‘chipWINter Wonderland’ Full Review

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Sup y’all? =) President Hoodie here, ready to happily introduce this multi-writer full review of our newly released chipWINter Wonderland compilation! Kicking off this collaborative writing project is none other than Mr. Viridian Forge! Do it to it, Wayne!

chipWINter Wonderland


‘Snowball Fight Tonight’ by Aethernaut

Infused with the magic of fresh snowfall, Aethernaut’s ‘Snowball Fight Tonight’ is undeniably the correct choice to have opening this year’s ChipWINter compilation. Warm toned arps, rising riffs, and a steady beat merge together to give the piece a backdrop that belongs on a Christmas card. The authenticity comes from the vocal samples that appear throughout the track, which truly convey the feeling that you’re in the midst of an old fashioned impromptu neighborhood snowball melee.

iamaethernaut.com | bandcamp | soundcloud | facebook | twitter


‘Tinsel Time’ by tiasu

Building on the childhood reveries Aethernaut may have left the listener with, ‘Tinsel Time’s twinkling opening hearkens, perhaps, to warm evenings decorating the old tannenbaum with loved ones. About thirty seconds in, powerful chip-based shredding slaps the sense back into them, tearing apart any preconceptions about what’s going on here. tiasu moves between these two themes skillfully, illustrating both the reverence and exuberance that imbue the spirit of the season.

bandcamp | soundcloud | facebook | twitter


‘Polar Sunrise’ by turtledove

Switching up the tempo and tone of the compilation, Polar Sunrise has the feel of a more ‘traditional’ holiday piece. Appropriately, the richness of the music, authenticity of the bells and reflective pacing encourage taking the time to appreciate the chance to reflect on the events of the year. Moreover, the warmth of the composition really brings home the spirit of spending time with loved ones during this time of the year.

turtledove:
soundcloud

fearofdark:
fodxm.co.uk | soundcloud | facebook | twitter

stinkbug
soundcloud | facebook | twitter | tumblr


‘Cool Winds’ by Joshua Morse

With Cool Winds, the fluctuations in how the spirit of winter is evoked continue. Subdued compared to the previous tracks, Joshua Morse’s submission to the compilation is meditative, and space-y. With a sound palette consisting of fat sweeps, twinkling plucks, liquid droplets, and remote sleigh bells, Mr. Morse has put together an honestly evocative track. To my ear, this is the perfect soundtrack to gazing quietly out onto a frozen lake from snow covered hills, as a gentle breeze pulls snowflakes across the starry twilight.

jmflava.com | facebook | twitter | youtube

Four tracks in, and this review is just getting started. Hold onto your hot cocoas, because Glenntai is taking the reins for the next section of the release!


‘Borealis Palace’ by Toni Leys

“Borealis Place” starts off as a smooth jazz piece accompanied by round bells and pulse leads before nearly manically-transitioning into a very bright and driven trance vibe. While the latter is the concept the song eventually focuses on, Toni Leys demonstrates a clear and exemplary knowledge and execution of not only both concepts but maintaining a tasteful amount of drama both between transitions and on the beginning and end of the song.

To break a personal rule of mine, I would genuinely compare this track to what sounds like: an experiment between fusing together the soulful and jazzy vibes of the Breath of Fire III soundtrack and (apparently a “controversial” opinion time) what the “NiGHTS Into Dreams…” OST should have sounded like.

www.tonileys.com | Bandcamp | Soundcloud | Facebook | Twitter


‘Bit’s Carol Groove’ by Yoann Turpin

As much as “Borealis Palace” rhymes brings on a strong smooth vibe, anyone familiar with Yoann Turpin’s music knows to prepare themselves for a soul-villed journey through a grove-filled jazz track that’s bound to make you feel good from the inside-out. Bit’s Carol Groove” is no exception!  Every chorus is impressively written, the melody from the top of the head onward is not only memorable but varies enough to where every embellishment of a note and their following solos stand out and give life to every note it plays. From legends such as Dubmood, demoscene veteran and amazingly-cool-person Ultrasyd, all the way to newcomers Please Lose Battle, France has had a variety of incredibly talented artists in the chip scene (and let’s face it, a ton of other music scenes.)  That said, I’m incredibly delighted to see Metz’s Yoann Turpin finally contribute a solo track to a ChipWIN project.

