Sup y’all? =) President Hoodie here, thrilled as ever to introduce our latest multi-writer, full track-by-track breakdown of our recent collab release with µCollective, most aptly titled ‘µWIN’!
A collaborative writing effort for a collaborative compilation effort; sounds pretty ChipWIN-tastic to me! ;D
Without further ado, let’s get this fantastic review rolling along! Here are the first 5 track reviews, courtesy of ViridianForge!
1. ‘Wake the Weary‘ by Tom Miller
Mr. Miller brings the composition to life in a way we often don’t get to appreciate. With patient pacing, and an old fashioned set of rising warm tones, ‘Wake the Weary’ greets the ears like the first rays of the morning sun. As the track reaches its primary movement, the music takes on a character that easily matches the hustle and bustle of a town springing to life. Much like his work on ‘Traveler’, this track serves as an amazing highlight of how Tom can compose an emotionally moving tune that is heavily seasoned with NES nostalgia.
2. ‘Go Ahead‘ by COSMOWORKS
‘Go Ahead’s potent kick drums will snap a listener out of their gentle meditation as it cranks the compilation’s energy levels up a notch. The accompanying instruments wonderfully build tension and expectation. The bit crushed vocals that seem to be shouting out a countdown release the track into a running start. I have to give a special bravo to the false ending about halfway through the track. It held long enough that I found myself checking if there was an error in my copy of the track. There was not, and the music snapped back into play and raced on through to its scintillating conclusions.
3. ‘Shiver‘ by Heatshield
While Heatshield may take the tempo back down a notch with the aptly named ‘Shiver’, the listener isn’t spared from a nagging sense of impending doom. The blips and bloops take a falling tenor and are flavored with a bit of echo. The combination would serve well as background to a dangeresque Rogue-like dungeon dive. With dimly lit corridors, lungfuls of musty air, and certain death potentially around every corner, it’s understandable that someone would shiver with every hesitating step.
4. ‘Open Up‘ by Je Mappelle
Je Mappelle takes us to the thematic polar opposite of Heatshield’s track. With an energetic and uplifting introduction, ‘Open Up’ fills ears with brightness and light as it gets its feet under it. The tempo becomes immeniently danceable quickly, beckoning listeners to stand up and move with the notes. A temporary drop in tempo is a great opportunity to recoup energy. The music digs into grittier tones to really prepare for the final stretch. Drive takes over from here, thrumming with energy right into those last few danceable moments.
5. ‘Wub Dub de Club pt 2‘ by Ryuno
When Ryuno’s entry to the compilation first greets your ears, a listener will likely be expecting something quite lofi. A little 4-Bit Atari remixing perhaps? The Jamacian accented voice greeting your ears with “Murdah.” quickly changes those expectations. With a drop and full accompaniments of wubs and altered voices, ‘Wub Dub de Club’ quickly becomes a gun toting body rocking throw down. In concluding, the arrangement returns to a purely chip arrangement, letting the full shock of what had transpired really set in. I was left wondering what the hell I had just listened to, and why I liked it so much.
I hope everyone’s warmed up, because I’m tossing it on over to Glenntai to keep this musical cavalcade barreling on!
6. ‘Stranded‘ by Melted Moon
Starting off this review segment is Aschaffenburg’s chip-electro trio Melted Moon with ‘Stranded.’ Reminiscent of the brooding LSDJ WAV channel bass and glitching noise instruments and retriggers you would have familiarized with some of Zen Albatross’ earlier work, this track brings an excellent sense of desolation with isolation right from the start. However, this is as far as the comparison goes, as this song brings along a progression of moods closer to what you could call progressive-electro. It conveys a pattern of emotion similar to a person slowly building themselves out of the dread. Later on, it brings on a melodic that made it seem as if one’s internal monologue was combating between the same dreading feeling against a building itself a sense of hope, as if one was fighting against a chronic problem. The song seems to resolve in a way that suggests a theme of continuing its effort, leaving an appropriate atmosphere for the next track.
7. ‘Ready to Roll‘ by Sdhizumi
Are you ready to roll? Sdhizumi certainly hopes so, because ‘Ready to Roll’ almost immediately takes off from the resolution of the previous track as if you were immediately thrust
ed into a challenge within a discotheque. “Ready to Roll” sticks to a more traditional form of modern EDM standards (compared to the previous songs’ progressive approach.) The kicks hit hard, the bass line engulfs the pulse rhythm, and the noise percussion is very precise and clean, all of which is even better when some of the instruments are naturally gritty. Several tropes of the genre have been included, and despite the word “trope” giving a negative context, I feel this track has done an excellent job in both planning and executing them. I also found after listening to each song that this song was the one that got stuck in my head first and for the longest.
