Welcome fellow chip friends and fiends to the continuing coverage of Chiptunes = WIN Volume 3! Joseph Eidson here to discuss tracks 17-21, all of which continue the tradition of awesomeness on this compilation. It is an interesting and exciting challenge to try and summarize five very different artists with their own unique approaches to chip music: the extreme variety is one of the things that I really enjoy about listening to this album as a whole.
Ayoshutduff – CAPSULE
Sunvox was my first tracker when I started working with chip music, so I am definitely able to appreciate the massive amount of work put into this track from Ayoshutduff. Introductions are not always easy to write, and the long, sweeping portamento that begins this tune is great. The chords right after remind me (in the best possible way) of an epic battle in Tactics Ogre – you know something is about to go down when they hit! The use of staccato chords is also strikingly effective after many long tones. What happens next after the texture builds and builds was a pleasant surprise; rather than a frenetic section, the melodic material is somewhat understated amid neat accompaniment using volume swells. Disregarding my blatant soft spot for Sunvox, this track is fantastic and resides firmly in my Volume 3 favorites.
Origami Repetika – Daphne Dumpling
There is something intangible about the opening of this track that, if I could, I would bottle and sell at the highest price to every person trying to express themselves through music. It might need to be heard in context of the flow of Volume 3 for full appreciation (hint, hint), but the upward ascent of the opening melody followed by the briefest of pauses and a very “chippy” arpeggio puts a HUGE smile on my face. Origami Repetika’s use of rests are very refreshing – the little silences throughout the track allow the music to breathe in an organic way. The use of jazzy extended tertian harmonies also make this track stand out – start at 1:38 for a hip section that begs for a pixelated Tom Jones crooning to the ladies in the crowd.
Extent of the Jam – Infiltration
Possibly the coolest thing written in DOS this year (you hear that, George R.R. Martin? Get busy!). The Adlib sound chip and Sound Blaster playback make this track a unique entry to Volume 3, with a nostalgic take on sounds common to late 1980’s PC gaming. Extent of the Jam successfully combines several disparate musical elements in this tune: a suspenseful bass line, smoof’ jazz lead™, and an exciting middle section that will have you banging your head along with the cool bass/drums combo. The frequent orchestration shifts in each section really show off the capabilities and unique elements of the sound chip – listen to the melody at 0:53 for a really nice patch that sounds like the love child of a marimba and vibraphone, and the wild polysynth after the heavy section at 1:52.
turtledove – Aurora Zone
Smoof’ jazz™ is back, baby, and it’s alllll gooooood. The percussion texture in this track is a masterclass on how to make a sleigh bell sample sound hip, and the little inflections that abound in the melody and accompaniment immediately bring the track to life. Written in collaboration between FearofDark and stinkbug, this track is an exploded version of that late-80’s/early 90’s R&B backing track texture. When the bass changes timbre at 0:56, we’ve entered a time warp (yeah!) where t-shirts under suit jackets were hip and ALF is about to help Brian with that science project on the solar system. The main melodic material of this track is an extended solo that changes timbres several times, giving the impression of several big band players trading choruses. Brief rhythm section interludes keep the texture from getting stale, and when the bass drops out at 3:50, the ears immediately react to the shift in texture – very cool technique! The only thing cooler than B.A. Baracus are those descending chords in the coda.
Gab Pearson – The Root
(NOTE: This review contains a spoiler for a musical event in this track. Make sure you listen first if you want to retain the surprise!) There is something sweet and endearing about the way this tune combines the live keyboard, chip samples, and a steady backbeat. The most successful thing that strikes me about this track is the study in contrasts. Gab Pearson establishes a texture that remains steady just slightly longer than halfway through the tune, until a striking shift in timbre and texture immediately catches the listener’s attention. A really neat warbly lead takes a brief solo over a hip bassline and minimal accompaniment. The opening material comes back, but Pearson smartly changes the underlying percussion texture to give us something new to experience with familiar musical material. The ending of “the root” is a textbook example of writing effective music that goes against the expectations of the listener. The texture thins, leaving a steady percussive beat to fade. Suddenly, a brief crescendo pushes to the final loud downbeat, completely shattering the expectation of the listener and successfully re-engaging their attention through a unique ending.