www.yoannturpin.com | Bandcamp | Soundcloud | Facebook | YouTube


‘Cyberia’ by Kartmaze

Coming in from a completely different, yet equally masterfully crafted perspective, Kartmaze is a stellar example of 80’s synth aesthetic and chipmusic blending together to create an incredibly grand soundscape full of pads, reverb and melodic harmony. “Cyberia” is very much a track that has a heavier march pattern to its rhythm to give a sense of urgency to its accompanying chord progression, tasteful use of arpeggio accompaniment and a haunting but clear melody that sticks with you. Half-way through the song we get to some pizzicato solo elements with the rest of the track resting for the better part of a measure and a half.  It was a very clever way to disguise the fact that Kartmaze included a change in both the rhythm and time signature, making what seemed to be a great conceptual reference to “Carol of the Bells.”

Bandcamp | Soundcloud | Facebook | Twitter | YouTube


‘Pieces of Eight + Azuria Sky’ by Ave Maria (Bach, Gounod)

Of course, with me making reference to Pieces of Eight’s fantastic drum solo on Volume 3, it only fits perfectly that the last track I get to review is one made by the artist from North Carolina that I’ve had the honor of collaborating with on the “Merry Chipmas” compilation curated by MicroCollective (‘lo Sam!)

What we have here, of course, is a cover of “Ave Maria.”  While normally I’m the type to shrug most covers, Pieces of Eight has solidly demonstrated in previous covers that he can take a song and accentuate it to bring a larger, more dramatic tone, resulting in some sincerely show-stopping pieces. This is no exception to that rule. Along with covering the track’s melody, bassline, and key, Adam mixed in Enya-esque backing vocals from Azuria Sky, which mix well with the barrage of what sounds like double-single-channel echo and reverb on arpeggios going over the entire scale of each section’s key.

Pieces of Eight:
Soundcloud | Facebook | Twitter

Azuria Sky:
azuria-sky.net | Bandcamp | Soundcloud | Facebook | Twitter

Next 4 tracks of this review are all penned by Adam Seats aka Robot Sex Apocalypse!


‘Snow Day’ by Jredd

I think, somewhere buried deep down inside all of us, is a tune or a sound font that we associate with a place or a person. The same thing goes with winter, and that’s exactly what Jredd’s ‘Snow Day’ gives us. This track sounds near identical to what I would have expected to hear in a 90’s anime for a snow day episode – if I didn’t know better, I’d have thought this track was lifted right out of Sailor Moon. It’s upbeat, it’s happy, it’s bouncy, but it’s not too saccharine as to make you roll your eyes. It is, the musical quantification of how you might feel on a snow day, walking around town, bubbling inside because you know you get to skip that test you had today. Leave the responsibilities to the adults – jam out to ‘Snow Day’ on your snow day!

Bandcamp | Soundcloud | Facebook


‘Fun with Fractional Freezing’ by Spaceman Fantastiques

When I saw the name of this track, ‘Fun With Fractional Freezing,’ I had to look up what that meant. I knew I had heard it before. Turns out, that’s the process you use to make one of my favorite liquors, applejack – it’s used to separate out water in liquor like distillation but so, so much simpler. And it struck me, that name is actually quite appropriate. Fractional freezing, like this song, is a very relaxed process: it’s slow, it’s calm, it’s simple. Also like its namesake, you know you’re getting something done while you’re doing it and this song continuously builds: it slowly getting louder and more complex. And, like any liquory treat, you end up with an end result you really like. This song is exactly that: smooth and chill with new elements appearing until the end result is something you know you’ll enjoy going back to.

