She is new to me, but not new to music. A graduate of the Berklee College of Music and an indie game sound designer, this talented young lady began her musical journey with a “mix of cassettes by The Beatles I’d listen to in my parents’ old minivan; they’d take me and my five siblings out every Sunday and we’d just drive around listening to The White Album, Abbey Road, and more”. Beyond The Beatles, games like the Legend of Zelda, A Link to the Past, and Sonic showed her the possibilities of 16bits, and the immursive power of the orchestra and electronic music. Her initial album offering, ‘Bitcrushed Memories‘, came across my feed via the incredibly talented James Landino and I’m so glad it did.
Some folks in my boat (read as “newbs to chiptune”) might assume that all Chip has to offer is hyper, upbeat, Mario-at-a-rave, frenetic sound-scapes. Well, my dear readers, variety is out there, and Miss Jamie Billings, the heart and mind behind The Unicorn Princess, is proof of that. With an intensely personal vibe, the music on ‘Bitcrushed Memories’ is an ambient journey that evokes emotional memories. For The Unicorn Princess, this was her main inspiration:
“The album is essentially a heartbreak album in the form of a diary. It was my way of processing what I was going through. I’d say it was cathartic, but because I also worked with mixing and producing the album myself, it wasn’t exactly healing to re-listen to those tracks over and over again. I tried putting as much of my soul into the tracks as I could, and hearing the tracks now still brings me back to certain memories and I feel like how I was then, so I try not to listen to it too much myself, unless it’s to showcase something I did with the production.”
Driven by an impressive, self-reliant work ethic, Unicorn Princess recorded and produced ‘Bitcrushed Memories’ in just over six months at the end of 2013. The album is a mix of gameboy and musical instruments that were “recorded and DSPed the crap out of like wind chimes, bells, guitar, voice samples of mine”, a combination the artist calls ‘Folktronica’. The variety of sounds adds to the emotional power of the album, with each song being given texturing and mood beyond the simplicity of the individual samples. For instance, in the opening track ‘I Went to England‘, the use of church bells and wood-block textures helps to evoke not just the image of modern England, but also the rattling carts, town criers, and long trips at sea that are indicative of the country’s long history.
Each track helps push the story of the album further with its distinct feel. ‘Liar‘ follows ‘England’ and gives chip sounds the center stage which the artist uses to create a more driving edge. ‘Hanging On‘ trends more toward a floating ambiance. ‘Give in to Me‘ is sexy at first, but ends with certain air of desperation, of begging. ‘Everlasting‘ finishes the album with the lonely, sharp darkness of loss. With every passing track, the listener is able to connect with a part of ourselves that understands what The Unicorn Princess was feeling. If you open yourself to it, you can find yourself suddenly in a spot in your life where you were in the same vulnerable state as the artist. To me, this is the hallmark of a truly talented musician: the ability to transport you through memory itself, find your heart, and grab hold.
‘Bitcrushed Memories’ tells a special tale, one of happiness and heartbreak; one that is both the artist’s and your own. I strongly encourage you to listen, share, and support to spread this tale to the masses.
Hey Frank back for another edition of “Inside The Daякcнip Mind!” This month I stumbled upon a great musician that I have to say is much different than most artists I write about. With that said, I had to write up something about this album because it had caught my ear in numerous ways. Not quiet in a dark sense but still a damn good listen!
The musician & album I speak of is “Spacetime Geometry” by “Galaxy Wolf.” I think this cheapbeats.net release is good for anyone that’s into any sort of chiptune. It has some heavy sub hits with random chill vibes spread throughout the whole album. I found it rather hard to “draw” a big picture to be able to describe this without basically giving it away so I’d say best bet is to listen to the whole thing with some headphones. This album is best with headphones because you hear the layers more clearly and are able to appreciate the random panning that’s thrown in. I almost always listen while going on a walk. This time, I chose to walk on the day before spring (which ironically has been the nicest day) & those vibes fit this VERY well! The album has that up-lifting feeling you get when some warmth finally arrives & it’s a somewhat sigh of relief.
