Archive for May, 2014

Sladerfluous: ‘Defend Your Ramp’ by Inspector Vector and _ensnare_

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Sometimes two chip-heads are better than one.











Well-established chip artists _ensnare_ and Inspector Vector are two hemispheres of the brain behind ‘Defend Your Ramp‘.

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 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 ~

Relevant Links:

Defend Your Ramp (Deluxe Edition)Defend Your Ramp (Standard Edition)

Inspector Vector:
Blog | Soundcloud | Twitter

FacebookSoundcloud | Twitter

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Tales of a Chiptune Newb: Chapter Four, The Reign of Kindo

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Our current chapter presents a twist in our wandering tale of discovery.  On the surface, we have what appears to be an extremely talented and eclectic jazz fusion group, but, as we dig deeper, 8-bits emerge from the musical depths!

Chapter Four: The Reign of Kindo

Reign of Kindo band 2






Hailing from New York, The Reign of Kindo is, for me, a little indescribable.  You see, I don’t have a whole lot of formal education when it comes to music, I don’t know what the “right” words are to describe things.  It’s a lot like that quote: I may not know art, but I know what I like.  Well, listening to Reign of Kindo is similar to looking at an impressionist piece of ‘Whistler’s Mother‘, painted by Seurat while he was blindfolded, taking direction from M.C. Escher, which was then saved in 16-bit in Microsoft paint. The band’s musical styling is described on their Facebook page as “music with words”, but it is so much deeper, so much more engaging, and so much more gloriously unique than that description implies.

This Is Also What Happens cover

While the band’s usual fare is, if I were forced to pigeon hole, more akin to Jazz Fusion with a pop/funk/Latin twist, two members, Steve and Mike, have managed to translate it all into two flooring revisions in 8 bits.  ‘This Is Also What Happens‘, released in 2010, was the first such offering.  What struck me was the faithfulness with which they were able to capture the original tracks, from the booty-swiveling Latin rhythms of ‘Now We’ve Made Our Ascent’ to ‘Soon It Shall Be’s slow, melancholy, Fiddler on the Roof-esque feel. Each of the songs captures the spirit of the original.  The offerings all conjure a distinct image, as if you are transported vividly to another place and time.  When listening to one of my favorites from this album, ‘Blistered Hands’, I can almost taste the salty sea air and feel the sand between my toes!

Play cover

Play‘, which is a rearrangement of Reign of Kindo’s latest, ‘Play With Fire’, is just as varied and deliciously fun as the first. (And that cover artwork, right?)  This album feels more like an OST, transporting you not into reflections of your reality, but to distant fantasy. Something about each song feels like I’m being pulled through a story.  The unlikely hero sets out on their quest with the opening track ‘The Hero, The Saint, The Tyrant & The Terrorist’.  With ‘Dust’ you are beaten down, but not beaten. Battles are won (‘Make a Sound’, ‘I Hate Music’), adventures had (‘Romancing a Stranger’), and new friends made (‘Sunshine’).  By the end you are left feeling fulfilled and excited for more!

Also of note is their remix album ‘8 bits’ which features tracks by the artist Sleeping at Last.  This album is a completely different texture from the upbeat bleep bloops found in ‘Play’ and ‘This Is Also What Happens’.  Pulling from a completely separate array of textures, Mike & Steve offer an experience reminiscent of sleepy, sunny days, laid out in the grass, filled with child-like wonder.  My favorite track is ‘Porcelain’.  Listening to it, I’m overwhelmed with memories of running through the sprinkler until I was too tired to stand.

I was so surprised and blown away by the proficiency of their unconventionally conventional music; the instrumentalism and vocals are spectacular. I was equally impressed by the chiptune remixes on both of the albums, which are eclectic, exciting, and beyond expectation.  The Reign of Kindo is a must listen for fans of either style!

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

The Reign of Kindo
HomepageFacebookMyspaceTwitter | YoutubeCandyRat Records


Quenching the Forge: Mango Apple Bourbon Delicious

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Old Eugene Downtown Liquor

Honest and direct.

Let me begin by cutting straight to the point.  If you’ve not had much experience in the wide world of bourbon whiskey, I have one singular piece of advice for you.  Find your most reputable liquor proprietor, politely ask an employee,
“Excuse me, can you recommend a good bourbon for someone who is just starting to explore?
and prepare your mind for an educational conversation.


Kuma’s Quick Shots: Round 1

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Sup y’all!  It’s your homeboy Kuma comin’ at ya with something a little different this time around!  Quick Shots is my new review column that focuses primarily on lesser-known and up & coming talent, a handful at a time!  Here’s how it works: each album listed is given a paragraph or two of breakdown, emphasizing their strengths and weaknesses.  These paragraphs are then followed up with a couple stats, such as cost, replay value, and an overall grade that reflects the thoughts expressed in the breakdown.  All that info is designed to help you determine if an album is worth your time and your money, because while all the artists I’ll review deserve some recognition, I know damn well that #thestruggleisreal and #timeismoney!  So let’s not waste any more time!  Come join me as I review work by Tommy TSW, Toni Leys, Jonocade, MissingN0 and Yerzmyey!