Bandcamp | Soundcloud | Facebook


‘I’m Better Than You’ by Rekcahdam

I have a firm belief that any track willing to open up with a “WOO” is either going to be amazing or horrible. The good news is, ‘I’m Better Than You’ turns out to be in that first category by a wide margin. You’ve got the super tight percussion Reckahdam is known for thrown in with beats that would seem at home in a Bare Knuckle Streets of Rage game. At the risk of sounding entirely too cheesy, this track puts the “win” in winter – while you have the high, sustained notes and the twinkly sounds from time to time, this track is all about getting down and rocking out. If ‘Snow Day’ was a group of kids walking down the road on a day off, ‘I’m Better Than You’ is the soundtrack to the inevitable snowball fight. The track wraps up with the familiar “gleamy” noise from the Sega – and I can just imagine Roger finishing banging out the final drum solo and then flashing a thumbs up and a smile while it happens.

rekcahdam.com | Bandcamp | Soundcloud | Facebook | Twitter | YouTube


‘Cold’ by The Unicorn Princess

After such an intense track, you probably need something calm to…cool down with, right? Riiiiight? Good, because ‘Cold’ is exactly what you need. This track is 89% ambiance and mood building – it’s a tune out and chill kind of track (no pun intended…this time). This song is the auditory equivalent of soaking in a Jacuzzi with the jets on low – soothing, with just a little bit going on to keep you from completely detaching from reality. Although I wouldn’t call this song trance, it will definitely put you in a trance. Just don’t listen to this song in an actual snowstorm, because none of us here at ChipWIN want you to space out while listening to the album and get hypothermia and become popsicles. Chiptune responsibly, people.

www.jamiebillingsaudio.com | Soundcloud | Facebook | Twitter

Reviewing the final 4 tracks of the compilation is R. Morgan Slade aka PixelRecall!


‘Guard Duty on Station Arctemp 323e’ by Russellian

‘Guard Duty on Station Arctemp 323e’ is an assault on your senses. Harnessing a winter storm as a foundation, ‘Guard Duty on Station Arctemp 323e’ by Russellian shifts and changes in and out of melodies and speeds, delivering a sense of loss and bewilderment, much like one could feel on patrol in an isolated arctic complex. Russellian succeeds in creating a fluid, disconcerting attack on your perceptions and expectations, delivering an intense stream-of-consciousness with ‘Guard Duty on Station Arctemp 323e’.

Bandcamp | Soundcloud | Facebook | Twitter | tumblr


‘Snowflakes Are Falling Stars’ by Matthew Squibb

Delightful, minimalistic, hopeful. ‘Snowflakes Are Falling Stars’ by Matthew Squibb does a lot with very little. ‘Snowflakes Are Falling Stars’ employs what sounds like fewer than 6 channels, capitalizing on the freedom that comes with such a limitation and disregarding the urge to shoehorn unnecessary bells and whistles, resulting in a thoughtful and purposeful little chiptune-track-that-could.

www.forastronauts.co.uk | www.matthewsquibb.co.uk


‘A Very Squarey Xmas’ by Square Therapy

Over a continuous chorus hum, Square Therapy delivers a beautiful rendition of Silent Night with ‘A Very Squarey Xmas’ that takes its time, and builds with true feeling, ultimately abandoning the serene choral sounds for a rockin’ rendition of Gloria in Excelsis Deo to bring the house down. High octane; ‘A Very Squarey Xmas’ by Square Therapy is the holiday jam you didn’t know you needed, and will no longer live without.

Bandcamp | Facebook | Twitter 


‘Fireplace’ by subPixel

‘Fireplace’ by subPixel takes swing-chip to funky places to close out the album, leaning into slides and transitions with such organic timing that you could confuse it for a live set. subPixel takes an entertaining tangent away from the established melody to experiment with unexpected swinging synth alternatives and the welcome jingle jangle of bells that synch the holiday cheer together with ‘Fireplace’s funky swing in a nice chiptune bow.

Some funky chip swing winter fun going on right up in here.

subpixelmusic.com | Bandcamp | Facebook


chipWINter Wonderland

Hoodie Highlights… Stemage!

Sup y’all? =) It’s President Hoodie here again with yet another edition of my Hoodie Highlights interview column! Today’s an extra special version (to me at least), as I’m interviewing both one of my favorite people and closest friends in this crazy amalgamate of different, yet related scenes. In all honesty, he’s pretty much the primary reason I’m involved in any/all of this delightful insanity (thank or/and curse him appropriately). Everyone welcome to the pages of The ChipWIN Blog, Mr. Grant Henry aka Stemage!

beer bottle guitar grant

Grant “Beer Bottle Slide” Henry


Hoodie: HEYA GRANT! To kick things off, give me a quick rundown of what/how/why/where/when/who you are. And… GO!!

