Archive for November, 2014

Chip Mom’s Kitchen #16: Molasses Spice Cookies

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The chill is back in the air, my friends and Thanksgiving (at least here in the US) is just around the corner!  While most folks dive straight for the pumpkin pie and whipped cream, I thought I’d bring something new to the family table this holiday….

Molasses Spice Cookies

Difficulty level:
Newb          |         Apprentice         |         Journeyman         |         Master

Just a bit of a twist on an old favorite. Some intense chopping is what gives this recipe a bump up to Apprentice!

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1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar
3/4 cup (180 g) butter, softened
1 large egg
1/4 cup (60 mL) unsulfered molasses
1 3/4 cup (210 g) all-purpose flour
1 tsp (5 mL) baking soda
1 tsp (5 mL) ground cinnamon
1 tsp (5 mL) ground ginger
1/4 tsp (1.25 mL) ground cloves
1/4 tsp (1.25 mL) salt
2 cups (340 g or 1 pkg) White Chocolate Chips
1 cup (150 g) finely chopped walnuts

A thank you nod to “The Metric Kitchen” for helping me find all of these conversions!

Musical Accompaniment:

Because there weren’t any thanksgiving themed albums released that I was aware of, and let’s face it… this album is delicious!

Illustrated Guide:

Let’s get straight to the nut cuttin’… mincing… chopping.  Whatever.  You’re gonna chop the crap outta those walnuts. Most packages of walnuts do not come finely chopped.  You get a rough chop if you’re lucky.  This is going to be the most time-consuming part of the cookies.

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To get a good even fine chop, make sure you are cutting from multiple direction and gathering your nuts back together pretty regularly.  Also, don’t try to chop everything at once, as that will lead to what is technically known as “a big friggin’ mess”.  I portioned my walnuts into six small piles before grabbing my kitchen knife.

 

 

Next you’re going to want to beat your sugar and butter together in a large bowl.  Keep on beating it until everything is smooth and creamy (giggity).

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Add your egg and your molasses and beat everything smooth once again. Go ahead and set this aside for now.

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In a smaller bowl, combine your flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and salt. Gradually add this mixture to your wet ingredients.  I usually try to add about 1/4 at a time, fully incorporating the flour in between.

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Now for spooning (who doesn’t like a good spoon session?).  Mix in your package of white chocolate chips and set your bowl in your fridge for about 20 minutes.  Cooling the mixture will help you shape it in a bit.

 

 

 

Roll the dough into 1 inch (3 cm) balls and then roll in the walnuts.  Once your balls are coated (*snicker*), place them on an ungreased baking sheet.  Bake for 9 – 11 minutes at 375*F or 190*C.  I baked mine for 10 minutes and the edges were crunchy and the middle was chewy.20141125_205945

I was surprised at how delicious these were, as I’m not usually a fan of walnuts. However, once the nuts were toasted, the warm crunch was a welcoming texture among the gooey, sweet, spicy cookie.

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Enjoy my friends!  I invite you to come on over to the Chip Mom Facebook page to share your successes, challenges, and recipes.  And remember, Mama loves you!

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Jredd’s Jewel Case: ‘Hard Reset [EP]’ by General Offensive and Mrsonic699

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Hello, and welcome to the first ever installment of “Jredd’s Jewel Case”. Much like my Hidden Gems series, here we take a look at some up and coming talent. However, instead of looking at a few songs by different artists, this time we will focus on a single album entitled ‘Hard Reset‘ by General Offensive and Mrsonic699.

hard reset ep

Before we get started, I’d like to direct your attention to an interview of these guys featured on this episode of Retro Obscura Podcast. You’ll note that their experiences growing up with consoles in Romania is quite different from most, and yet the appeal of chip music for them is surprisingly quite similar to any one of us. Now that you have had the chance to get to know them a little better, let us discuss why I have chosen to highlight them.

You see, I’ve been friends with Mr.Sonic699 A.K.A “Teodor” for a couple of years now. As such, I’ve watched him grow and mature as an artist. We instantly clicked musically due to the fact that we both have a strong love for the Sega Genesis sound chip and I had the pleasure of helping him get acquainted with VGMM tracker. So naturally, when he came to me with a demo of an album that he and his guitar shredding buddy Alex were creating together, I was instantly sold.

