If you’re reading this you’ve probably had MAGfest happenings drilled into your skull for the last two months or so (definitely not the words of an incredibly jealous man -______-). For the uninitiated: MAGFest is an annual video gaming & music festival taking place just outside of Washington D.C., this year in its 12th iteration and featuring a chipmusic stage curated with the help of the Chiptune = WIN team [read: Brandon]. The ever-genius that he is, Brandon thought the best way to celebrate this momentous coalition was to create a compilation comprised from twelve of the MAG 12 chip performers and release it under the Chiptune = WIN banner AT MAGFest…. AND THAT HE DID. My thoughts/feels/jealous insults regarding the release below:
01. Chipocrite – High Fives (To The Face) [new remix]
8static veteran and Philly’s resident chiptune-cover artist, Chipocrite, starts the album with a huge, monstrously catchy track. Dipping and diving between tense build-ups and ballad-pop phrases, ‘High Fives…’ has more twists than a dozen oxbow lakes and some masterful melodic play too, all sounding rather melancholic and compositionally mature, with so much ground covered in so little time. It’s clear from this single track why the talent has gained such currency in the live circuits.
02. Roboctopus – Good Night Stars
Roboctopus. Multi-instrumentalist, composer extraordinaire and writer of one of my favourite 2013 release, the godly ‘Disco.txt’. If that isn’t enough to get you soaking about hearing this, then hopefully the following hyperbole will. ‘Good Night Stars’ is exactly what you would expect from a Roboctopus track, in that it is masterfully composed with incredibly affective melodies, a range of styles too large to be represented empirically and those beautiful LSDJ instruments which solidify both his sound and his unique voice so succinctly. A masterclass in how LSDJ should be programmed, and how to stand out strong in the sea of mediocrity that the chiptune scene can be.
03. Danimal Cannon – Red Planet
Member of Armcannon, releases on Ubiktune, split with Zef, known for his flagrant flaunting of untouchable guitar skills alongside demanding but rewarding melds of progressive metal and chipjazz. Yep, Danimal Cannon makes an unsurprisingly incredible appearance on this compilation. Sounding not unlike label mate Yoann Turpin via Dream Theater/ [insert djent band of choice], ‘Red Planet’ sees Danimal scratching another notch off his ‘top ch00ns’ bedpost, with some incredibly well-produced guitars thickening his masterfully composed chiptune in a genuine musical spectacle.
04. Trey Frey – Vox Humana
A king in the dying days of 8bc, over the last few years things from Trey have been fairly scarce. However, following a recent slew of highly regarded live performances, the promise of a new full length in the pipeline, a track finishing off the WeeklyTreat project for 2013 [*cough cough* self-advertising *cough*] and now this, it seems the stars have aligned in the Earth’s favour. It appears Trey Frey is back. Coming home only like he would, ‘Vox Humana’ is a seething patchwork of fluid noise, beats, melodies and EDM, foaming at the mouth with groove. If you’re at MAG and you missed his performance shut up forever.
05. Rainbowdragoneyes – JjasonSalazZ
Known under for his blending of metal and europop, Rainbowdragoneyes doesn’t let his slightly bewildering reputation down an iota. Returning to that oddly effective genre mashing, (but more on the side of europop here), RDE throws together guttural “hey”s, scalic arps and polka inspirations into a full broth of addictive, chantable and down-right ‘barmy’ (so Radio 4) funky chip pop. There are a few overzealous pirate analogies in there somewhere to explain this, but I’ll let you find them yourself.
06. nickelPUNK – Outrun 2.1 (ft. Ryn)
Funky 80s house from nickelPUNK with accompanying vocals from the President’s First Lady. May seem a bit mis-matched on paper, but the music itself is precise and gorgeous, rife with Miami House vibes, the Hotline Miami soundtrack ran through the Telefuture mincer. Not only that, but the vocals on the top are, well, simply put: Erin’s singing sounds as good as her cooking looks. Only let-down is it’s mixed by Brandon, so if they’d shaken the dead weight it could have been a straight ten but, oh well. He’s always gotta let the side down. [Editor’s note: Suck it, Kilpatty, you smelly buttfart.]