Stemage: WHAT: I’m Stemage – a yo-yo enthusiast that dabbles in music production, arranging, and songwriting.
HOW: Coffee and beer – one usually followed by the other.
WHY: I HAVE NO IDEA HELP ME.
WHERE: I live on the west coast, but my music lives mostly on the internet. So, EVERYWHERE.
WHO: I go by Grant Henry in real life. I want to be a chip musician when I grow up, but I only know how to play guitar and drums. That doesn’t help my cause. Or, I’m lazy and new instruments scare me.

Howzat?

Hoodie: hahahah Perfect.

And welp, guess that wraps things up! Great interview btw. See you next time!

Stemage: THANKS HOODIE! Always a pleasure!

That would actually be hilarious (to end the interview now). But not so informative

Hoodie: ….don’t give me good/bad ideas like that. :3

Stemage: Start by stating your name: John. Well thanks for stopping by! lol

Hoodie: Start a new interviewing fad. I LIKE IT. Makes my column a helluva lot quicker to prep too. (y)

Maybe next time, though. People might actually care to read what you have to say. ;)

Speaking of that, music, video games, Metroids, MAGFest, wut? How in the spaghetti-os did you get involved in all of these crazy worlds and/or become a wizard at music/audio engineering/beer?

Stemage: Well, you start arranging metal Metroid music on a Tascam 8-track.

tascam-portastudio-464-312899

Humble beginnings.

Then all these conventions start happening, and I meet so many musicians that are better than me at everything. As a bonus, it turns out they are all nice people. Then you get inspired and push yourself. Then you start collaborating, and things will spin out of control.

Years later, I’m still writing, arranging, and offering my services (yo-yo if required) to people and their projects.

I’m still working on the whole “stop time” thing, so I can finish all the pet projects that are in my head.

Oh, and beer. Definitely beer.

Hoodie: Was about to say. You forgot something. ;)

Can I admit that none of what you said sounds crazy anymore? It all sounds absolutely, perfectly reasonable. haha Kinda, sorta everyone/everything within all of this is inspirational.

Stemage: The years and events are all sort of jumbled in my head, but here we are. Ya know?

Hoodie: Yeah, I do (I think?). o.O

Any particular highlights worth sharing/reminiscing here? And I realize this question is terribly unfair, because there’ve been a lot, lot, LOT of them at this point. haha

…seriously, I ask this thinking that it’s WAY more fair than a quick timeline request, but on second thought it may be even harder. Sorries. :3

Stemage: - Playing Metroid Metal with Chunkstyle at MAGFest for the first time (never thought that would happen)
– Writing a soundtrack for a video game (never thought that would happen)
– Feeling confident enough to arrange the entire TRON soundtrack by ear (never thought that would happen)
Writing a song with Manami Matsumae, the composer of Mega Man (never thought that would happen)
– Mastering a chiptune album containing some of my favorite songwriters (never thought that would happen)
– Never thought that would happen (never thought that would happen)

What happened?

Hoodie: I dunno. Never thought about it.

metroid grant head

Metroid: “OMNOMNOM” Grant: “Wuh happun?”

Hoodie: Obviously, you’re still going strong & there’s more highlights to come.
New IRL location, but as busy as ever from what I hear. Even mastering chiptunes nowadays. WTF!?

Stemage: WTFN? (why the fuck not)

I LOVE CHIPTUNES. I’m not in a place to learn a new instrument, so mastering some makes me feel like a part of the scene. It’s in innest of the in crowds. Ya dig?

Hoodie: I DIG. And WTFN is a good a reason as any in my book!

Had a feeling the Solarbear gig would open doors for you there (& what a way to open it; HELLUVA ALBUM!!). Just made all the sense.

Stemage: Solarbear is my familiar.
He goes with me everywhere now.
He won’t leave.
But he’s charming.

Hoodie: And that makes even MORE sense.

But seriously, it does. Prog is basically, like, your essence, right?
You don’t have to answer that. I already know it’s true.

Stemage: I’ve never been to Prague, but I love their music yes.