If the idea of combining gritty Sega Genesis FM with screaming guitars and progressively powerful drums sounds awesome to you, that’s because it is! Imagine influences from iconic titles such as Sonic The Hedgehog 3, Comix Zone, and Shinobi fused with the heavier side of Progressive/Grunge Metal from bands like Alice In Chains, Kyuss, and maybe even a splash of Dream Theater and you’ve got yourself one heck of a combination.

Even in it’s demo stages the album was so good that when I heard a sample of it I just had to jump into the mix and help with a track as a special guest so that I could say I had a small part in this wonderful masterpiece. I mean come on, Sega Genesis and metal? It’s got me written all over it.

Right from the start the album opens up with the beautiful “Insert Cartridge”. It is a short but powerful intro that sets the bar rather high, but that’s okay because it only gets better from here and leads perfectly into the next track appropriately titled “Turbo Computing”. Something about those aggressive guitars paired with that classic Sonic 3 “Go” sample makes me smile bigger than should be humanly possible. If the combination of chugging guitars and FM Synth stabs don’t draw you in, the menacing Sega Master System PSG sirens will. Pair that with drums that cut through the mix and really sound live despite being programed in, it is easy to see you’re in for a real treat.

Speaking of Sonic, the next track ‘Dimension’ feels like the perfect melding of classic Genesis music and something akin to the rock motifs of the Sonic Adventure series, and I am totally fine with that. This track somehow manages to be gritty and lighthearted at the same time. In fact, I would say the entire album pulls this off beautifully. It has a hard hitting yet hopeful sound to it. It is empowering! As if you are facing impossible odds, yet you have the skills to conquer them! I get vivid mental images of racing down a snowy mountain, while explosions melt the ice behind me and cause an avalanche. Rather than screaming in terror, I just flash a cocky 90’s kid smirk and manage to pull off a few tricks while running for my life.

Following that, ‘We Rock These Streets’ is exactly what it sounds like. If I were to pick a tune that screams rock anthem it would be this one. The first half sounds like someone walking into a dusty bar with a self-assured air. Tall boots step fearlessly inside, and all attention is on the stranger ordering the strongest drink on the menu. He’s minding his own business, but his confidence offends the resident drunk, and all hell breaks loose. 

By the time we reach about the minute and a half mark, we have our fight scene. Guns blazing, bottles shattering, and a sucker punch or two round out the action. Of course, our hero walks away without a scratch. He sets a bag of gold on what’s left of the counter top,  as he’s leaving the place to continue his journey. It’s just another day for him. The bartender looks on in shock as he struggles to assess what just happened. Fortunately for him, most of his customers had bounties on their heads, so he stands to collect a hefty reward once the fuzz shows up to clean up the mess.

Next, we have ‘Whiskey Gloves’, a tune that Teodor and I worked on together and I can say it’s just like old times. Our collaborations have always been a blast. Look through either of our Soundclouds and you’ll see we feature each other quite a bit. This time it’s even cooler because now we have a guitar player which is kind of like adding bacon to bacon, It only makes a good thing even better.

What’s really impressive to me here is that I thought I had pulled out all the stops: weird time signature shifts, sound design tricks, and of course solos in every place I could fit them. Yet, not only did Tudd blend with me perfectly (as he always does), but he managed to improve my sound design and continue my solos as if they were an extension of himself. Not to be outdone, Alex proceeded to lay down solid guitar tracks that sound as if they had always been there. In the end, the collaboration couldn’t have gone smoother and I can’t help but grin every time I listen to it.

Finally, ‘Resolution’ is also exactly what it sounds like in that it’s the perfect way to end an amazing album. This one here is a bit of a ballad. The phase “Peace is restored” comes to mind. A warm feeling of accomplishment swells within the listener as the credits to an epic adventure roll by.

Swapping out the grittier rhythm guitar for a cleaner acoustic style, it really pairs wonderfully with the serine FM bells. Now, there is an electric lead guitar that comes in but this time it has some hauntingly beautiful reverb that melds with the atmosphere of the track effortlessly. What can I say? This is a solid album that I by all means highly recommend.

