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Moth_OS tap into frenetic energy on “Mothware”

The Madison-based chiptune duo deliver a strong debut EP.

In October 2020, Moth_OS released “Robobreak,” an energetic standalone track that flashed a good deal of creative promise. The chiptune duo, comprised of Liam McCarty and Will Patton, wasted no time in living up to that promise. Mothware, the band’s debut EP, kicks off withRobobreak,” setting a frantic, jittery tone that the ensuing three songs have no issue complementing. Playing to the strengths of the genre—including nostalgia, insistence, and forward-thinking—Mothware effectively demonstrates the duo’s penchant for both immediacy and the type of mindfulness that rewards investment.

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Driving bass, punk-minded tempos, vintage video game sound effects, dance-punk tendencies, and a heavy dose of synth-pop influence harmoniously coexist across these four tracks. On “Sheep RPG,” the bouncy nature of the bass line readily invites dancing, while “Cryptaloid Dreams” encourages a thoughtful pause. Each track effectively navigates the liminal space between those two polarity points. Closing track “Ctrl Rom” demonstrates how Moth_OS bridges the apparent gap between push and patience, effectively utilizing a well-placed measure of restraint to invoke the closest thing to a genuine, multilayered emotional response that Mothware can muster. Mothware’s defining characteristic may be that it’s a hyper-adrenalized sugar rush but, as shown by “Ctrl Rom,” Moth_OS are also self-aware enough to avoid the type of excess that invites exhaustion.

One of the aspects that helps set Mothware apart from its chiptune contemporaries is the way they form their lyrical narratives. While there’s a notable percentage of chiptune acts that prefer to go the full instrumentation route, a few are taking more direct cues from increasingly influential acts like Brooklyn, NY’s Crying and forming linear narrative structures. Moth_OS position themselves somewhere in the middle, opting for a vignette approach that enlivens the material to a considerable degree. On “Robobreak” it’s a meditation on dreaming and spiraling, reckoning with biological impulse. “Sheep RPG” is a stab at unlayering fear by way of a tongue-in-cheek meta-reference to the video games that serve as the band’s foundation (“Are you scared of monsters?”). “Ctrl Rom” sees the band continue to grapple with the confines of reality as their thoughts fracture; “there’s a housefly on the wall and it’s listening, late at night when I’m thinking.”

Spanning a little under 15 minutes, Mothware feels notably complete. There’s a sense of purpose and urgency present throughout the EP, which is a trait that serves young acts well as they develop. How much Moth_OS can develop beyond this point will be the question going forward. For now, it might be best to leave the tenuous navigation of future, past, and present to a band capable of recalling all three at once.

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