8. ‘Easy Grave‘ by Balloonbear
Just when I was about to wonder if I was going to hear more music on these compilations from the Russian chiptune scene, Balloonbear shows up. This was a pleasant surprise to find on the compilation, and his song is certainly no less pleasant. ‘Easy Grave’ already had me excited when I was hearing that introduction build up, continuing with a style reminiscent of Combat Dave’s classic tracks. There are a lot of techniques used in this song to build the atmosphere, including echoing pulse arps, reverb-filled leads in the bridge a use of noise percussion emphasizing a looping duty cycle, and its use of chorusing on both pulse channels. I was first wondering why, with such solid hi-hat tracking, the volume envelope was left so low. After a few repeated listens it seems to have been replaced with more of a shuffling rhythm, which while not what I expected, certainly was still enjoyable. Overall this is a track is a fun D&B song that will undoubtedly fit in along other great 1xLSDJ D&B.
9. ‘offline hours’ by Beatscribe
‘offline hours’ is a track that quite stopped me in my tracks after expecting more bouncing rhythms and dance music standards. Instead, I was introduced to a slow, ambient introduction with what sounds like Super Famicom-era guitar samples pulling off a form of a dramatic solo. This is when the hi-hats and bass come in, and it sets a very downtempo atmosphere. It wonderfully contrasts and perhaps gives the mind of the listener a break before continuing on in a sense of progression through various drum kit samples. Soon the atmosphere changed into something I would imagine from a slow-moving moment in a story monologue. Alternatively, I could imagine this being a motif in the cyberpunk bartending game VA-11 HALL-A, where the entire premise is based on emotional, thematic music to help drive the feelings for a specific story. Once the high-octave piano sample from the Secret of Mana series kicks in, it coincidentally plays a section of notes in its accompaniment that bring a certain level of drama to the end of the song. Beatscribe successfully made an excellent piece that fits its name wonderfully.
10. ‘Sudo‘ by Nanode
Once the dance machine went back online, Nanode presented ‘Sudo’ to give us a high-energy and high-drive trance start. The format is pretty well done and carries on well with the first verse, with a tasteful drop into a two-step rhythm with matching percussion. Its melodic leads don’t take too much focus on the rhythm and makes sure to find its way to get stuck in your head when you least expect it. The format repeats a few times and to its credit, “Sudo” delivers very strong build-ups and transitions into every part of the song. This is a very strong dance track that would most definitely either bring the party to its feet or keep it going.
I hope you enjoyed the shenanigans, and furthermore I hope you stay tuned for Joe Eidson’s review! Which if you can’t, you have an impressive lack of attention span since OH LOOK RIGHT BELOW THIS LINE THERE IT IS.
11. ‘spacerage‘ by rymdkraft
rymdkraft’s ‘spacerage’ opens with a lovely syncopated lead that makes good use of pulse width modulation, adding interest and depth to the synth sound. However, just as soon as you become comfortable with the musical texture, it’s off to the races with a pulsing bass line and a great main melody. The style and texture of the main sections of this track remind me very much of those wonderful arcade racing soundtracks of the 1990’s. Catchy leads and a driving bass line dominate the musical landscape, with a few brief synth solos between repeated melodies. Besides the overall high energy, another thing I really enjoy about this track are the very brief interludes and transitions between sections. rymdkraft drops a few instruments out of the texture and gives us a short time to breathe before turning up the energy once again.
12. ‘Beckonate‘ by UncleBibby
I always like the extreme contrasts that happen with the ChipWIN compilation albums, and going from track 11 to 12 is an excellent example. UncleBibby’s ‘Beckonate’ still retains a steady, forward-marching tempo, but it is slightly slower and the textures are much different than ‘spacerage.’ Thumping bass and steady beat accompany keyboard chords, but pay special attention to the background instrument playing short notes on each beat. That’s my favorite sound in this opening texture, and I really like what Bibby does with that instrument later in the track. An extended keyboard solo inserts itself above this texture, and the steady barrage of notes manage to exit at exactly the time they start to threaten to become tiresome. The rest of the track focuses more on the dirty synth tone from the opening, mixed with a few strategic pauses from the bass and drums. It is a rare thing for music to truly feel ‘too short,’ but in this case I would really like to hear what this track might sound like with an additional 30 seconds. It ends abruptly, leaving the listener wanting just a bit more.