Oh right, you guys probably want to know about the secret songs too huh? Well, I guess you’ll just have to donate and support these guys to listen to the hidden bonus tracks! Why? Here’s the deal, not only do you get 2 extra unreleased tracks but you also get the tracker file for ‘Whiskey Gloves’ by Tudd and I. You can feel free to study our work and go on to make your very own Sega Genesis music!

So, are you excited yet? What are you waiting for, grab this album! Go, go, go!

-Jredd

MRSONIC699 (Teodor Dumitrache)
soundcloud | facebook

GENERAL OFFENSIVE (Alexandru Ungureanu)
soundcloud | facebook

JREDD (Trevin Hughes)
soundcloud | facebook

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Sladerfluous Reviews: ‘FriendChip’ by Yoann Turpin

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Time to get down and funkay with some surly-swirly funkadillio with ‘FriendChip’ by Yoann Turpin!

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‘FriendChip’ by Yoann Turpin is a fourteen track album created, as quoted on FriendChip’s Bandcamp page, “with my lovely Korg synths: Kronos, M3 and Polysix Emulation. Also: Alesis Micron, Yamaha EX 5, Roland Juno D and Nordlead 2X for the chip parts, my Akai MPC 1000, Kaossilator Pro and the great Reaper”. Yoann takes several successful explorational deviations from ‘FriendChip’s core funk feel, and many of them are solid home runs.

Click play on the track embed below and sink into ‘FriendChip Overture’ to get a feel for this thoughtful, laid back album.

Yoann employs a lot of bold, quirky sounds to create the songs of ‘FriendChip’, including notable kazoo-like accompaniments in the song ‘Slikk Time’, the entire Tron-esque intro during ‘Final Bit on the String’ and the straight up boss-mode showdown harmonies in ‘Presh-Influence’. The conscious attempt to scour the corners of the sound bin for inspiration culminates in an album that touches many different musical worlds without spreading itself too thin.

Hit play on the embed below and take a listen to ‘Never Ask Why’ for a beautiful change of the album’s pace into a piano based melody, shifting into soft, echoing chip tones for an inquisitive lullaby track.

‘Never Ask Why’ is a remarkable change of pace in a primarily chip-funk album, underscoring Turpin’s ability to colour outside the lines compositionally. ‘Never Ask Why’ will be a standout favourite for many listeners, and is a highly recommended must-listen if you are on the fence about purchasing the album.

Just when you think you have a handle on the direction ‘FriendChip’ is taking, Yoann cranks the wheel and sends you down a completely new fork in the musical road with ‘Sensei Alpha’: harnessing the wondrous melodies of the erhu and infusing a deep asian flavour alongside the chip-funk Turpin has established throughout the album. ‘Sensei Alpha’ rightfully deserves a spotlight for its improvisational melodic riffs,

‘FriendChip’ continues to surprise with shifts and changes toward the last third of the album with ‘Swords and Spears’, which includes prophetic lyrics and vocals provided by Joe Cimatti. Immersive, purposeful, and and completely complimentary to Turpin’s track, ‘Swords and Spears’ alone is reason enough to consider supporting Turpin’s continued musical pursuits with a digital purchase of this album.

‘FriendChip’ is an album that surprises and succeeds with its brave combinations and tangents into uncharted chip waters. But hey, sometimes you’ve got to be brave to make new friends, or chiptunes for that matter. :)

FriendChip by Yoann Turpin is available now on Bandcamp for €7 (just under $9US).

Pixel Recall (R. Morgan Slade) ~ Support the artists you love ~

Yoann Turpin:
Facebook | Bandcamp | Soundcloud | YouTube | yoannturpin.com

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Chris Considers: ‘Lepidoptera EP’ by Talkboy Arcade

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There are many things that I love about Chiptunes = WIN, one of them being that our annual compilation album is a truly equal opportunity event. Submit an awesome track, and any talented newcomer can comfortably sit alongside the more established names in the scene. Case in point: the subject of my consideration this month, Talkboy Arcade (Daniel Goodman). His rousing debut track ‘The Longest Distance’ was hosted on Vol. 2, which was followed up the next year with ‘Azure Skies’ (which I had the pleasure of reviewing in my section of the Vol. 3 track-by-track writeups). These two excellent tracks comprised the totality of his output. That is, until now!