Well first up, the song ‘Infinity Sway‘ starts off with a pretty nice chip lead that naturally flows into a bass line and just goes deeper with-in the depths of HARD HITTERS! “Galaxy Wolf” does pull off many things in this release that I like a lot that I don’t really see very much. For example, he uses a lot of ‘skweee’ type tones threw out the album while still maintaining a true chip vibe. The song that stuck out the most to me is ‘Indigo Rub,’ I mean COME ON! Anyone that likes any form of skweee is going to love this release. I find it very hard not to.
From there on out he spans the chip horizon to bring some pretty damn grimy chiptune tracks. ‘Subtitle Bounce’ basically give you that feel that things are starting to wind down but then at the same time it just brings in the punches we all love. The whole album just ties together that really anyone who is into electronic music could find something to love. I recently got the time to sit down & ask ‘Galaxy Wolf’ a few questions! Thank you all for reading this months edition of “Inside The Daякcнip Mind” & now time for zee questions!!
Frank – When did you start making electronic music & has it always been based around chiptune? I noticed some other influences threw out the album like some lovely skweee!! :3
Galaxy Wolf – I started making electronic music when I was 18. I played guitar for years and was getting pretty bored with guitar the based bands I’d listened to so much (various punk/rock/blues artists) – I thought I’d fallen out of love with music!. Then a good friend played me some Aphex Twin, Squarepusher, old Rephlex Records stuff and I was like “ooh!”. I hand’t fallen out of love at all, I just needed new sounds. So yea when I was 17 my college started a music technology course, when I finished college I got a Laptop so I could make beats at home. It was only a short time after that when I first heard DJ Scotch Egg, my first exposure to chiptune, I’ve had LSDj for almost that whole time but honestly it took me so long to get in to it, I never pictured at that time I would make music just with the gameboy, I thought it would just be cool to sample some sounds on to the laptop. On the subject of skwee, people keep saying that! honestly I don’t know if I’ve heard much, does Dorian Concept count as skwee? or Slugabed? I think maybe It’s more of a coincidence. If you’re doing some kind of creative art you’re more or less tapping in to what already exists in culture and sort of finding some new links between things and kind of going “how about this?” Maybe that Skwee sound has been implied by other sounds, like everything else it’s a kind of amalgam of influences that has been made possible by other recent and not so recent developments in sound and technology. When I played with Men of Mega last year at Ultrachip, I was trying to describe my sound before I played, but after they were like “it’s Skwee!” and I said “oh, is it?!” someone else there said the same thing, and also that it sounded like “neuro-hop” I think!
Frank– What where some of you major influences growing/ & or now. Also have you done or like todo any covers? Just mainly wondering because I think you could add a pretty good twist to some older tracks!
Galaxy Wolf –Growing up my biggest musical influences were the music my mum listened to, mainly 60’s stuff, garage rock, soul, Motown, my dad is an absolute beast of a banjo player, I heard him every night, when I was around 10-11 I found a Jimi Hendrix record in my dads collection it was “All Along the Watchtower” and I think the b-side was “The Wind Cries Mary”, man that shit changed who I was, I got a Squire electric guitar a few months later I think. I got obsessed with Jimi and listened to him nonstop for a few years – I think He’s been the biggest musical influence on me really. Next was all that Warp Records stuff I mentioned. We used to have these amazing raves in London, promoters like Wrong Music, Littlebig, OverKill, real hard stuff like breakcore, raggacore, and all kinds of real hard, techie sounding stuff I don’t even know what genre to call it! They pretty much all moved to Berlin I think! But that stuff was amazing to hear. Was in to dustep for a while – hence Dental Dubs as “Team Toothpaste” – Dubstep slowed everything down (something I’ve stayed with for the most part) before that all the electronic music I was hearing was really fast and skittery. Lately I’m in to a bunch of nice Hip Hop stuff like Cyne, Kankick, J-Dilla, I’m in love with Dibia$e, Slugabed, Ghost Mutt, that kind of “off the grid” really unquantised sound, an earlier exposure to that kind of thing was edIT who’s got this really tight, crunchy glitch-hop sound. Haven’t really done any covers but it’s something I’m thinking about at the moment, have been messing around with doing beats to some acapellas too, but it’d be more accurate to call them remixes I think.
Frank– At live shows or just recording what do prefer your “set-up/ rig” to be? Also do you have any side projects or older stuff you have under a different names that people can find?
