Depreciation Guild | In Her Gentle Jaws
Most Likely To: make Pac-Man pick up a guitar.
Kids today and their toys! The little brats I went to elementary school with were happy just to have a few plastic cowboys and some Lincoln Logs to build a fort with in order to defend against the plastic Nazis. (Our grasp of history wasn’t the best.) That would keep us little whippersnappers happy for weeks on end, but such simple pleasures aren’t enough for the current crop of carpet crawlers. No, today’s children demand electronics, and a parent who dares to give their little darlings a device that doesn’t wield more computing power than Apollo 11 does so at their own peril.
And the things the young folks can do with these toys! Apparently there is now a burgeoning field of music sometimes called “nintendocore” (or chiptunes or cybergrind or…) – music composed and recorded using video game technology. Who knew such things were possible? Not me, that’s for sure. I’ve long since lost interest in keeping tabs on the myriad ways young people manage to fritter away their precious and fleeting youth. My last meaningful interaction with a video game was a spirited round of Zaxxon down at the Abra-K-Dabra Pizza Parlor and Game Room, circa 1982. I had no idea home video games could do much more than lob an electronic tennis ball back and forth on the screen of the ol’ Zenith.
But apparently they are capable of all manner of miracles and wonders, and there’s now a legion of bands creating music with their myriad Atari brand gymcracks and whirligigs. For instance, the pair of New Yorkers who comprise the Depreciation Guild have managed to tickle my fancy by blending their video game generated synthesizer blips and bleeps with majestic shoegazer noise produced by genuine guitars with lots of pedals and sundry other things attached. Synth-pop and shoegazing are my two great weaknesses, and a band that melds the two is simply dangling catnip before me. The only conceivable combination that might be more appealing to me would involve a naked Scarlett Johansson and a swimming pool full of Jameson, but since that is likely to remain only a theoretical pairing for the time being, it’s best to content myself with the offerings of the Depreciation Guild.
Fortunately, they make such contentment an easy sell. They create all their synthesizer noise and drum machine beats on an antiquated Nintendo device called the Famicom that they bought off eBay for chicken feed. With this old electronic warhorse, they’re able to create all sorts of synth-pop underpinnings for their music while saving themselves the trouble of dragging actual bulky synthesizers with them wherever they go. They then pile layers of guitar feedback and genre-standard wistful vocals over the top of the techno. To be honest, as straight ahead shoegazers they’re merely on the high side of average – they get the job done pleasantly enough, and songs like “Sky Ghosts” and “Butterfly Kisses” drone and roar in all the right ways. They’re pretty good, but it’s not an insult to say they aren’t in the same league with shoegazing classics like “Vapour Trail” by Ride or “Sweetness and Light” by Lush.
However, as shoegazers who produce half their sound on an antique video game system, they’re definitely at the head of their class. On songs where the blizzards and the blips have equal footing the Depreciation Guild soars. “Digital Solace” matches a hyperactive rhythm track and a pinging electronic riff with washes of guitar and a processed vocal for a spirited romp that perfectly balances the two sides of their sound. “Nautilus” builds from quiet synth drones to towering spires of guitar and electronic noise that sounds like Slowdive jamming with Gary Numan.
The Depreciation Guild is proof that a band with vision and talent can create worthwhile music from the most unlikely of sources. It’s doubtful that the person who listed an outdated video console on an online auction site for next to nothing had any conception that it could be used to create something as impressive as In Her Gentle Jaws. Good thing, too, as he probably would have charged more for it.