Talkboy ArcadeTalkboy Arcade has recently released his first collection of tracks, the ‘Lepidoptera EP’. The lepidoptera is the beautiful and large order of insects that includes the moths and butterflies. And like the lepidoptera, this music absolutely soars. With 4 carefully crafted tracks on offer, composed entirely in FamiTracker using the 2A03 sound chip + VRC6 expansion, let’s delve into a track-by-track breakdown to see just why you need this EP in your earholes.

A quick percussive measure followed by an ascending glissando kicks off ‘Tropic Commando’. It then launches into a joyful wall of sound where the lead melody is complimented by some lovely sawtooth bass. While it’s under a minute long, ‘Tropic Commando’ is an endearing opener which sets the stage for the rest of the EP and calls to mind the liberating freedom that a butterfly must feel while emerging from its pupa and taking flight for the first time.

In ‘Galactic Ocean’, Talkboy Arcade builds upon the kinetic energy that he’s forged in the first track. The main hook serves as the anchor to which the melody will always return, while various effects such as sharp staccato stabs and pulsating synth-like voices are spread throughout the pulse channels. These unexpected flourishes keep things interesting and rewards the listener upon repeated listens. About halfway through, the tempo slows and the song adopts a somewhat sentimental tone. The percussion during this section is particularly impressive, which switches between a slow and measured beat to a frantic jam just about every other measure. Becoming more and more sporadic, it ultimately goes absent entirely in order to put the spotlight on that glorious hook.

Talkboy Arcade pixel art

The title track is also the longest on the ‘Lepidoptera EP’, as well as a fanciful journey brimming with engaging variations on its main theme. This effervescent track really captures the spirit of the entire EP. A bubbly bassline blends with all manner of beautiful bleeps and bloops and a wailing refrain that echoes across nearly every channel in this track. In my mind, it conjures up imagery of a carnivalesque parade that’s taking place amongst an even larger celebration.

It’s a tough call, but I’m leaning towards ‘Emerald Highway’ as being my favorite track from the EP. It has this fantastic swirling quality to it, all the while guided by a consistent beat that gives the track a healthy dose of swagger. The carefree melodies contained within ‘Emerald Highway’ occur simultaneously, sometimes dueling, and then suddenly rejoining to harmonize with one another. It’s a very organic track that seems to twist and unfurl before your ears, and is an excellent closing number to an overall delightful experience.

After his stellar contributions to two ChipWIN volumes, it’s wonderful to see the ‘Lepidoptera EP’ materialize. It’s available on Bandcamp, pay what you want, and I wholeheartedly recommend supporting Talkboy Arcade’s future musical endeavors with a donation. As an added bonus, your download will come with all 4 FTM modules. Opening these tracks up within FamiTracker reveals just how well constructed these tracks are. I also find it noteworthy that my previous review on this blog was also from a UK-based artist who uses FamiTracker as his musical creation tool of choice, Fearofdark. This leads me to conclude that there is quite a healthy and formidable presence of FamiTracker phenoms from across the pond. As always, keep it locked to the ChipWIN blog for more insightful reviews and exciting announcements. In the meantime, keep your hands and heart held high!

Talkboy Arcade:
Bandcamp | Soundcloud | Tumblr | Facebook

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Kuma’s Quick Shots: Round 3

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Sup everyone!  Welcome back to Quick Shots!  This time around I’ve got albums up for review that are sure to catch you off guard with their diversity. Not only are these albums stylistically expansive, but they feature the largest array of artists ever covered for Quick Shots! So grab your butts and hold on tight, because we’re going on a ride through four awesome records that are sure to hold you over nicely til the 2015 winter festival season!

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Snooglebum’s “8-Bit Zoo 2”

My first target this time around is 8-bit Zoo 2 by Matthew Wasik aka Snooglebum.  Now if you’re wondering why that name sounds familiar, it’s because he’s been featured on two consecutive ChipWIN releases, and for good reason.  Snoog’s got a combination of skill, variety and brevity seen in very few composers, and all of that shines through in his latest offering.

