In a Cave in a Video Game is the second release from Ultra Q. This EP was recorded and mixed during the pandemic, where practice and live performances were hard to come by. As a way to stave off boredom the band decided to craft this record in a spur of the moment decision, combining art-punk, shoegaze and video game chiptunes under a base of 2000’s post-punk revival. The result is nostalgic, relentless punk with a quick-fire precision of hooks and rhythms.
The EP is uniquely defined by its lo-fi addition of video game music, which serves as a backdrop for some songs while being heavily featured in instrumentals “Drkwv” and “Plunk”. The former is pieced together out of samples from a Nintendo classic RPG ‘Mother’ while the latter is a whimsical horror tune one might hear when they’re about to fall into a game’s terrifying rabbit hole. The prevalence of these classic video game sounds hearken back to a more innocent age where much of us were happily gaming in our own caves, away from the scary world outside.
But at core of the EP lies in the rollicking tempo, the fuzzy riffs and the reverb-soaked vocals of their flashy punk songs. “Rosy” and “Sticnpoke” are relentless, full of blistering noise with a fuse that may run short but leave behind burn marks ingrained in memory. Although Ultra Q’s songs have shorter runtimes there’s no lack of creative sound smashing together with each mix, from shoe-gazey effects to textures and drum pads. I’d say there’s a richness and density to it that keeps things interesting.
Out of their longer songs “Some Dice” takes the cake as my favorite. A pained love song that reminds me of Dookie-era Billie Joe Armstrong in its sincerity, wrapped in a crafty mix of synths and riffs fluttering around to match the frenetic mood. The EP closes with “Teether”, one that pushes out their creative chops in terms of riffs and vocals. Both elements coalesce together for a perfect send off, tying a bow at the nostalgic and razor sharp brilliance of Ultra Q.