13. ‘Feast in The Woods‘ by The VIRUS Empire
‘Feast in the Woods’ by The VIRUS Empire is yet another pleasing contrast to the previous tracks, with
(deceptively ) simple bitpop-esque sounds. The swirling opening really opens up when the drums are added to the texture, and I appreciate the amount of musical material crammed into LSDJ’s 3 pitched channels. Octave skips, instrument changes, and quick echo effects really help widen the aural field. The second main section of this track is a welcome contrast, dropping the sweeping leads for an emphasis on the bassline and thinner textures. The ending portion of this track is great, as it modifies that previously-mentioned contrasting texture to retain only the swirling synth lead. Rather than another rote repetition that could easily become stagnant and boring, the new texture and emphasis on the main melody both make the ending very satisfying.
14. ‘Affluenza‘ by Michael Zucker
The longest track in my review is Michael Zucker’s ‘Affluenza,’ clocking in at 5:21. Where the previous tracks contain a certain amount of economy with musical material, Zucker’s track allows for more organic growth of musical textures and ideas. There are two moments that stand above the rest in ‘Affluenza,’ with the first being the music that happens around 1:19. After an extended opening section that focuses on building layers upon layers of sound, the sense of open space that happens in the guitar and drums at 1:19 made an impression on me. This section also brings the overall register of the song down a bit in a pleasing way, as the opening contains square waves in an extremely high register. The second moment that I really enjoyed about this track is what happens when the opening material returns at 3:18. Instead of a direct repetition, Zucker interjects harsh, distorted sounds that recall some of the more aggressive music in the middle of the track. These sounds are total opposites from the calm opening texture, and that unexpected juxtaposition is, to me, very pleasing to the ear.
15. ‘Short Shorts and Long Days‘ by Laffe the Fox
I am a sucker for a good maj7 arpeggio, and Laffe the Fox gives it to us in spades with the introduction to ‘Short Shorts and Long Days.’ Hearkening back to the happy bitpop sounds of The VIRUS Empire’s track, Laffe the Fox creates a complex texture through layering elements rather than register shifts. The phasing/flanging effect and pulse width modulation throughout the track sounds absolutely fantastic, washing over the listener in glorious waves of sound. The synth solo that floats over the texture at 2:50 is delightfully bouncy, and I love the descending whistling sound that happens just after the solo. Even the ending of this track is great; filters close and instruments drop out, providing a bit of aural darkness to what has been up to this point very bright and sunny sounds. Contrast is the name of the game with these five tracks, and the different sounds provided by the end of this track is a great way to close out my portion of the review!
Up next, it’s Chris Krogsgard!
16. ‘That Which Oversees the World Anticasually‘ by HertzDevil
‘That Which Oversees the World Anticasually’ by HertzDevil is no simple chiptune song,
but rather a full-on musical adventure. Through the use of his custom build of Famitracker, HertzDevil has crafted an awe-inspiring theme with the 2A03 that defies categorization. A majestic lead voice brimming with vibrato grabs the listeners attention, while a perfectly-crafted military snare drum leads the procession with pomp and flair. It’s a grandiose, semi-orchestral theme that fades into a delightful interlude between a Castlevania-esque melody and a low frequency harmonizing bassline. It’s the midway point where this subversively innovative track catches the listener off guard and takes a sudden progressive turn. A moody bass descends and rises in a slow, plodding buildup that you can feel in your chest with headphones on. The big payoff comes full circle with the return to its regal anthem. ‘That Which Oversees the World Anticasually’ is a compelling µCollective bonus submission that you won’t soon forget.
17. ‘Luna‘ by Jentu
Take ambient music, but replace its forgettable drones with gorgeous chiptune melodies and a capacity to rock and you have ‘Luna’ by Jentu. ‘Luna’ adds a lush, otherworldly layer to the µWIN compilation with its exquisite textures and hypnotic hooks. The listener is given room to drift and explore the rich soundscape during the first 2 minutes of the journey, until a tightly focused drumbeat quickens the pace. ‘Luna’s climactic refrain is a beautiful and cathartic experience that gains potency with each successive occurrence. The space between is layered even further with guitar which adds to the cosmic vibe that this track unleashes in its powerful finale. ‘Luna’ is a truly astonishing submission to ChipWIN that also is a great primer for Jentu’s upcoming album ‘Aqua Vitae’. I can’t help but feel that all is right in the world now that this track has been released to the public.
18. ‘Cloud Nine‘ by Dream*Eater
‘Cloud Nine’ by Dream*Eater does an excellent job of transporting you to its namesake. The lead pulse channel’s catchy melody is relaxed and soothing, and feels as if it’s guided by the wind. That overall “floaty” feeling is masterfully achieved here in this 1X LSDJ submission. The effect is especially impressive during ‘Cloud Nine’s climax, wherein the WAV channel bass boisterously bounces between both ears. Sudden pauses in the select channels and random samples add to the jovial and unpredictable atmosphere that ‘Cloud Nine’ conveys.