A follow up to an EP he released almost a year ago, 8-bit Zoo 2 follows the tradition established in its prequel as he busts out jams that are groovy, twerky, and just all around good fun. Whether its high energy work-out tracks like the opening song–“Epic Cheetah”–or the two stepping urban vibe of the deceptively named “Silent Swan”, Snooglebum is an artist who rarely disappoints. Which is both a shame and a boon because while it speaks volumes about his skill level, it also means that I really don’t have anything bad to say about this album.

Bottom line: if you’ve not heard any of Snooglebum’s music til now, or have only heard the tracks he’s contributed to ChipWIN, I highly recommend starting with 8-bit Zoo 2 and its older counterpart. Both are exemplary of why Matthew’s such a beloved contributor to ChipWIN and the scene as a whole.

Fave song: Reggae Moose
Price: Free
Bang for Buck: 5/5
Replay Value: 4.5/5
Overall Grade: 4.8/5

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Half A Person’s “Billy EP”

Up next we have a new chiptuner named Billy Murphy, aka Half A Person.  A composer hailing from New York, what’s bodacious about Billy (aside from the fact that he’s yet another up-and-coming New York chiptuner) is that while he is a relatively new artist to the scene, Billy EP is hardly his first album. In fact, it’s his third EP in just as many months. That level of productivity is one to be admired, especially in a new artist, but does Half A Person’s gumption mean he has produced a good album?

Sort of.

This EP certainly isn’t bad, but  I can’t help but be reminded of another neophyte I reviewed earlier in the year: Dream*Eater. Billy EP shows that, much like Dream*Eater, Half A Person is an enthusiastic composer who has moments throughout the album that shine and reveal his potential, but often falls short of making something magnificent.  Moments such as the opening 15 seconds of “You Can Tell I’m New…” or the breakdown in “Son, Don’t Touch That Record Player” are great examples of this nascent talent.

On the other hand, songs like “Swing Your Hips/Swing Your Fists” and “Is it OK to Overwrite?” feel like they’re lacking something. That missing something is worsened by the fact that those songs aren’t bad, they’re just average. A shame, because average is often forgettable, and as part of the next wave of chiptuners coming into the scene, HAP is not someone I think should be overlooked.

So, Billy Murphy, if you’re reading this, I’m gonna tell you the same thing I told Dream*Eater:

“Keep making music at the consistent clip you do, but when it comes to putting out an album, give your stuff time to simmer so you can really bring out its full flavor.”

This EP wasn’t bad, but you’ve got serious skills, so get back to the studio and make something worthy of those talents!  I am definitely looking forward to hearing more from you!

Fave Song: Driving To My Girlfriend’s House At 1 AM To Help Her Kill A Spider
Price: Free
Bang for Buck: 5/5
Replay Value: 3.3/5
Overall Rating: 3.7/5

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I Thought You Were A Marxist Records’ “Operation Fuck The Moon”

Our next album up for review is one that really caught me off guard, as I not only had never heard of the record label that put it out, but I haven’t heard of any of the artists that contributed to it, either!  Created because he felt the need to have a chiptune album under his label’s belt, Andrew Robbins of I Thought You Were A Marxist Records has put together an unexpected delight of an album with one of the most awesome names I’ve ever heard!  If that title alone somehow doesn’t give you a raging fist-pump boner, I can assure you the music featured on this record will!

From the simple joy the opening track by Ozark Soundscape (from which the album takes its name) to the surprisingly groovy, begging-to-be-remixed “Go Radio” by Collection Get!; the creepy, industrial banger that is lain2097‘s “VGGB” to the surprisingly emotional roller coaster that is Taylor Fang‘s “The Burning of the Royal Crops Part I: The Magician”, this album has done two things successfully I’ve seen other labels try to do but fall short of.

First, it lovingly showcases an incredible array of skills in a way that, when played from end to end, does each artist justice.  Each song, regardless of style or method, fits nicely against one another when played in track order, as no one artist feels overshadowed by another when played straight through. That in and of itself is amazing, but the second thing it’s done correctly is that it’s made me aware of several people I didn’t know were lurking in the shadows all along.

Admittedly, lurking may not even be the correct term, as Andrew Robbins himself states he recruited these people from /r/chiptunes and cm.o, but even in a community as small as chiptune, people tend to fall into their own circles and tend to communicate primarily in preferred locals.  Having been a part of ChipWIN for so long, it seems I’ve almost forgotten there is a world out there beyond the 2800 members of the Faceboook group I’ve come to call home.