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Tommy TSW’s ‘TSW’

TSW’s self-titled debut album is a surprisingly enjoyable ride.  An LP composed of 17 songs, most of  which are 2 minutes long, the album comes across as Tommy’s attempts to catch fireflies in a mason jar and share the nostalgia-inducing luminescence with everyone, and he succeeds in doing so!  Many of the songs on the album mimic that special magic lightning bugs have: their glow enchanting those who witness them briefly, only to fade away, leaving you in awe.  Similarly, each melody triggers its intended emotional response successfully, but all these moments pass quickly, so as not to be overwhelming.  This allows TSW to use the album as a sort of portfolio, allowing him to showcase his various talents so that he can pursue his dream of making a game soundtrack.  From the playful opening track ‘Back Again’ to the very Adult Swim sounding ‘Pop Pop Game Start!’, TSW is an astoundingly diverse producer who’s definitely worth a listen, even if he himself feels that he has a lot more hurdles to overcome.

Fave song/s: Pop Pop Game Start!, Xvenus, Moving on
Price: $2 AU ($1.85 USA)
Bang for Buck: 5/5
Replay Factor: 4/5
Overall Grade: 4/5 

Facebook | Bandcamp | Soundcloud | Twitter | Tumblr

Toni Leys’ ‘Thiele’

What’s presented as a concept album about an ancient and powerful ship via a dramatic intro track is actually a deceptive cover for Toni and his numerous friends featured on the album (a solid two thirds of the album feature guest artists!) to have fun making the kind of chiptune I’m a sucker for: chiptune you can fucking party to!  The album does this by blending traditional fare many of us grew up with in our vgm, such as r&b and new jack swing, with more modern offerings such as trap, electro and trance.  The result is an EP that’s highly reminiscent of releases like Joshua Morse’s Lunch Bug and Ben Briggs’ Mystery Gift.  You can just as easily groove to this awesome album on the dancefloor as you can just chill and bob your head to it on the train ride back home from work!  That said, this album purposefully (to my chagrin) suffers the shortcoming of brevity, mirroring the tragic, mysterious fate of The Thunder Launcher!  It’s a shame too, because there’s clearly an awesome world looking to be more fleshed out via Toni’s music, but you won’t be getting any more of it from the last remaining artifact of that legendary ship: the mysterious AI known as Thiele.

Fave song/s: Seventh Town
Price: $5
Bang for Buck: 4/5
Replay Factor: 4.5/5
Overall Grade: 4/5

Facebook | Bandcamp | Soundcloud | Twitter | Tumblr

Jonocade’s ‘Our Last Trip’

Jonocade is an artist who, by his own admission, has only been producing chiptune for about a year.  While I don’t know if he has any prior musical experience, what is apparent is that Jonocade has talent.  Building on his first EP of the same name, this LP features strong melodies that are complimented by very solid, basic bass lines, subdued rhythms and stunningly restrained drums.  The result is an album that shows off Jonocade’s versatility, but also reveals that his talents lend themselves to crafting pop rock chiptune that’s reminiscent of Square Therapy’s work: a truly pleasant revelation that helps separate the album from other recent offerings the scene has produced!  That said, with the exception of the final track on the album (a remix of Eagle Flyer), production value isn’t very high on this release.  The sound is grainy, and while not disturbingly so, it is noticeable enough that it may turn some people away. Despite that complaint, this album is a very fun ride, and I would encourage fans of Square Therapy to give ‘Our Last Trip’ a listen.  Jonocade has clearly put a lot of sweat into making it, and I look forward to hearing more from him.

Fave song/s: Let’s Find a World, Punch It
Price: $3
Bang for Buck: 4/5
Replay factor: 3.5/5
Overall Grade: 3.8/5

Bandcamp | Soundcloud

MissingN0’s ‘Fallen DMG

I first heard of MissingN0 after a member of the band named Bailley responded enthusiastically to an encouragement thread I started in the ChipWIN facebook group.  Having been inspired and surprised by Bailley’s energy and some solo work he shared, I sought out more from him, eager to see what his band had put out thus far.  Unfortunately, I was disappointed with what I heard. ‘Fallen DMG’ shows that MissingN0 has potential, and it’s obvious throughout the course of the EP how much they’ve grown.  However, while there are some tasty offerings, the songs of note are too brief to truly enjoy.  This is primarily because, conversely to TSW’s short ditties, these brief tunes suffer from a lack of refinement, variety and polish.  Furthermore, while TSW feels like it’s meant to be a musical smorgasbord, ‘Fallen DMG’ feels like it is trying to be a solid, definitive statement about what the band is and what they’re about, but it can’t be what it wants to be as it was released prematurely.  MissingN0 has a great deal of spunk, and it makes me happy to see such young upstarts helping the scene thrive, but they need to be patient and nurture their babies more before letting them into the wild if they want to make a mark in the scene.  If they can do that, I’m almost certain they’ll be able to be part of a large scale chip festival within the next year or two.  Keep your chin up, MissingN0, Kuma believes in you.