Galaxy Wolf –Well whatever I’m doing, these days I’m using a couple of gameboys modded by my boy Mikee Teevee over at ohmnohmnohm.com – they are gorgeous beasts. Live I like the 2 gameboys and a DJ mixer, I’d love a 3/4 channel DJ mixer but I don’t want to buy a shit one and can’t spare/justify the money for a good one right now. I just started to use a Roland SP404 to add some acapellas to my live set, which I think is gonna be interesting – I want to keep all the instrumentals pure DMG for now though. For writing it’s just one DMG really, I just sorted out my own LSDj keyboard which is awesome! it’s not on SpaceTime Geometry but it will be all over whatever comes out next! I’m in to the idea of adding things slowly and really exploring them, still on the to do list is custom kits, underclocking and midi sync, but they’re all a long way off because I like to really pillage each new thing I add for all its worth. For recording it’s just straight in to the laptop or sometimes through my mates firewire soundcard. I released an album on Noise Channel as “Team Toothpaste” a while ago, it’s called “Dental Dubs”.
Frank– Thank you for sitting down & answering these questions for us! Also would you like to announce any future gigs or collaborations/ randomness you have in store that you’d like to share?
Galaxy Wolf – No problem, thanks for asking me! I’m playing in Sheffield on April 3rd, and then up to Edinburgh for Inst Del with an awesome lineup on the 5th (details below). For collaborations I have some plans to do some stuff with Boaconstrictor, and I’d love to do something with Hunter Quinn if he’s still in to it. Also I might take this opportunity to do a preliminary mysterious announcement about a hardware project I am working on that I think would be of interest to the chip community. Won’t say anymore about it for now, but I’ll send you some details when it’s ready.
In my time here as a blogger, I’ve had the opportunity to choose my own album reviews, chat with some really great artists, and explore creative opportunities I would’ve otherwise been unable to without the help of Chiptunes = WIN. For this entry, I called upon another chip advocate, my girlfriend. At some point in the middle of – I think – a discussion about programming, I asked her, “If you had to choose one chiptune album to listen to, what would it be?” Puzzled, she searched around her hard drive for the next few minutes and came back to me. On one hand I have to say, I’m not entirely surprised at the choice she had made. On the other hand, I’m glad it was another album released through Ubiktune.
That’s right, the Ubiktune love train keeps-a-flowin’ in this article. I really can’t help myself, it’s too much goodness for one label. With that, the decision was made. She chose ‘Wintertunes‘, a compilation of chill and refreshing tunes from 11 different artists.
You have quite a full range of tunes to choose from on this one. Whether it’s light and fun, or darker with a much more ominous tone, the mixture of things is quite pleasant, save for a few tracks.
The album starts out perfectly, “Magic Snow is White and Slow“, generates a light-hearted, whimsical resonancewith a flute-like chip that embraces the brisk, invigorating draft just as you take that first breath outside, just before the sun rises. The impact of it all sends a chill down your spine and by the second track, the sun has set; you’re in survival mode battling harsh arctic conditions and yetis as the snow waves crash over the mountainside. You can almost picture a wind sample playing the background. *end wind.wav*
Derris-Kharlan’s track “Reconciliation” feels like the conclusion of the odyssey even though it’s the 4th track on the album. It’s a great tune, but feels very unnatural in the course of the album. ‘Cough Syrup Overdose’ wins the top spot in the album for me. Jazzy? Yes. Chiptunes? Yes. Chord progressions a plenty, this tune certainly goes all over the place; it’s lively, easy to groove to. It’s like if Vince Guaraldi had access to a tracker, this would be some of the music represented in the Peanuts NES game.
Bordering on 4 years old, if you’ve never heard this albumsince it’s release back in 2010, you’re missing out. Each song has its own unique essence to bring to the table, and while some of the songs might feel weird from time to time, it’s an enjoyable album. With lots of very talented artists such as Blitz Lunar, coda & surasshu, and a $0 price tag, there’s no reason you shouldn’t get this. I’ve listened to this for years and since I haven’t seen any reviews of it online, this is my gift to you. Please hold your applause.
But seriously, today’s my girlfriend’s birthday. Happy birthday, Parvathi, ya 23 year old goofball. :)
Thanks for reading.
