Archive for November, 2013

Chris Considers: ‘Insert Coin’ by PICE and Arcadian Bar & Grill

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Ever since I was a small child, I’ve been drawn to arcades. They were the only place on Earth where you could take first place in a white-knucle race, engage in friendly yet heated competition, and blow up the Death Star all in one night. The constant stream of bleeps and bloops emanating from those hallowed halls undoubtedly played a big role in my love of chipmusic today. Thinking back, my first-ever experience with live music was delivered by the Rock-Afire Explosion at the nirvana of my childhood, Showbiz Pizza Place. During those years when arcades were alive and well, their siren song would magnetize me at every skating rink, pizza joint, 7-Eleven and grocery store. It got to the point that whenever I’d rush away from my mother’s side, she knew exactly where I was going.

These warm feelings are understood and happily resurrected by Swedish chip musician PICE in his fantastic album, ‘Insert Coin’. The magical opening track ‘Prologue’ sets the tone for the album, in which a wistful melody is supported by gently rolling waves of bass. The following track ‘Another Great Morning’ shines forth with an optimistic composition where cheerful tunes abound. Conceived on New Year’s Eve, ‘Fireworks’ mixes gorgeous live piano with delicious chip sounds and crunchy bass to create a standout track that will give you a serious case of the warm fuzzies.

Nostalgia-triggering is definitely an artform, and PICE has got it on lock. Rather than cheaply regurgitating familiar tunes from the past, he creates his own unique soundscape that pushes all the right buttons. In fact, there’s just a single instance of a well-known Mario sound effect, and it’s executed perfectly during the buildup of ‘Ice Cream!’. If you aren’t on your feet by the end of this track, or at the very least bobbing your head, then you may need to check your pulse.

Elsewhere, the cosmic sounds of ‘Milky Way’ offer up a steady driving beat and a catchy melody interspersed with more open moments that offer the listener a chance to reflect upon the vastness of our galaxy and what lies beyond. The idea for this track came from viewing images of space, and it’s a personal favorite of mine. PICE then mixes things up with the aptly named track, ‘The Hard Stage’. This track exhibits a dangerous intensity that was cooked up in the smoke-filled cellar of Dr. Wily’s castle and then forged in the fire of Bowser’s deepest lava pit.

Overall, ‘Insert Coin’ epitomizes the slow jam. The album sits comfortably at the forefront of a focused listening session, as well as in the background of your next social gathering. PICE is definitely one artist you’ll want to support and follow. He is very skilled at creating happy, nostalgic music that evokes the kinds of feelings I had in the arcades as a kid.

Thankfully, I can now say that there’s no need to just dwell on the past anymore! ‘Insert Coin’ will serve as the perfect soundtrack as I tell you of the greatest thing to happen to my hometown of Lafayette, LA: newly opened Arcadian Bar and Grill! So, hit play and let’s go to the arcade!

For well over a decade, I have lamented the death of the arcade and feared that they would forever remain a fond yet intangible memory. Over that time, I’ve toyed with the idea of putting together a MAME cabinet for use at home. Ultimately though, that is just a small part of the full arcade experience that has never left my mind. Imagine my excitement upon hearing that a barcade was coming to town! Anticipation grew over the hot summer months, until Arcadian finally opened its doors in late October. Oh yes friends, it is glorious, and it’s something that I must share with the chiptune community!

Arcadian

I had the pleasure of speaking with the owner of Arcadian, Robert Zorn, and here’s what he had to say:

Chris: What gave you the idea to open a barcade here in downtown Lafayette?

Robert: I’ve been restoring old video arcades and pinball machines for the last 12 years. My first machine was a Donkey Kong Jr. cocktail that a church had given to me and a buddy of mine when I was 14. After graduating high school and moving to Lafayette, we had picked up a Street Fighter II cabinet from a Goodwill, and that just set off a firestorm. We started going around the state with trailers buying as many as we could. Over the last 10 years, I’ve probably restored somewhere around 1,500 to 3,000 arcade and pinball machines.

I’ve always wanted to open a retro barcade. I just wanted to open up a place that brings nostalgia back. Every one of these games brings back a certain time in people’s lives. Just seeing the artwork on some of these cabinets will take someone back to the time in their childhood when they first saw that, and that brings back warm, happy feelings. So, it’s all about revitalizing these old games that are still popular today and giving them new life. They’re all rewired and have been given new LED screens.

Chris: I noticed that! I have to say that I’ve been anticipating the opening all summer and it has exceeded my expectations! Considering the age of many of these machines, they are in excellent condition.