19. ‘Apathy Syndrome‘ by Evaleigh
Evaleigh goes right for the throat from the first second of ‘Apathy Syndrome’, a hard-hitting progressive chip rock track with a metal edge. Evaleigh is a one man music project with reams of musical talent; he has performed all that you hear within ‘Apathy Syndrome’. Facemelting guitar riffs coalesce with aggressive double bass hits, building up momentum before releasing into a bridge with even more impressive fretwork. Evaleigh deftly raises the tension and speed into the big finale as every element of this skillful composition crescendos at once, complete with laserblasts. It’s a fireworks display for the ears and a truly epic submission. If you like what you’ve heard here, you’re in luck! You can hear a whole album’s worth of Evaleigh’s seriously impressive skill on his newly-released chiptune debut, ‘Emily with a V’.
20. ‘<(^o^\)‘ by Whitely
If you were to dive into the warm gooey center of chiptune, ‘<(^o^\)’ is what you’d be hearing. It exudes the playful and carefree energy that chiptune puts out there; the exuberant, heartwarming energy that has connected with us all. Created in LSDJ, ‘<(^o^\)’ captures the spirit and whimsy of chiptune so well that it’s hard for me to imagine it not connecting with you in one way or another. The repeating pulse channel melody forms the musical centerpiece, as its sister channel adds a fantastical starry texture. The warm bassline and pounding beat complete the danceable foundation to this brilliantly captivating track, one best enjoyed with friends in arm and beer in hand. Even more incredible chiptune awaits you on Whitely’s recently released album, ‘Space Romance’.
Next in the line, it’s Aydan Scott!
21. ‘kawaii five-o‘ by (T-T)b
With an opening that masks ‘kawaii five-o”s true direction, this chiptune rock ballad may awaken a sense of nostalgia in long-time chipmusic fans. Reminiscent of Slime Girls or Anamanaguchi’s pre-‘Endless Fantasy’ songs, (T-T)b’s marvelous melodies and riffs are sure to be floating in your mind for weeks to come. Organic guitars and percussion are particularly prominent in this song; even though their purposes are to provide rhythmic accompaniment, chords and hi-hat rides are some of the things that allow ‘kawaii five-o’ to truly stand out from the crowd.
22. ‘Whippersnapper!‘ by Extent of the Jam
‘Whippersnapper!’, Extent of the Jam’s contribution to µWin, also evokes memories within its listeners. These, however, may be memories of sitting in front of the blue glow of a cathode ray tube television, gripping an NES controller fiercely, and trying to get past that god-forsaken Level 6-2 in Ninja Gaiden. ‘Whippersnapper!’ certainly wouldn’t sound too out of place in a difficult side-scrolling platformer. While the variety of instruments used is minimal, Extent of the Jam’s solo writing is stellar in nature. Distinct note phrasing between certain passages – specifically, between the introductory melody, solos, and the key changes around the midsection of the song – give ‘Whippersnapper!’ an organized sound, while keeping tinges of improvisation throughout.
23. ‘Meet Evil‘ by lpower
lpower’s ‘Meet Evil’ is of a much darker tone than any of the other songs on µWin. The track has a suspense-horror-influenced feel to it, alongside what sounds like an 80’s influence in its FM synths that grace the last third of the track. ‘Meet Evil’ may bring to mind images of a daunting fortress, a lone hero, and ghastly apparitions and monsters. Key changes by the end combined with a slowing in tempo are a welcome addition to this atmospheric piece, and instill a sense of unease in our fictional protagonist. Is this evil force simply too powerful to be reckoned with…?
24. ‘Stingray‘ by Oliver Maier
Oliver Maier’s ‘Stingray’ is a toe-tapping, funky composition, with yet another extremely memorable melody to it. It almost feels as though there’s a pitch bend happening at every point in the track, and high usage of this technique is definitely appreciated. ‘Stingray’ has a less strict vibe to it, with Oliver Maier approaching the listener with more of a ‘figure-it-out-as-we-go’ feeling than anything else. Percussion is simpler and unobtrusive, but the noise channel is perhaps a little too quiet for my taste at times. The square voices are clearly meant to be the listener’s focus, however, and Maier does well in his riff-writing craft. This is sure to be a favorite among chipfunk lovers.
