Sometimes two chip-heads are better than one.
Set the mood with the ‘Ben Rear Introduction‘ below; a breathtaking forty-second orchestral introduction to whet your palette.
Despite two distinct approaches to the genre, the influence _ensnare_ and Inspector Vector have on each other throughout ‘Defend Your Ramp‘ successfully weaves a coherence through the album that eliminates any fear of disjointed musical tangents or fragmented direction. ‘Defend Your Ramp‘ is a blending of minds that will blow yours.
_ensnare_’s skill in building and supporting melodies that hook fast and hold firm are showcased off the top of the album with ‘There Is Always Love‘. Heavy beats and bass set the foundation for a fantastic and organic melody. Love it.
Inspector Vector kicks into gear immediately with ヽ༼ຈل͜ຈ༽ﾉ (Raise Your Dongers), a rousing anthem with a contemporary chip-house fusion and a hint of “jungle” flare. Imagine if Disney’s Tarzan opened an electro dance club inside Wreck-It Ralph’s arcade machine. Sweeping. Epic. Dem jungle beatz make you raise your dongers ヽ༼ຈل͜ຈ༽ﾉ
Tracks alternate between artists throughout the album, but you wouldn’t notice without triple-checking the album liner. Each track flows into the next like it was planned from the beginning, a notion that _ensnare_ assures is “purely accidental”. ‘Defend Your Ramp‘ evolves with a weight that betrays coincidence, giving credence to the efforts of a true collaboration. Despite plans to do “what we felt like doing” says _ensnare_, noting that he and Inspector Vector made no attempt to interfere with each other’s approach, an influence and incorporation of style bleeds in regardless. Both Inspector Vector and _ensnare_ would be wise to take note of their musical affinity, as this collaboration works.
Both _ensnare_ and Inspector Vector were gracious enough to answer a few questions about their experience constructing ‘Defend Your Ramp‘, and that interview continues below:
How did the decision to collaborate with Inspector Vector come about?
_ensnare_: Alex is a long-term friend of mine and he’s fantastically talented. He started doing Fakebit and, as my collab with .moegasus (my previous album Binary Opposition) had gone so well I decided to team up with him.
Inspector Vector: Well, Ensnare is a very close friend, but also has mentored me to a degree over the years in regard to production. He has this amazing ‘no nonsense’ attitude to music production. He doesn’t get hung up on anything people say you ‘should’ be doing, and has a lazer focus on what sounds good and what doesn’t, something that I still find so helpful. Also, I’ve been a fan of his music for well over a decade, so on the one hand it felt a natural thing to do as we’re friends, but on the other it was something I was quite humbled to be able to do as an admirer of his various music. As far as a decision to do it, we just talked briefly now and then for a while about doing a four track EP together, and it kind of just grew quite ridiculously into the final product at over four times that size. I’m a fan of the ‘album’ format so I was happy about this. I am not sure he was quite as happy at my repeated demands for more content…
Do you have a personal favourite among each other’s D.Y.R. tracks?
_ensnare_: Got to be ‘Raise Your Dongers‘ – it’s a ridiculous hit and I’m supremely jealous of the melody.
Inspector Vector: Hrm. Hard!… [His tracks] are exactly the type of music I enjoy; hook based and sound amazing. I often gravitate towards these tracks out of the whole _ensnare_ back catalogue, so I’m really pleased they’re on our album. One part that sticks out for me is about 1:41 into ‘I Need U‘ where this dual lead comes in. I remember hearing this for the first time and being amazed. A lot of focus in production these days is big crushing drops, which is absolutely fine and is an impressive production trick, but it is rarely ‘musically’ astounding. I love melodies in music, and I think that quite simple bit just shows what a great musician _ensnare_ is.
I’ve got to say that the tracks across Defend Your Ramp gel together very well. With two minds contributing to the album, what was the process of working with each other like to maintain such a solid coherence from start to finish?
_ensnare_: Any coherence is purely accidental! Basically, we’d send stuff to each other occasionally but there were no real attempts to change each other’s style – we just did what we felt like doing.
Inspector Vector: Thanks, I’m really pleased this is the perception! We were kind of in contact all the time regarding it, so as we’d write the tracks, the other would be aware of them one by one, rather than just doing all of them independently then presenting them to each other as a set. I think this may have influenced coherence. It certainly made me consider how I mixed the tracks to not be too far away from the sound _ensnare_ was going for, and at points helped me decide what to do next as to what I felt the album needed. There are parts where it doesn’t gel so well to my ear, but I think that’s just symptomatic of each of us doing some tracks that are stripped down/lo-fi and some that are more complex modern style productions. Overall I’m very happy with how it works as an album.
Do you have a soft spot for an effect or piece of tech that you employed during the creation of the album?
