19 Equip: CURSEBREAKER X

On ‘CURSEBREAKER X’*, Equip step shit up massively. Previously, the less forgiving may have accused them of being more gimmick than legitimate artist. Every album, like 2018’s ‘Synthetic Core 88‘, came with the hook that it was the soundtrack to a video game that existed nowhere but inside Equip’s imagination. This inspired some incredible music, but for many the conceit would be far too ‘cute’ and even ‘eye rollingly hipster’ to bridge that gap between ‘concept you might appreciate’ and ‘music you unreservedly love’. ‘CURSEBREAKER X’ doesn’t just bridge that gap, it clears it in a single bound by casting a +50 COMPOSITIONS spell and fills the cavern beneath it with buffed power ups as it flies over. Equip breaks the game with WWE 2K20 level glitches that make it unplayable, because they’re playing something else entirely with ‘CURSEBREAKER X’.

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(*we’ve seen far too many artists recently, from awakebutstillinbed to Ariana Grande to repeat offender american poetry club, show such a flagrant disregard for proper capitalisation that I’m pleased to see Jamila Woods, Michael Kiwanuka and now Equip have fought against this by, if anything, overcapitalising their records. I’m pleased to officially announce 2019 as The Year We Won Our Capital Back)

For the first time in their career, the actual pretend game that Equip’s latest album is supposed to be a soundtrack to really doesn’t play into their latest album in any large way. Sure, it’s there, and we’re given a perfunctory synopsis of its plot (‘EQUIP is CURSED! After equipping a sketchy blade, Equip starts transforming… into a demon! The only way to restore Equip’s humanity is by uniting the evil sword with it’s pure half to form the CURSEBREAKER- the ultimate blade. Can Equip unite the Sanguine Edge with the Lightbringer before the clock strikes midnight?‘), but it seems obvious now that these things are essentially just gimmicks for Equip to hang their music on. Now, that music seems to have far loftier goals than just providing soundtracks to video games that don’t exist. ‘CURSEBREAKER X’ isn’t the sound of some forgotten 16 bit RPG that was only released in Japan on the Sharp X68000, it’s the glorious but self aware sound of nostalgia itself. You might argue that of course attempts at emulating the sounds of late 80s/early 90s video games that I might have played as a child will elicit feelings of nostalgia in me, reminding me of a time where I didn’t have to regularly visit a urologist to talk about my genitals and didn’t have to go to fucking work every day. But I’d argue that Equip’s ingenious integration and almost weaponisation of nostalgia has little to do with the video game connection. I’m old enough to remember some of the 16bit games that Equip sonically references, but surely only a small section of their fan base are as old and fat as me?? And anyway, I never played the RPGs of the era. I might have had a SNES, but I was busy with International Superstar Soccer Deluxe and Mario Paint*, I never played Earthbound or Secret of Mana or Chrono Trigger. I had two brothers, these games offered no opportunity to mercilessly school them in multiplayer, they offered no similar meting out of shame as a 49 hit Ultra Combo with Cinder. Boom! Take that, Mizdow! Who’s Mum’s favourite now! Whatever ‘CURSEBREAKER X’ makes me nostalgic for, it isn’t simply computer game. And does the album really sound like a computer game?? The SNES music was made by a single chip consisting of an 8-bit CPU, along with a 16-bit DSP, and 64 KB of SRAM. It simply couldn’t create sounds anywhere as gorgeous and as layered as Equip.

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(*doo doo doo doooooo, doodoodoodoo… doodoodoodoo… doodoodoodoo. What an absolute banging tune that theme was, where’s the epic electronic remake of that??)