25. ‘Ephemeral Emerald‘ by Hypnogram
Hypnogram’s ‘Ephemeral Emerald’ is jam-packed with the EDM influence that we’ve all come to know and love about this familiar artist. Heavy kicks and a relentless bassline are sure to have your head bobbing through the entire first half of this song. A frantically played square solo leads into a more relaxed, albeit brief, midsection, which I initially interpreted as a false ending. Hypnogram, however, had other ideas when writing this track; he throws the listener for a loop and hurls them headfirst into ‘Ephemeral Emerald”s trance-like beat one last time before the track closes with a bang. As the kids say, “expect the entire club to dosey-doe if my homedog Hypnogram drops this track live”. You dig?
Good. Now dig Bronx Kuma’s reviews!
26. ‘Noise Particles‘ by Spectrum Crush
Following up Hypnogram in funktastic fashion is Spectrum Crush with ‘Noise Particles’. A song that combines hiphop grooves with a lofi aesthetic only the Game Boy can provide, Spectrum Crush’s offering to UWIN is one of the most engaging pieces of music I’ve heard come out of a ChipWIN related compo, period. With its hard hitting, occasionally warbling bass, DnB inspired use of hi-hats, and highly complimentary use of snare drums to compliment a solid bass line, ‘Noise Particles’ comes across as a long forgotten B-side from the glory days of Toonami’s ‘Deep Space Bass’ album. The song just as easily fits in as part of a commercial break filler track introducing a show like ‘Symbionic Titan’ or ‘Samurai Champloo’ as it does on the dancefloor at an event like 8static or lwlvl. If that’s not high enough praise for you to be interested in following Spectrum Crush, I don’t know what will be.
27. ‘Bothersomeness‘ by Kubikami
Continuing what has been this album’s spread of chiprock is a song that resonates deeply with the listener. ‘Bothersomeness’ by Kubikami is a song one wouldn’t expect to hear on an album such as this. While UWIN is an incredibly diverse compilation, even when taking into account prior rock contributions by artists such as Michael Zucker and (T_T)b, ‘Bothersomeness’ is something that isn’t heard often in chiptune. It’s Math Rock. Seemingly drawing inspiration from a combination of Maybeshewill, Saxon Shore and Long Distance Calling, the fluctuating arpeggios combined with with the subdued lead and heavy kick drum makes for an experience that’s rather introspective. While many may have surely heard this kind of music before in other forms using more traditional instrumentation. It’s a welcome change to hear the familiar sounds of the music we love combined with something so very haunting, as the result is one of the most ennui-inducing experiences to have been produced by an creative in the scene, and that change is always welcome.
28. ‘Get Away‘ by 2XAA
Up next on the chopping block is 2XAA’s ‘Get Away’. This foreboding warning is perfectly encapsulated in the tune that 2XAA’s main man Sam Wray has put together for this compo, as the song is a Jeckyl & Hyde of a beast! Starting out with creepy, off-pitch pulsewaves that sound like the brainchild of hours of tweaking in nanoloop. As noise and hard hitting drums crescendo around a melody that invokes imagery of fury-fueled transformation triggers, regret fills the hearts of those who bear witness to the staggering metamorphosis. The beat drops, and one of the sickest, yet most delightful melodies kicks in. The overall experience is highly reminiscent of the potion master miniboss one fights during Plague Knight’s stage in Shovel Knight. Between ‘Get Away’s spooky intro, breaks into its dance inducing hook and it’s subtler, more spine-tingling down-shifts in tempo, 2XAA has crafted aria that, thematically, is highly reminiscent of Virt’s work for Yatch Club Games. That, 2XAA’s talent and involvement with Ucollective notwithstanding, makes this song truly bodacious.
29. ‘The Best Day Ever‘ by Teomawiki
Last, but not least on this compilation is Teomawiki with ‘The Best Day Ever’! Seemingly drawing inspiration from artists such as PandaSTAR, Brick BRKer and PROTODOME, Teomawiki crafts a playful LSDJ melody that wraps up this amazing collaboration in the most delightful way possible! Replete with arpeggios, pulsewave kicks, playful triwave leads and one of the coolest sounding synth guitars I’ve heard a Game Boy produce, Teomawiki takes the energy and lightheartedness that can only be found in LSDJ and puts them to work! Everything from panning of the twinkling tri-waves to slightly wubbing bass makes for an experience that will easily invoke memories of simpler times in ones pursuit of chiptune. A time when the only things a person needed were a couple AA batteries, a backlight mod and a good flash cart to make their dreams come true. Perhaps ‘The Best Day Ever’s greatest strength, is it’s length and it’s ending. While the song tricks the listener into thinking it ends before picking up one last time, just like any good thing in life, you’re allowed a brief moment to realize it’ll be over soon before partying your hardest one last time.