Opening night at Arcadian

Opening night at Arcadian

Robert: I’ve put a lot of work into restoring them and have picked them up everywhere from Craigslist to large auctions and warehouse loads. Some have had cosmetic facelifts but these are all the original cabinets produced by Midway, Nintendo, etc.

Chris: How has the response from the public been?

Robert: It’s been overwhelming. Within the first day of putting our facebook page up prior to opening, we had 1,000 fans. Before opening our doors, that number had reached over 3,400. Now we’re getting an average of 100 new fans a day and have been packed every night. We wanted to make something that’s a chill place. It’s kid friendly until 9, so that people our age can come in with their children and experience something with their kids that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to experience, something from their childhood. We have all craft brew on the tap, and an excellent food menu as well that is made from scratch daily.

Chris: It definitely fills a niche here in town that has never been filled until now, and really puts Lafayette on the map. We have a lot of chiptune artists and fans that read this blog, and we’d really love to know if you would be open to the idea of having a live chiptune performance here? I think that this would be the perfect venue for it!

Robert: Definitely. I have had inquiries about live music before, and once we are farther out from our opening I would love to do it. I agree with you, I’d love to do it.

Chris: Awesome! Well, I really appreciate you taking the time to talk with us.

Robert: There is more to come! I have over 200 cabinets that we’re going to rotate in and out. We’re going to use facebook and let people vote them in and retire others. We have the biggest HD projection screen downtown that is 15×15 foot which could be utilized in future performances. Arcadian is a melting pot as far as our patrons that appeals to young gamer kids, people our age that remember these things, hipsters and people that would not usually go downtown.

Chris: Yes, just looking around you can see its appeal to a wide range. It’s really exciting, and congratulations on all of your success here!

Robert: Thank you.

And that, ChipWINners, is the story of how my hometown went from pretty good to full of WIN! I encourage you all to come on down and check it out!

PICE
Bandcamp | Soundcloud | Facebook | Twitter

Arcadian
Arcadian Facebook page

The President’s Manifesto: Beer & Chip Vol.3

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Sup y’all? =) Prez Hoodie here with yet another edition of my beer and chiptune column! Surprisingly enough, it’s survived to a third iteration! Well I’ll be damned….
I mean, uh… That’s awesome! I knew it would all along! :3

Silly introduction out of the way, let’s get on to this month’s beer & chip combo! This time around I’ll be glorying in the delightfulness of the following selections:

Ghost River Golden Ale & Roboctopus.

I decided to go local on this month’s brew selection, snagging a sixer of Memphis, Tennessee’s own Ghost River Golden Ale for my review. 

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What we have here, is a mighty fine beer!

From among seven different choices (four being seasonals), Golden Ale is Ghost River Brewing’s staple brew. Consequently, it’s also their only offering available in bottles
(the other six can only be found on draft at local pubs and/or purchased in kegs from the brewery). Pretty solid offering for a craft brewery, especially in this region!

Ghost River Brewing logo

Regarding the Golden Ale, it’s a rather light, very refreshing ale, complemented by a mildly sweet flavor (not overpowering) and just enough hoppiness to feel it in the back of your cheeks. Quite honestly, it’s a dangerously drinkable brew for any time of the year; a 6 pack of this tasty goodness has the nasty habit of disappearing far quicker than it has any right to! While the Glacial Pale Ale is probably still my favorite Ghost River brew, their Golden Ale is definitely worth trying out. Many times.

Michael Allen aka Roboctopus, the ale loving chipartist pairing to this month’s brewskie, is both similarly local to me (somewhat: appx. 4 hours away) and responsible for creating some quality chipmusic that is also dangerously addictive!

faces of roboctopus

The many faces of Roboctopus.
If 4 is many I suppose.

While this fancy tie wearing, occasional guitar playing, Gameboy dance-pop musician has been composing chipmusic for a handful of years now (his first two tracks debuted on 8bc in 2006), his four Bandcamp releases (+ some notable one-offs) of 20+ LSDj jams hold their own against some of the more longstanding hallmark albums of chipmusic, period.

From the ultra catchy LSDjx1 chiptune of his first three EPs – ‘The Landscape Has Been Erased’ (Oct. 2011), ‘Victory Lapse’ (April 2012) & ‘Tidal Bout’ (Dec. 2012) – to the gloriousness of what is both his first full length release & first LSDjx2 album, ‘Disco.txt’ (which successfully released this summer via the Cheapbeats netlabel) this sharply dressed chiptuner consistently creates some of the most infectious dance grooves that modern chipmusic has to offer. Totes a regular winner of the #FEELSGOODMAN award.