The album is simply the sound of nostalgia. It’s difficult to put you’re finger on, but something underneath the synthesised stabs and gorgeous waves of epic chiptune there’s a perfect ratio of nuclear nostalgia being uncovered. It might be literally backwards looking as it seeks inspiration from beautiful and surprisingly emotionally deep games ostensibly made for children in the early 90s, but everything about ‘CURSEBREAKER X’ seems new and fresh and exciting. Equip are ‘retro’ in the same way The Strokes were ‘retro’ when they first broke through in 2001- yeah, a lot of this shit might have been done before, but never this good and never this exciting and never right now and for us!! And it’s so outstandingly crafted that it makes us emotionally yearn for a time that more than likely didn’t exist!

This is the danger of nostalgia, we’re so often encouraged to feel deep nostalgia for a history that was likely never there. It’s for this reason that nostalgia is actually one of the most dangerous and defensively reactionary driving forces in the modern world. ‘CURSEBREAKER X’ makes you yearn for a time playing obscure JRPGs that you never played on the Super Famicon you never owned. Brexit happened partially because people wanted to return to a time when Britain existed as its own separate little island and paid no mind to the whims and desires of other countries. Trump promised to Make America Great Again by turning back the clock to a time when nobody was black, gay or female in the USA and all the brilliant white guys could just drink cold beers in their log cabins and maybe- just maybe!!- rub their penises together because that feels awesome. Apart from the rubbing penises together*, none of these mythologised pasts ever actually existed. Nostalgia tricks us into longing for periods that either never existed or was a lot more shitty that you’re being led to remember

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(*James Madison and George Washington couldn’t stop rubbing their penises together!! ‘John Hancock’ wasn’t actually a real person, it was just the name Madison and Washington gave to their little penis rubbing exercises. The reason the ‘signature’ is so pronounced on the Declaration of Independence is because it was made by George and James dipping their penises in ink and scrawling them across the page. It’s actually rather sweet)

I often wonder if it’s just nostalgia’s warping bias that’s drawing me to Hejjy

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Yay! Here’s the annual update! You were formally introduced in 2017, you were updated on my plans to have her come to the UK as my wife in 2018, but because life moves fast earlier this year you were told that these plans had been shelved and we’d split up but my continued communication with her had actually caused the breakdown of my next relationship. Well, buckle up Palmerphiles, here’s the extended story so far that I I know as many as one of you is longing to read!

No… wait… this blog is banned in China… OK, none of you. Well, I’m gonna write it anyway.

Near the end of 2018, Hej and I had decided that she would move to the UK as my bride. All I needed to do was find a job that paid the required £18’600 a year. Piece of piss, no? Well, I’m an extremely talented and desirable, so it turns out it was relatively simple. In March 2019 I started a new employment that brought my wages above £20’000 a year, and I reported the good news to Hejjy. Unfortunately, this made things all too real for her. The idea of her leaving the only country she’d ever known- going abroad for the first time, uprooting her entire life to a new country and new culture that was (trust me on this) diametrically opposite to everything she’s ever experienced, ditching her job, likely never seeing her friends again and perhaps infuriating her family so much that they’d disown her- was a lovely abstract dream, but in reality’s cold, unforgiving glare it suddenyl seemed like a ridiculous thing to just go and do. You don’t just do that!! You don’t just fly to another fucking country! We’re not at war! Who reading this would honestly say that they would dare press a button that would immediately flip their entire life 180 degrees, cut off contact with everyone they know and remove themselves to a different place where nobody knew who you were and nobody even spoke your language. Exactly. Hej’s decision was gutting, but entirely understandable.

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As luck would have it, almost immediately after Hej made the difficult decision to stay and try and make the loveless marriage to the man she hated work, a friend at work had set me up with one of her friends, Hugo, so it looked like as soon as I was officially back on the market I was slaying fanny again within the first week. I know, it’d be very childish to pretend that silly things like that matter, but it made me seem like a boss and I was secretly very happy. I mean… no… I didn’t even think about it because silly things like that don’t matter because I’m not 15 years old. But… hypothetically… if they did matter… then I’d feel pretty freaking awesome… but they don’t… but if they did