Hoodie: See, I didn’t see that one coming. Mostly because I’ve always pronounced the place as “Prayguh”. I’m southern. It happens.

Stemage: Like the spaghetti sauce? YUM.

Hoodie: No, that’s “praygoe”. Typing things out phonetically is kinda tough.

Stemage: keighnda tuff
keighnduh tuff

Hoodie: Keira Knightley?

Stemage: Yes she makes great Chiptunes.

Hoodie: And spaghetti sauce.

Stemage: ……………………

Hoodie: ………………………

grant pjs

Wears the V.2 shirt so well. Almost as well as the TMNT bottoms

Important question:

Is the yo-yo thing legit?

Because that shit is haaaaaaaaard. I tried learning tricks as a kid. Only ended up breaking things in the rooms I was practicing in. Bad times.

Stemage: I have a few go-tos, but yeah, I can yo-yo. Like an old man though, not the new kids. The latest generation of yo-ers are NUTS.

Hoodie: Yeah, they’re basically martial artists using yo-yos as their weapon of choice. I wouldn’t fuck with ‘em. Nosirree.

Stemage: I admire them, but I do plan on killing them all.

Hoodie: You… should probably stick to music. Because they would eat you alive.

Speaking of music, what’s in the pipeline? Anything you can talk about? Or is it all classified “I could tell you but I’d have to kill you” kinda stuff?

Besides chipWINter Wonderland, of course, which comes out TOMORROOOOOW!

Stemage: Everything I’m working on is classified CIA KGB shit, but I don’t have a problem being fired. I’ve actually been doing lots of contributions recently. I just recently moved into a new place, so the full studio is still being set up. But I’m playing guitar all over Keiji Yamagishi’s new album (Ninja Gaiden composer) as well as some guitar projects for Cartoon Network. I’ve also got some original music in the works as well as other collabs, oddities and arrangements. I’m also curating a new album – something I’ve always wanted to do! That is finally getting started.

I also just finished restoring a cocktail pinball machine from ’89, and I’ll be dammed if those late 80s pinball sound chips aren’t the best damn thing. They sound like variations of the FM chip. PINBALL HAS CHIPTUNES TOO YA KNOW.

I really need to quit playing The Crew and get my new website up. Dammit. I feel like “life” is a WIP at this point.

Hoodie: But life is a WIP, right? I mean, nobody really wants it to be finished, yanno? Or perfected. That’d be boring & stuff.

BOOM. DEEP PHILOSOPHICAL SHIT RIGHT OUTTA NOWHERE.

Stemage: BRANDON WHY YOU GOTTA GIVE ME A HEADACHE

Hoodie: Now you sound like Erin. :*(

…and now I’m in trouble. O.O

 Nah. She never reads this stuff anyways. haha
(damn, I think I pulled this gag last time; I need to get new material.. :/ ).

Stemage: Would you excuse me for a moment? I have to go reach enlightenment.

Hoodie: REACH FOR IT.

Stemage: I also just bought an acoustic guitar, so maybe I’ll do a Hootie cover album. *spoilers*

Hoodie: No. Sixpence None the Richer. Obviously.

Stemage: HAHA! Three ‘C’ chords you better believe it. Who knew?

Hoodie: That’s all it takes to Kisssssss Meeeeeeeeeee~
I always really liked the harmonica in that song.
…that song had harmonica, right?

Stemage: I think you’re thinking of the Rosanne theme song. Talk about PROG!

Hoodie: Something relevant to the blog before we wrap this up (I guess that’s important, right?):

What did you think about working on the chipWINter Wonderland project? Was it fun to master? Are chiptunes fun for you to master, and/or something you can see yourself doing more of?

Stemage: It was SO much fun to master. There’s a wintery theme across all songs, but it’s a pretty wide collection of chip subgenres. Some of my favorite people are on this thing.

I love to contribute to the scene in any way possible.

Hoodie: Well, you did a stellar damn job, that’s for sure. Unsurprisingly, of course. You good-at-doing-things jerk, you.

Stemage: Thanks Pres Hoodie!

Hoodie: You’re welcome, Cowpie Henry.

Stemage: YEEHAW!