While somewhat of a rarity (although rumors of a future album comprised of such do exist), I’m a huge fan of his chip + other instrument(s) work as well. You only need listen to the diverse, yet fantastic mix of instrumentation in his ‘ChipWIN Expansion Pack’ entry “Lights Out For the Invisible Girls” to hear exactly why:

On top of everything else, the robotic octopus (or is he an octopus named Rob? #DeepQuestions) also manages to pull off a damn satisfying live performance. Having personally caught both his BRKFest & Future Night (indie art/music showcase in Nashville, TN) sets this year, I can totes attest to this something fierce. Even the most reluctant, dance-shy nerd struggles to remain still as Roboctopus regales the room in chiptune glory. Favorite tracks such as “Disco.txt” and “All Outta Bubblegum” shine in a new light, blasting from event loudspeakers with an almost tangible energy, as if they were truly designed to make butts move on the dance floor (hint: they were). 

While he comes across as soft-spoken, thoughtful individual in person, Michael speaks so incredibly loudly through his exceptional, feelgood chipmusic. As a lover of excellently crafted, danceable LSDj chiptune, or just damn good music in general, you owe it to yourself to check him out if you haven’t yet. If his tunes don’t stir something in (or outside) of you, chances are you’re probably dead.

roboctopus 1

And that concludes this month’s volume of my beer & chip column! Hope you enjoyed the read, and that you get a chance to enjoy both the beer (come visit & I’ll buy you one!) and the music of Roboctopus (you have zero excuse for missing the music; embeds to ALL THE OCTOALBUMS are just below this). Until next month, cheers to all of ya!!

Much \m||m/,
President Hoodie

Roboctopus
Bandcamp | Facebook | Twitter | Soundcloud

Ghost River Golden Ale | Ghost River Brewing

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Tales of a Chiptune Newb, Chapter One: The Flight Away

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I began my musical journey as an overenthusiastic children’s choir member at 4 years old. Since then I have been exposed to not only choral and church music, but also crooners and big band (Dad’s fault), protest rock and 60s pop (Mom’s fault), alt rock and indie (Brother’s fault), Top 40s and Nu Metal (My fault), and a bevy of other genres from Viking Metal to Prog (President Hoodie’s fault).  And now I’ve been introduced to Chiptune.

I’ve been awash in music my whole life; I love this stuff!  But this chiptune thing is by far the newest and most eclectic musical genre/type that I have been exposed to in many a year.  And, to be honest, I feel like a complete newb.  And that’s OK!  I’ve always thought being a newb is a good thing.  It means I have so much to learn, to hear, and to discover. It just so happens, dear reader, that you get to tag along with me for part of my journey. Welcome to Tales of a Chiptune Newb!

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Chapter One: The Flight Away

I was introduced to The Flight Away via Chiptunes = WIN: Volume 2.  While all of the tracks on the compilation are stellar, this one made me squeal with girlish delight.  As I talked about in my Volume 2 track write-up: I love 80s and 90s pop.  A lot. A LOT, a lot. And that love puts The Flight Away’s track, ‘Take a Look’ squarely in my wheelhouse.

On permanent repeat, it brings me unabashed joy.

The Flight Away is primarily a one man project, but Jon – the man behind the tunes – says that he has a group of friends that are aiming to fill out the band for live performances.  His love of video game music goes back to his Nintendo and Sega days, when the catchy melodies of those systems wiggled their way into his heart.  His interest in VGM developed as he played with Ableton Live for fun, but says that Anamanaguchi was a major influencing factor in his choice to create electronic music intentionally.  Says Jon, “It was what really inspired me to start making this stuff on purpose”.

Using a varied bag of tricks including Milkytracker, Famitracker and VOPM, The Flight Away creates layers of music that  “[straddle] the world of chipmusic and electronic pop”. This hodgepodge of 8 bit and 16 bit sounds are woven together with words and melodies meant to convey genuine thoughts and emotions.  The sincerity of expression is evident in all three of the artist’s releases on Bandcamp.  I listened to all of them and chronicled my thoughts and favorites:

The first album from June of 2011 is ‘Somewhere So Far’.  To me, the chip sounds have a more distinct presence in this release than in the Volume 2 single (at one point, I swear I heard Yoshi). The style of song floats somewhere in between 90s pop-rock and 80s keyboard driven synth-pop. My favorite track is ‘Moment in Time’.  I always find myself connecting to songs where the drums are very present, and in this song the rhythm elements are featured from the beginning. The more I listened to the album, the more the vocals seemed to exude a Tears for Fears type quality: intense, emotive, and sometimes moody. This release is a good example of the balance that was struck in the artist’s Volume 2 entry: both upbeat and energetic, but with an edge of melancholy.