Yeah, Hugo. Hugo is an absolutely lovely woman whom I still see quite often and is actually going to a gig with me tomorrow night*. We really, really enjoy each other’s company, we make each other laugh like drains and she’s officially overtaken Sileshi Sihine as my favourite Ethiopian. But there was never any passion there. As a couple, we were great friends. I was never overcome with lust for her, I could never envision myself spending every (or even most) waking hour(s) with her and even kissing her and holding her hand too often felt like a chore. She broke up with me after finding pictures of my conversation with Hej on my iPad (I’m not retelling the whole story, read it yourself you lazy fuckballoon) but I was only really demoralised  at potentially not having the same crux to occupy my time in the future and having all these gig tickets that might not be used, rather than actually sad at the relationship ending. And anyway, I wasn’t single for long, because I am a fucking legendary poontang pounder. Hej had been a little upset to hear that I had shacked up with another woman so soon after she had called off her/our plans, and to hear from me about my life with Hugo had convinced her that she had made the wrong decision. As soon as she had heard that my Hugo Dalliance (HD) had been Unceremoniously Concluded (UC) she was determined not to make the same mistake again and- obviously under the massive miscomprehension that I was some sort of highly sought after catch- she vowed to Jump Back On the Vadge Vagabond’s Vehicle (JBOTVVV). That’s where we are now. I will earn enough next year, we’ve spoken to Immigration Lawyers (apart from me, I mean), we know exactly what we need to do and how much it will cost. We are set. This is fucking it.

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(*Self Esteem again, which means Rebecca Lucy Taylor joins Nick Cave and all those other artists I’m forgetting on the rarefied- or possibly rather common, I can’t remember- list of artists who I’ve seen twice in one year)

Is this just nostalgia fuckin’ wit’ me though? Is it really Hejjy that I’m willing to go to all this effort for, pay all this money to secure? Or am I just chasing a mythical past that never really existed? Do I just want to feel like I did in 2012 again, before my untreated depression and hideous alcohol dependency led me to disabling myself? Back when I was young and thin and a motherfucking sex machine? Has nostalgia blinded me to all the fights we had, all the times when being with her was less than enjoyable. Well… no, obviously, because if it had then I wouldn’t be able to remember them to question whether I’d been blinded to them, would I?? Honestly, use you’re fucking brain, yeah? It’s like I’m talking to a fucking imbecile sometimes.

Is it nostalgia that I’m grasping towards, rather than Hejjy herself…?

Pffff, maybe, yeah, no, probably, definitely, absolutely not, who cares? I’m working for Hej because Hej makes me happier than anyone else in the world. Than anything else in the world. You could psychoanalyse that all you want and come to the conclusion that, actually, it is based on nostalgia, but to be perfectly honest I don’t give a shit. The only reason you like anything is based on reasons. There are tiny and subconscious psychological, cultural, and sexual reasons for you liking absolutely anything. You there, yes you. You only like eating cucumbers because subconsciously it’s what you believe The Incredible Hulk’s penis would look like and you’ve really wanted to put that in your mouth since you were a child. No shame. You there, with the eyebrows, yes you. Your favourite song is Blurred Lines by Robin Thicke because you once had a dream about a thicket fence with a really big penis that you’ve always wanted to put in your mouth, and, I dunno, liking Blurred Lines is a weird subconscious halfway point. You there, with the mouth that doesn’t end, yes you. Your favourite colour is pink. Because penises are pink. And you really want a penis in your mouth. You, sir, with the organ grinder’s monkey but no organ or grinder. Yes, you. You really like putting penises in your mouth. This is because you went to Scarborough beach as a child and a seagull stole your onion ring. I don’t have time to explain it now. The fact is these reasons don’t make these affections any less valid, they still exist and you should still pursue them.

Just like the new Equip album #Journalism

Metacritic: n/a

38 in 2018

Woooo! If they half their placing again they should finish at number 9.5 next year!

https://equipdream.bandcamp.com/album/cursebreaker-x

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2 thoughts on “19 Equip: CURSEBREAKER X

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