Music composed on Nintendo Game Boys – aka bitpop – is by no means a new trend, but CC Ivory wields the handheld gaming device to rock some seriously infectious and progressive dance pop.
On his latest self-released CD, To Love and to Hold, the 20-year-old Kennesaw resident, born Chris Calzone, pushes the envelope of the 8-bit sound system by crafting strong melodies built upon the simplicity of the instrument's limitations. "A Game Boy only has four channels, and using them to compose music like this is sort of like putting together pieces to a puzzle," Calzone says. "You're cutting things off and moving things around, but they're finally arranged in a way in which they have to sound really sharp."
The convulsive strut of the CD's opening number, "DIXIE2," sets the pace for Ivory's musical bent. Each song on the disc draws from a palette of video game chirps, squiggles, truncated beats and melodies, but the concise nature of each arrangement elevates the music to a higher plane of pop cognizance. Songs like "Magic" and "The Storm" establish a sophisticated drive.
Ivory doesn't delve into the worlds of vintage game sounds for the sake of nostalgia. His songs command attention and keep things moving at a quick, synthetic pace. "I would really like to think of it as pop music," he adds. But to ears that are conditioned by the full-bodied sounds of traditional instrumentation, the cartoonish accents of a Game Boy can become difficult to bear after a few songs.
During performances, Ivory throws occasional vocals over the mix, along with covers ranging from Daft Punk's "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger" to Michael Sembello's "Maniac" – or as most people know it, the theme from Flashdance – without a hint of irony.
"I really like looking at the way things are arranged and how they appeal to people," he says. "I won't work with an idea unless it's a very strong idea."