‘If I Could Reach the Sky’, the second of The Flight Away’s offerings, is a continuation of the style established in the first release, but with different finishing textures.  The vocals continue to be passionate and pop all over, just like the album’s predecessor.  The songs are catchy and 80s classic; the kind of thing that you catch yourself singing into a shampoo bottle in the shower.  The biggest difference I noticed was that there was a more balanced application of chip vs synth sounds, and an overall sense of brightness to the album that sets it apart from ‘Somewhere So Far’.  Favorite track of the album goes to ‘I Miss the Kid’.  It was the lyrics that got me this time.  Everybody’s had that friend that was their other half. It’s the friend that you could be stupid with, share anything with, the one that helps you figure out that you don’t have to be related to be family.  To me, this song is a love song to that friendship, a longing for that time when everything seemed perfect before they faded away.  And you miss that kid. And you miss the kid you were when you were with them.  A quote from a supporter on Bandcamp sums up this album as something “fantastically well-produced cheerful chippy pop brilliance” and I could not agree more!

The first impression I got of ‘SEGA SWING’ was an immediate cry of, “Oh my gosh, the funkiness!”  It’s immediately apparent that there’s a different set of sounds being employed to make this album happen, but it never wanders so far as to feel like it’s not The Flight Away.  The signature style is still present.  According to the artist on Bandcamp, this album is an homage to the late 80s/early 90s R&B and pop that was so common on Sega games of the era.  And he nails it.  It’s sonic drums with synth instruments and it’s a thing of beauty.  We’re talking Rick Astley levels of catchiness here, only without the bitterness of the Rick-roll. Pure happy in mp3 form. Picking a favorite was a lot harder for me on this album, but I think ‘I’m Here with You’ squeaks past ‘Mama said…’ by a hair.  There’s something about it that puts me in mind of roller skating around my drive way in my Popples roller skates.  It’s got the punchy drums, the vocal harmonies, and energy that gets me dancing in my socks in my living room.  If you like things a little more funky, this would be The Flight Away release for you.

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If you’re new to chiptune like me, The Flight Away is something with familiar structures and elements.  Their music blends 80s pop with chip in such a seamless way that you forget that you’re necessarily listening to chiptune.  However, the execution of the chip and synth mix is something that veterans of the scene can appreciate as something unique and different.  No matter how much chiptune you have poured into your ears, you owe it to yourself and your dancing shoes to check out The Flight Away.

Bandcamp | Soundcloud Facebook

The little things count. Show your love to the artists! Post, Share, Like, Give <3

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Chip Treatment with Professor Oakes: ‘Encounters’ by Zantilla

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My my my, ChipWINers! I see that your eyes & ears are due for their second dose of Chip Treatment the Professor Oakes way! Here, read up!

While I’m sure you’ve all been recuperating from either 8Static Fest or Nerdapalooza, dreaming about MAGFest, or been stuck at work for incredibly long hours with no end in sight, I’m sure you’ve all been auditorily stimulated for weeks to come, am I right? While I’ve felt at the center of a mighty whirlwind of recent chiptune releases these past couple of weeks, I stumbled upon a very Godly late October release by Tampa-based producer Adrian “Zantilla” Shegstad entitled ‘Encounters’ that I’ve been dying to write about!

J. Allen Hynek—United States astronomer, professor, and ufologist who developed the ‘Close Encounter‘ classification system—provides inspiration for ‘Encounters’, a 7-track high-quality album released by Ubiktune on October 25, 2013. Coupled with album artwork by Rufus Blacklock—aerodynamic animator, illustrator and space music follower—Zantilla takes his listeners on a journey through space and time through melodic synths, epic programming, masterful mixing and drum sequences. While ‘Encounters’ screams Ubiktune release, Zantilla’s quality progressive chiptune sound is sure to be a fan favorite for months to come.

Receiving wide support from Dan Behrens (Danimal Cannon), a listening party on Noise Channel (Arecibo Radio), and a review from the crew over at Destructoid, ‘Encounters’ opens with ‘1st Kind’ as Zantilla creates an out-of-body experience within the first minute of album introduction. As he invites his listeners to experience this auditory narrative of communication between humans and extraterrestrial beings, Zantilla uses a wide array of FM sounds and 2A03 additions throughout ‘Encounters’. Through his inspiration from Dream Theater and Jake ‘virt’ Kaufman, Zantilla makes use of exquisite metal recording techniques through live drum sounds, velocity layers and kicks and snares stacked together which gives ‘Encounters’ a very rich sonic vibe. While Zantilla mentions that he makes his own drum samples out of “layering shitty drum sounds together,” I call it absolute chip heaven.