P.S. This will be my last article for a month or so, gonna take a small hiatus for makin’ more music. \m/
Hey, all you lovely readers! It’s been a while since I’ve written for the ChipWIN blog, but it feels great to be back now! With the first official day of spring behind us, I couldn’t think of a better way to welcome the season than by checking out The One Electronic’s latest release, ‘April Showers & May Flowers’. You might recognize Michael Vallejo’s stage name from ChipWIN: Volume 2, but he’s been a part of the Piko Piko Detroit crowd for quite a while. So, without further ado, let’s dive in!
The first track, “Nimbonebula”, opens calmly and quietly before blossoming into its simple-sounding, yet effective melody. A multitude of different sounds are utilized effectively throughout the song. From the sparse notes of the xylophone, to the chords strummed from an acoustic guitar, nothing sounds out of place in this melodious piece. The second track, ‘The Warmest Week’, also has a soothing melody, and The One Electronic’s lyrics make the song all the sweeter. ‘The Warmest Week’ is aptly named; just listening to the song warmed me up inside.
‘It’s Spring and I’m Thinking of You’ is another one of Michael’s tracks that uses live instruments in addition to chipsounds. The light-hearted chords in the beginning of the piece, while not necessarily the focus of the listener once the electronics come into play, are an aural treat and provide a wondrous backdrop to a well-written song. The rewinding effect used on the chords at about the midway point caught me pleasantly by surprise. The melody ringing over the acoustic chords could have just as easily been replaced with vocals or another instrument, in my opinion, but doing so would have changed the overall feeling of the song, and I feel that it’s perfect as is.
The third and fifth songs on this release are differently paced than the other three songs; they’re faster and more energetic. ‘Carpig’s Wild Ride’, the third track, utilizes a kick that reminds me of Kommisar’s music. The vibrato-esque pitch bending at 2:17 is one of the small things about this track that makes it truly excellent. The 32nd-note drums used in a few places give the track an even more energetic feel. Closing out the release is ‘Sushi with Raeko’, a track that opens rather modestly in comparison to the rest of the songs. ‘Sushi with Raeko’ builds slowly into a carefree, danceable vibe that’s sure to have you bobbing your head to the beat.
You can nab this release for just $3 on Piko Piko Detroit’s Bandcamp page, more than a fair price for an album this lovely. But before I sign off, I’d just like to point out that The One Electronic is trying to become the first chiptune artist to play on Vans Warped Tour, but he can’t do it without the support of the community! Check out his campaign page here, listen to some of his previously unreleased tunes, and make sure to share the link around and show your support!
Intricate simplicity best describes Tom Howe’s latest 7-track release ‘New Adventure‘.
‘New Adventure’ is the musical equivalent of “The Little Engine That Could“. The 7-tracks of Tom Howe’s latest album does a lot with a little, coming together for a solid collection that illustrates Tom’s creative progression since his release of several singles to Bandcamp in September of 2012. Check out “Semi-Mandatory Sorta Synthpop Edition” for a taste of Tom Howe’s electronic offerings!
There’s appeal in the lo-fi pseudo-grunge bass tones that serve as the foundation for the tracks album-wide, lifting ‘New Adventure’ up beyond the crisp, paint-by-numbers trap chiptune so often struggles to transcend. The music offered throughout ‘New Adventure’ has a welcome off-beat, organic composition that relishes its own experimentation and never outstays its welcome.
“0~deleteHistory?” launches ‘New Adventure’ off to a hard-hitting start with that aforementioned bass and layers on a gripping synth melody. Tom’s mindful manipulation of the pan adds significant immersion and freshness to ‘New Adventure’, most notably during “1~doubt“, a track that plays well against its own expectations to hold attention.
‘New Adventure’ as a whole maintains an experimental feel that shoves against the robotic limits of lo-fi chiptune music, infusing organic composition and often counter-intuitive melodic elements with surprising, heartwarming results. ‘New Adventure’ will be a welcome addition to your collection, and will definitely make you keep watch for more from Tom Howe in the future.
Tom Howe has a large discography on his Bandcamp site of over TWO DOZEN additional albums & singles for you to peruse once ‘New Adventure’ hooks into you. “Friens“, “WTF Is LSDJ?!“, and “ok” are highly recommended.
‘New Adventure’ by Tom Howe is deceptively simple, fulfilling, a welcome surprise, and is available on Bandcamp right now for “pay-what-you-want”. Go get it.
Pixel Recall (R. Morgan Slade) ~ Support the artists you love ~