While Austria’s Mind.In.A.Box have frequently crossed the imaginary line between melodic music, visual art, solid storytelling and some sort of futurist world they have always done their best to take the past with them into the future, both human and otherwise. Their latest offering, R.E.T.R.O., does essentially the same thing but with a twist: Using Stev’s intimate knowledge of and respect for video game music to create a kind of tribute album.
This release is not at all what you might expect at first glance, however. While all of the tracks are indeed expansions of video game songs and ideals, this is not the end-all, be-all of the album, using their brilliant and often-times cerebral programming skills to keep this fresh and strong. While staying true to the *feel* of the source material, they have created something that nerds the world over can actually rejoice at: Electronic music made to be played as electronic music. “Lightsource” captures the best of C64 era cheesiness and turns it into an almost ethereal Ambient experience while the club-oriented “8-bits” brings a disco-like feel to the lyrical story of a sentient video game, which continues with the clever Synthpop lament “I Love 64.”
The flip side to this album is the concept itself. While 16- and -64 bit video games and their soundtracks were extremely innovative at the time (how many hours have YOU logged on Super Mario Brothers or Starfox?) they have not aged very well at all. Even the biggest aficionados with rose-colored glasses (or headphones) realize that the glory days were not all that great. While M.I.A.B. have fulfilled their concept in a brilliant way I ironically felt that their honoring of these eras subtly hamstringed their creativity. Once the avid video nerd in me got over the novelty of the idea the album that was left was not quite as solid as their other albums and I felt this to be a direct result of what they had to work with. In the end R.E.T.R.O. is nothing more than a unique experience that whets the appetite of fans anxiously awaiting the next wholly original album.
Must have tracks: “Lightforce,” “Supremacy,” “8-Bits,” “Mindkiller,” “I Love 64,” “Whatever Mattered.”