So Andrew Robbins, if you or any of the astoundingly accomplished artists featured on this compilation are reading this, thanks for reminding me there are others out there.  It’s a wonderful reminder to know there’s always something new to be discovered.  Also, feel free to come to ChipWIN to chat, derp around or make yourselves more known.  I know I may have to get out of my “house” every now and then to meet you guys, but just know that at ChipWIN, our doors are always open, and you’re more than welcome hang out at ours.  Just…don’t do any “Is this chiptune?” posts.

Favorite songs: Go Radio, The Burning of the Royal Crops
Price: Free
Bang for Buck: 5/5
Replay Value: 4.7/5
Overall Grade: 4.8/5

Facebook | Bandcamp | Soundcloud 


TommyTSW’s “Moments In Time”

Our last album up for review is Moments In Time: a record from an artist I’ve adored since I first reviewed his work in my first Quick Shots article.  Hailing from Brisbane, Australia, Tommy Fullerton, aka TommyTSW, has released another prime album full of incredible music that hits the sweet spot every single time.  Combining familiar retro sounds with various samples and instruments as he’s done before, Moments In Time (alternatively titled TSW3 due to the cover art) sets itself apart from it’s first predecessor in several ways.

First, Tommy’s increased use of strings. While TSW’s work has always been eclectic and atmospheric, this album goes one step beyond as TSW has clearly taken the time to really study and practice his use of orchestral samples, allowing for a lush, vivid experience that ties directly into the second improvement Tommy has made, which is establishing mood.

While I’ve always lauded Tommy’s ability to create stirring aria, being able to make songs that move the soul and being able to make an album that does that are two different things. While Tommy’s album TSW certainly did move me, it moved me less as a whole and more as a sum of it’s parts. Having seemingly learned from that experience, Tommy has made an album that flows through seamlessly and also breathes, which is important as that’s another aspect he’s grown in.

TSW was an album that, for all intents and purposes, played like a musical portfolio to showcase Mr. Fullerton’s skills.  While those skills were formidable, the result was music that wasn’t allowed to be fully explored and didn’t offer chances for either Tommy or the listener to really take in everything he crafted.  The exact opposite is true with Moments in Time, as not only has the average song length gone up from roughly 95 seconds to three and a half minutes, but each one stands out on its own, allowing them to be individual experiences unto themselves.

The culmination of all these attributes result what is Tommy’s greatest achievement date. Tommy has finally made an album that feels like an album and not like display case for his talents.  That alone deserves praise.

In fact, Tommy’s garnered so much praise from me on this effort that I only have one complaint about this album.  While certainly not expensive by any means, it’s strange to note that compared to TSW, which was $2 when I first reviewed it and is now pay-what-you-will, Moments in Time/TSW3 is $4 for an EP that has exactly a third of the amount of tracks as it’s predecessor.  A strange decision, to be sure, but despite that choice, Moments in Time is undoubtedly a treasure worth adding to your collection.  If you do have the money to shell out for it, I strongly recommend doing so, as it’s not only a great listen, but it’s proof that Tommy is bound to achieve his dream of becoming a highly sought after game composer.

Favorite Song: Have Faith
Price: $4 (Austrailian)
Bang for Buck: 4/5
Replay Value: 5/5
Overall Grade: 4.8/5

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Well, that’s it for this round of Quick Shots! If you liked any of the artists you’ve heard, don’t forget to follow them on social media to keep up with their latest shenanigans. Also, don’t forget to check the ChipWIN blog regularly for other articles such as album reviews, artist interviews, recipes, and all sorts of hype we got going on here! Last but not least, if you’re an artist who’s struggling to get noticed in the scene, don’t be discouraged, cause you never know when I might take a shot at ya!  Keep doing what you do, and remember: Kuma loves you!  Peace!

\m| (=^(T)^=) |m/

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Office Hours #4 – Old Style

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Hello and welcome to a very unusual and exciting installment of Office Hours on The ChipWIN Blog! As a classically-trained composer who also teaches college music courses, works from the Renaissance and Baroque eras are heard regularly in my classroom. So you can imagine my absolute delight when a new album combines these periods with another of my passions – chip music. Dear diary: jackpot!