_ensnare_: Plogue Chipsounds is still absolutely vital to the _ensnare_ sound – it’s an incredible thing.
Inspector Vector: _ensnare_ and I talked quite a bit informally about the tools of the album in a rambling text file that comes with the deluxe edition, so I’ll try say something else. Obviously chipsounds and FL studio are vital to me. I really respect people who write with the genuine gear, LSDJ and whatnot. Some of them make my favourite chip music out there (monodeer, bitshifter, chipzel), but equally there’s a lot of people like BigGiantCircles (who _ensnare_ remixed on the album, and is a huge inspiration to me) who are using software emulations and are making a different kind of chiptune/fakebit, and I think that the scene embraces it all is a great reason why chiptune is so vibrant and diverse at the moment. As for a soft spot: While doing my half of the mastering, I was using http://www.tokyodawn.net/tdr-vos-slickeq/ on most things. It’s a relatively new (and free!) plugin which I think was developed by varietyofsound, and it is just an amazing easy to use EQ. I write production tutorials and product reviews by day, and this EQ is as good as a lot of the pricey stuff. Functionally, I couldn’t be without the fabfilter stuff, particularly Pro-C, Pro-Q and Saturn.
Was there a “eureka” moment during the production of Defend Your Ramp in which you learned something new or overcame a particularly difficult creative hurdle?
_ensnare_: The Score Attack was a demo I had sitting around for ages that people really liked on Soundcloud, but I couldn’t get finished. Then one weekend I was able to blast through it pretty quickly!
Inspector Vector: Definitely. One was very close to when the album launched. Ben rear with the gear went through so many iterative stages…I was trying a lot of things which just didn’t work, and I was sticking to the ‘formula’ despite the fact it didn’t sound very good. I wanted every element at the fore, which is something I know full well you cant do in production. Sound selection and mixing are very important. I’d totally ignored this, as I wanted every element to be this enormous, frequency filling sound, and thus when it didn’t work I hit a total brick wall. It nearly didn’t make the cut for that reason (I had to jettison another track called blockmania, probably my favourite, as I just didn’t have the time), but I eventually gave in and tried Ben Rear a different way, putting the lead to the fore and making a more simple, triangle-wavey bass. So yeah, it can be easy to get stuck in a rut, and sometimes you just have to go back to the drawing board!
Any last thoughts, advice, or news you’d like to share with your listeners?
_ensnare_: I’ve had some health problems for the last year or so which have meant that I haven’t been able to play any gigs – I’m doing a lot better now and I’ll be returning to playing live with a gig at Games Britannia in Sheffield next month.
I massively appreciate all the support as well – ‘Defend Your Ramp‘ is the most popular _ensnare_ project yet so I will try to do more stuff for my fans – both gigs and new tracks – as soon as I can.
Inspector Vector: I’d like to say thanks so much to the people who’ve supported this album. I am hugely grateful to every single person, and _ensnare_ feels exactly the same. Comments have been very kind, and it really makes me happy that people out there, in different areas of the world, enjoy the music we’ve made. Also thanks to my amazing girlfriend Ali for doing the album art, which I’m really pleased with.
Advice? Well, if you’re making chiptune, don’t be afraid to do what you want. As I mentioned, the chip scene is inclusive and interesting, and I think it suffers less than other genres do from silly and arbitrary constraints. As long as it’s got some retro sounds, pushing the envelope in any direction is usually welcome, and that’s what I love about it.
As far as news, I’ll be giving away a remix of a track from Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon via my twitter/soundcloud hopefully within a couple of weeks, so follow me on one of them if that’s something you’d like (on top of my inane ramblings). Also, I’m undecided right now but I am thinking of making a track to submit for the new Chiptunes = WIN compilation, so I’ll have to see! _ensnare_ is honeymooning at the moment, but he is always working on exciting things (not least Frozen Endzone, an ace robot based strategy game), so definitely follow him on twitter too. Thanks so much!
‘Defend Your Ramp‘ by _ensnare_ and Inspector Vector is available on Bandcamp in both Standard and Deluxe Versions.
The Deluxe version includes “a continuous mix of every track on the album, an _ensnare_ remix of a Big Giant Circles track, 3 ridiculous lo-fi comics by Inspector Vector, a drum ‘n chip thing called Crabs on the Rampage by Inspector Vector, 1 4K wallpaper, ultra-HD cover art and an EXCLUSIVE txt chat between our heroes _ensnare_ and Inspector Vector which covers everything from the ethos of fakebit to a cake called Herman” for $19USD or more. The Standard edition is available for $13USD.
No matter which version is right for you, ‘Defend Your Ramp‘ is a must-buy.
PixelRecall (R. Morgan Slade) ~ Support the artists you love ~