Hoodie: So when’s that taking off anyways? I want my country music millions. And cheap lager sponsorship. I want the beer sponsorship mostly. That’s how I’ll let everyone back home know I made it. It’s how it works in the South.

Or you make it in Nascar.

Stemage: I bought an acoustic guitar didn’t I? Working on it.

Hoodie: Right. Good man.

Aside from imminent country music stardom, any parting thoughts before we wrap this chit chat up?

Stemage: I just can’t wait for everyone to hear the album. It’s definitely one of the strongest ChipWIN releases. I’m proud to be a small part of it – even though there isn’t a lick of country twang therein.

Hoodie: Happy to hear you say that, man. I feel the same way. It really turned out quite magical, even moreso than I expected (as usual haha). And I’m really happy that you were a part of that, even if there’s no yeehaw in it. Maybe next time.


Stemage:
stemagemusic.com | Bandcamp | Facebook | Twitter | Youtube

Metroid Metal:
metroidmetal.com | Bandcamp | Facebook | Twitter

chipWINter Wonderland grant face

Stoking the Forge: ‘Summer Forever’ by King Keytan

Can you hear those sleigh bells a jingling ChipWINners? Perhaps a ring-ting-tingling too? For those of us in the northern hemisphere, winter has begun to make its full force known.

IMG_20141212_124220

Yup. All that Winter.

As fond as I am of a seasonal excuse to curl up inside with good video games, ancestral quilts, and a hot cup of coffee, the charm of ice and snow wears off quickly. As such, when King Keytan’s latest release dropped into my lap in late November, the idea of ‘Summer Forever‘ was a serious temptation.

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Artwork by Cat Gemmill

Summer Forever‘ was released by King Keytan on the 22nd of November through the venerable UK netlabel Pterodactyl Squad. The Squad describes the album as “This is the music robots hear when they fall in love,” and claims that, “This is a new kind of chiptune.”

Being that I don’t know any mechanical entities that have experience with amorous magic, I cannot speak to their former claim. As for the latter, while I might not say this is an entirely new breed of chip, King Keytan pairs normally opposing tempos and tones in an idea inspiring fashion.

f8yakBuilt on top of firm foundations with a bass chord loop layered over a crunchy set of noise bass tones, ‘Blue Blaster‘ makes for a prodigious opening track. While opening quietly, in the first minute more and more instruments join the orchestra, building energy and purpose. With a crash of white noise, the track explodes into an energetic movement where the earthy feel of the bass instruments really come into their full beauty. With that same crash, around the two minute mark, the track falls into a movement that is meditative in comparison to the rest of the piece, before practically putting itself into a full reverse, playing itself out in reverse, crashing back to life before gently playing back into silence.

Purpose‘ belongs in the trailer to an 80’s sci-fi film, with its understated intensity and palpable tension. With the juxtaposition of hard-edged kicks and snares with a ponderous synthesizer, this track simultaneously exudes bleakness and anticipation. Short and sweet, the piece again has a loop-like structure. Because of that brevity, the looping structure could be in danger of being too repetitive, but is presented subtly enough to be enjoyable.

What caught my attention in ‘Love Yourself‘ was the dramatic shift in the flavor of the synthesizers in play. The use of marimba in the bassline was an eye-openingly fresh addition to the album. Paired with a dissonant brass, the combination is enough of a shift from the third of the album to hammer home the idea that you’re listening to some new and interesting musical ideas.

Sunburnt‘ is, by far, my favorite track from this album. King Keytan has found a winning implementation here. In particular, the use of a minor toned lead fighting against the brighter and plucked bassline gives a palpable sense of finality to the track. Especially at the end, where the lead fades away entirely, leaving behind only the bass, plugging along unaffected until the music fades out.

At the end of the day, ‘Summer Forever’ it is a damned solid release that deserves both your attention and love. It’s available for free download from Pterodactyl Squad. However, if you, like me, believe in spreading the love, pop on over to the Bandcamp page and toss £3 ($4.70 according to Google) into the pot.

Get out there, spread the love, and make some chip!

VF

King Keytan
bandcamp | soundcloud | facebook | twitter

Pterodactyl Squad
ptesquad | bandcamp | facebook | twitter | blogspot

chipWINter Wonderland