Old Style is a collaboration between cellist Emily Davidson and her brother Chris, who is well known to us on the ChipWIN squad under the moniker Dj CUTMAN. Their project “Baroque Remixes” takes 17th and 18th century composers from a variety of nationalities and arranges their works in a mixture of chiptune and EDM-style beats. Now… if this were a commercial, here is the spot where the narrator is suddenly cut off by a record scratch.

The chiptune community is ripe (some might say “plagued”) with covers of songs in all styles, done with varying degrees of detail and care. Perhaps 20% of these “chip covers” are tolerable, 10% are phenomenal1, and the rest of them are unholy abominations2 that should be killed with fire. Friends, please continue reading because you are about to experience the upper crust of that fabled 10% category.

A Bit of Context
For this review I will be discussing each track separately to focus on the combination of styles, as well as including a small bit of historical context behind the original pieces. Click the link on the “Original” line under each track to hear the source material.

I am also doing away with my usual grading system for the review, as I am definitely NOT an impartial voice in any sense for this release (spoiler alert: it would receive 100% because I am infatuated with this album). Emily and Chris are awesome, and I just would not feel right fabricating a reason not to give the album a perfect score. Being a professional classical musician can be a brutal grind, and I wish only the best for Emily. I also greatly respect and enjoy the large amount of work that CUTMAN does in the chip community, including ‘This Week in Chiptune’ and his mastering work on the ChipWIN releases, which include two of my own tracks. Let’s just talk about the tunes and not worry about assigning points, shall we?

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Sonata Pop (Vivaldi)
Original: ‘Allegro’ from the Cello Sonata in E minor

Even if you don’t know Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741)3 from a vivisection, you have likely heard his music. Today he is largely known to the public by his violin concerti ‘The Four Seasons,’ but the “Red Priest” was widely influential in his lifetime for his instrumental compositions. This track is a wonderful opening to the album, both as a standalone track and a preview of what to expect from the rest of the arrangements. The opening is slightly modified from the original, adding a few pauses and building to the main theme. Steady drums accompany the simple melodic lines, and the ‘chorus’ as it were contains some beautiful side-chained synth chords. The orchestration at 1:45 is a nice change rather than directly repeating material we’ve already heard, and the closing octaves are a lovely standard effect in chip music.

Mysterious (Couperin)
Original: ‘Les Barricades Mistérieuses’ from the second book of collected harpsichord works

François Couperin (1668-1733) came from a large musical family, and this French composer wrote keyboard music that was highly influential to Baroque and later composers. His collections of harpsichord works contain extensive discussion on ornamentation as well as having very evocative titles – here, ‘The Mysterious Barricade’ whose meaning is hotly debated. Couperin’s original gradually builds in energy and intensity, and this trait is left intact on the Old Style arrangement. Starting simply with a few bass notes, the main melodic texture soon enters and remains fairly constant throughout. The most interesting aspect of this track for me is the juxtaposition of trap rhythms in the drums combined with the stately, flowing harmony and melody. The little dissonant sounds that occur at the ends of phrases after the first minute are really nice touches that keep the musical texture fresh. Overall I really like the blend of styles on this track, and I could see this new genre of “Baroque chip-hop” becoming the next big thing!

Savages (Rameau)
Original: ‘Les Sauvages’ from ‘Nouvelles Suites de Pièces de Clavecin’

Jean-Philippe Rameau (1683-1764) is rather infamous in the art music circle, both for his work in music theory and his radical new approach to French opera. If you think classical musicians are a bunch of stuffy, boring snobs, just take a few minutes to read up on the ‘Querelle des Bouffons’ that used Rameau’s music as a scapegoat – sometimes we really know how to sling an insult! This is the track that drew me to this album, as I am obsessively in love with Rameau’s music, particularly his keyboard works. The original depicts a Native American dances that Rameau apparently witnessed, and the aggressive nature of the music is immediately apparent in Old Style’s arrangement. A driving beat and harsh synth tones reminiscent of distorted guitars alternate with quirky synth patches that offer a nice contrast to the aggressive nature of the main section. The descending bass line that starts at 1:20 is KILLER, and the track ends with the same amount of intensity and high energy heard throughout.

