. Some source resumes at 2:42 with more crazy piano playing; it normalizes at 2:55 or so. Some nice accompaniment effects begin at the three-minute mark, really adding to the sense of finality. They pick up even more at 3:22 or so. The finale begins at 3:32, and the end of the album is shortly after.
To help publicize the release of the album, Shnabubula organized a listening party on 3/15, hosted onÂ Noise Channel Radio. The show, run by virt’s wife Truestar, peaked at 100 listeners, and the album is currently at #5 on the Bandcamp top sellers list. It’s actually pay-what-you-want, so if you want it free, you can get it for free. But I’m sure that Shnabubula would appreciate some payment on it; he certainly deserves it. The album can be found both onÂ UbiktuneÂ andÂ Bandcamp; it’s well worth the download, and the money if you choose to actually buy it. Stay tuned for an interview with Shnabubula, among other things. Until next time, game on!