07. Inverse Phase – Unit F [Amiiiiigaaaaa edit]
Originally written for a compilation in 2010 to help aid the fight against cancer, Inverse Phase has re-imagined his own track with Amiga sounds. Known probably better for his many cover releases, tracks like this solidify why he gets called to make soundtracks, play live and put forth for compilations like this time and time again; ‘Unit F’ is incredibly well-written. Simple. Lurching around with incredibly eerie tones, an unsettling atmosphere and some ingenious counter-melodies and scalic work running over the track, turn out the lights and prepare to weep (and not because you missed MAGfest [well this time anyway]).
08. Awesome Force – The MAGnificent Sinner
If his mind-blowing BRKfest set (still streamable on his Bandcamp) didn’t clue you in already, Awesome Force is an awesome force to be reckoned with live (just kill me now). The track he’s supplied jumps between nods to drum n bass, huge melodic motifs, syncopated funk bridges and a slowly building intensity that is as all-encompassing as it is effective; it will literally asphyxiate you with squarewaves. Dripping in as much energy as there would be sweat if you’d seen him live, this track only goes to further highlight Sean Baker as a rising and incredible talent in the chiptune scene.
09. TheDutchess – The Private i
Sega Genesis chiptune, reeking of the 80s and melodically focused? And melodically focused it is, every single second is swarming in unforgettable motifs, as jabbing basslines, glittering leads and clinking counter-melodies build into layers of jazzfunkprogchip. If this doesn’t contain elements of live jazz-esque improvisation, then TheDutchess certainly does a fantastic job of emulating them. One of the strongest composed tracks on the compilation, or on any Chiptune = WIN compilation for that matter. MAG’s booking of this artist was an act of genius. Be sure to check him out before his popularity explodes, if not for support than for bragging rights at least.
10. RobotSexMusic – South Station Breakdown
The Andrew W.K of chip, Boston’s party-chip ambassador Peter Hegarty (aka RSM) is up to his ol’ cheeky tricks again. Inescapable beats, affecting melodies, diverse and powerful wav work, and a shed-load of dance-floor filling attitude, this is RobotSexMusic almost as it should be heard, lying somewhere between EDM, drum n bass and with the ever-so-slight tinges of unce. Another un-missable live act that somehow translates a live energy into the studio. All hail the party king.
11. Auxcide – Revelry
Resident artist at Pxl-Bot and 8static, been on more compilations than memory can serve and rose meteorically to popularity within the scene, and all since 2012. How? This track does a fairly good job of explaining. Auxcide’s ability to meld truly jaw-dropping, heart-rending melodies reeking of the astral has always been unparalleled, and mix that with a genuine ear for dance music and attention paid to audience reaction to music, Auxcide manages to craft another trip through musical space, leading you by hand, captivating as always. Words are pointless at this stage, if you’ve not listened to him before, partake and fall in love.
12. Kubbi – The Cairn
That bloody cat-loving Norwegian. Not content with being one of the most talented composers in the electronic music scene altogether, with the ability to seemingly pluck unendingly grandiose and emotive pieces from nowhere, whilst retaining generic sense in the fields of progressive rock, classical music and electronic dance simultaneously, the Scandinavian devil has decided that one country is not good enough to be graced with his presence. The very nerve. Now he’s off gallivanting to the New Frontier, seemingly hell-bent on world domination, bringing this predictably ingenious, poignant and stylistically diverse track with him. Makes me bloody sick it does.
And so that’s it! Whilst being one of the shortest Chiptune = WIN compilations to date, it is definitely also one of the most consistent and eclectic. If you missed out on all the MAG 12 fun here, I guess, is a small token to help you through the tough time. Or it’ll push you over the edge and you’ll cry for days. Good work Brandon, idiot.