Ortiz Reprise, ft. Absrdst (Ortiz)
Original: ‘Recercarta Octava Sobre La Folia’ from the ‘Trattado de Glosas’

Perhaps the least well-known composer represented on the album, Diego Otiz (c.1510-1570) was a Spanish composer who was also very highly important in the shift from the Renaissance to the Baroque era. His two treatises on keyboard and vocal performance were valuable resources for his contemporaries in their instruction on performance practice, and they serve scholars today as an excellent source on early Baroque ornamentation. This piece is a ricercar, an instrumental composition typical of Ortiz’s era where it explores different permutations of motives within a given melody. The sense of constant development is evident in the arrangement here, as the synth patches frequently shift and the the textures also constantly evolve. The ethereal organ patches are an interesting addition to the texture, and I also enjoy the addition of a somewhat sparse beat throughout the track. I did not know any of Ortiz’s music prior to hearing this album, but I enjoy this arrangement enough to seek out some of his original works.

Solfeggietto, ft. James Landino (CPE Bach)
Original: ‘Solfeggietto in C minor’

This year is the 300th anniversary of the birth of Carl Phillipp Emanuel Bach (1714-1788), so there has been a surge of interest in his life and works among music scholars and performers. His music provided the transition between the late Baroque and early Classical eras; Mozart even acknowledged his influence, saying, “He [CPE Bach] is the father, we are the children.” This piece is very frequently heard in its original form, and is quite popular with piano students today. Compare the arrangement to the original, and you will hear a refreshing amount of space given to the notes in Old Style’s interpretation. The music is allowed to breathe a little more than most live performances, and the driving four-on-the-floor beat really pushes the music forward. I love the build in the introduction, and the ‘honky-tonk piano’ sound is just wonderful. This track also features several textures and styles, which is unique on the album since most tracks remain essentially in the same sound realm throughout. The pulsing bass break in the middle of the track is a staple of house music, and works well as an interlude before hearing the main melody one final time.

Suite Jam (JS Bach)
Original: ‘Badinerie’ from the ‘Suite #2 in B minor’ for orchestra

No Baroque remix album worth its salt would fail to include the music of Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750). Composing at the height of the Baroque era, JS Bach’s music is filled with counterpoint (the simultaneous combination of independent musical lines), and is the ultimate example of Baroque musical thought. Musicologists consistently date the Baroque as ending at Bach’s death year, and if you can get more than three musicologists to agree on something, you have just witnessed a very special event… Much like the arrangement of his son’s work on this album, I really enjoy the amount of aural space between the notes here. Different registers and instrumental patches allow each line to be clear in the texture, and the addition of a steady percussive beat does not blur an already complex aural landscape. Part of this is Bach’s original writing, but I think there is also a good amount of credit that needs to be given to CUTMAN’s production skills on this track. This is one of the only times you will hear the iconic ‘Nintendo bass’ sound on the album, and I really enjoy the fact that it has unique lines to play rather than plunking out chord roots.

jsb-dwi

Old Style’s “Baroque Remixes” manages to effectively and seamlessly combine disparate musical styles that span centuries of musical thought and innovation. The original compositions were all written without percussion, and in true EDM style the drums add a driving, energetic element to each track without overcrowding the texture. The simple subtlety of the arrangements both do justice to the original material while providing a unique take on cornerstones of the late Renaissance and Baroque styles. Production value is exactly what you would expect from Dj CUTMAN; extremtly high quality work with aural clarity in all frequencies. This album sounds great in the car, through laptop speakers, and played through the system in my classroom. Fans of the composers included on the album will be rewarded with new takes on familiar material, while chip music fans may find some new (old) music to explore.


I hope you enjoyed a grade-free Office Hours this month. Don’t worry, the blue pen will be out and ready to tear into someone with a vengeance again next month!

1 – see: Beethoven/Danimal Cannon “Moonlight Sonata
2 – see: any MIDI rendered with GXCC and uploaded to YouTube
3 – I’m performing the cardinal academic sin of citing Wikipedia only because I assume most of you do not have free access to the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians.

Old Style
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