While I could talk about my love for this album for HOURS, two songs in particular really catch my attention…Zantilla, well done. While each of the tracks have their own distinctive sound, ‘2nd Kind’ and ‘3rd Kind’ are all Professor Oakes A+++++ 10/10 certified chip. ‘2nd Kind’ is very reminiscent of a dream sequence. I remember listening to this, very appropriately, right before drifting off to sleep one night. With a hypnotizing key pattern, ‘2nd Kind’ has a very haunting melody that is far from anything I’ve ever heard before. With a drum pattern that kicks up around the 30 second mark, each second of this track is anything but what one can anticipate, as Zantilla blends his Sci-Fi aesthetic into synthesized riffs toward the middle of this track. ‘3rd Kind’, on the other hand, is completely opposite—an ‘evil twin’ to that of its preceding track—heavy, metal, and completely beastly with no time to breathe by the 8 second mark. While I can’t help but head bang, ‘3rd Kind’ is a wonderful whirlwind of chord progression and catchy drum kicks that takes you on a wild UFO ride to the very end as it literally feels as though it dissipates into space.

While the album sure rings sweet bells in my ears, it is also an insane steal and easy on the wallet! While the quality of production throughout is expected in that of a full-price album, ‘Encounters’ can be downloaded on Zantilla’s Bandcamp for a minimum $2 (though I surely recommend contributing more!) You won’t regret it.

That’s all ChipWINers! Until next time on Chip Treatment — Professor Oakes signing off!

 Zantilla
BandcampFacebook | Twitter | Ubiktune

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ChipWIN-tern Spotlight: ‘Ego Depletion’ by an0va

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The past couple of weeks have been crazy here in the chiptune world, I know. You might have been so pumped for 8static Fest that you somehow completely glossed over an0va‘s most recent release, ‘Ego Depletion.’ And that’s okay, I won’t fault you for it.
BUT I AM OFFICIALLY REMOVING THAT EXCUSE AS OF THIS MOMENT.
Henceforth, anyone saying they haven’t listened to this album will be publicly taunted.
Fish slaps are optional.

I really wish I could say that this album is many times better than his previous work, that it’s hands down his finest release, but I really can’t. “And why is that?” I hear you cry, in your far-off homes. “Because,” I reply, after laughing and taking a sip of whiskey, “honestly, there are no bad an0va songs.” Admittedly, I listened to ‘Ego Depletion’ before really having heard any of an0va’s music (aside from his contribution to chipWINter), so I thought I should go back and at the very least check out his Bandcamp. Both his 2011 debut ‘The Teaching Machine‘ & this summer’s 3 track ‘Visitors‘ are masterful. You expect that someone’s first release(s) maybe won’t be as good as their later work, but in my opinion there has been an outstanding level of musicianship present from the start.

So what makes ‘Ego Depletion’ so fantastic? When I first heard the release, my first thought was, “This album is like a shipwreck, in the best possible way.” This release comes at you in waves – it starts out high energy, and then throws you off into the void and you’re awash in the sound. It calms down for a bit, but then thrusts you once again into the maelstrom that is the music, the cycle repeating unceasingly over the roughly half-hour duration. Starting the album off, you really have no idea what you’re getting into. ‘anima’ is almost like Joe Hisaishi-meets-chiptune (anima? more like ANIME, amirite? AHAHAHAH- I’m sorry). By the time you’re done with the pounding bass in ‘the shadow,’ the album starts easing you back down until you hit ‘Ego Depletion’s eponymous track, which is just one theme repeated over and over with additional echo-effects laid on top until the release, and probably you as well, fade to black.

You can catch an0va pretty much anywhere one might find chiptunes and chiptune accessories – and being part of the Philly chip scene, you’re likely to find him at 8static. I know that this past weekend he was at Pulsewave as well, and apparently gave a set dressed as Freddie Mercury, which I will literally be crying tears of blood for several days over missing. I’m actually rather upset I missed his set at 8static Fest, but I know Emily Feder is working on processing the footage, so hopefully you can watch that set as well as all the other crazy awesome performers that were there. If you can’t wait that long, in addition to his own personal YouTube (included in the links below), there are plenty of recordings of his live sets at various shows, which I’ve saved you the trouble of searching for.

That’s all for this time folks! Stay tuned here for your beepin’ and boopin’. Seats out!

Links Ahoy!
Bandcamp Facebook Twitter Soundcloud  YouTube

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