Fave Song/s: Pluto Frost, Echo Off, Unfinished Date
Price: £4 ($6.75)
Bang for Buck: 2/5
Replay factor: 3/5
Overall Grade: 2.5/5

Facebook | Bandcamp | Soundcloud 

Yerzmyey’s ‘Rave is Illegal!’

Admittedly, I wasn’t familiar with Yerzmyey prior to hearing this album, but when I saw Vince Kaichan say he’s been waiting for this album for a long time, I knew I had to check it out, and God am I glad I did, ’cause jeebus freaking dickbutts made out of ice cream cones is it amazing!  Combining foot work, heavy bass, cheesy fun synths, and orchestra hits (OMG SO MANY ORCHESTRA HITS!), over a constant theme of simple piano chords reminiscent of stage 1-1 of Streets of Rage 2, this snappy EP is an example of brevity done right!  Each song flows into one another seamlessly allowing for all 20 minutes of the release to be full of party!  I’m honestly kicking myself for not being familiar with Yerzmyey sooner, because if this EP is any indication, he alone is worth a trip to see Europe’s chiptune/demoscene crews in action on stage.  I just hope he cranks out something more like this soon, because I am in dire need of this 90s style goodness, which honestly may be the album’s only shortcoming: it’s so classically 90s and early 00s in its approach to music that it may alienate some younger audiences who aren’t familiar or comfortable with the EDM scene of yesteryear.  But even if you are a youngin who’s used to wubs and electro over heavy DnB, breakbeat, and chillout, I implore you to give this album a listen.  It’s just that amazing and refreshing.  (note: Yerzmyey has only put a sample song–the one listed above– of the album on soundcloud.  If you wanna listen to the full thing, you can download the zip at the link listed in his soundcloud).

Fave Song/s: I honestly can’t pick
Price: Free
Bang for Buck: 5/5
Replay Factor. 4.5/5
Overall grade: Misfit Chris/5

Bandcamp | Soundcloud

And just like that, Quick Shots is done as quickly as it started!  If you liked what you read and are looking forward to more, check back next month as I review several other albums!  I also encourage you to read my other column, Raw Cuts, in which I interview artists in the scene and get inside their heads and comfort zones!  Or you can just as easily follow my colleagues here on the blog!  Prof. Oakes, Viridian Forge, Pixel Recall, bAby f@ce, and all the others are pretty awesome too, and if you not showing them love, you’re doing it wrong!

Thanks again for tuning in to Quick Shots, and remember: Kuma Loves You!

♥ \m| ♥ (=^(T)^=) ♥ |m/ ♥

8bitLA Announcements: 8bitLA One Year Anniversary, SHADOWTRAVEL tour, WeeBBQ, and 8-bit Battle Royale

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Howdy, Carbon based lifeforms! While I have certainly been staying rather productive here on the ChipWIN blog — whether it be covering super rad events that I have had the pleasure of attending with awesome co-writers (like this event here!) or reviewing super rad albums (here’s my latest!) — I’ve yet to use the blog as an outlet for announcement. As I’m heavily rooted in the chip scene in LA (which also includes being actively involved in 8bitLA), we’re coming up on some HUGE (and I mean GIGANTIC) milestones within our own little community. First order of business? 8bitLA just recently had our one year anniversary! Started by Kevin Martinez and Jesse Avila, 8bitLA was birthed from the never forgotten ashes of Obsolete. The team currently consists of los jefes, Rob Duffy (Cyclops Rock), Terence Calacsan (Here Between You Me), Jamie Cristal, Tim Abad and myself—and to think, many of us were brought on in August or later!

shadow travel

Where: Los Globos (3040 W Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, California 90026) When: June 1, 2014 9 PM How Much: $10 21+; $15 18-20

Second order of biz? THE SHADOWTRAVEL 7” RECORD RELEASE TOUR. Making stops in New York, Philadelphia, Milwaukee, Chicago, San Francisco and my very own home in LA, Nullsleep, Starpause and Stagediver are hitting the road to coincide with their recent 7” releases on Radiograffiti. Accompanied by San Diego’s legendary Trash80 (seriously, I still can’t pick my jaw off from the floor because of this AMAZING lineup), and visuals by 8bitLA’s Tim Abad, the four of them will be stopping at Los Globos in Silverlake June 1. If you happen to be around the area (and are 18+), this is certainly a show you must NOT miss.


8bitLA’s second annual 4th of July BBQ, this year now coined as ‘WeeBBQ’, will be taking place this upcoming Independence Day! As this is a very nostalgic and meaningful event to me (this was my first legitimate chip show), I certainly recommend making it out to this event. As we are all in the works of planning this splashin’ event and working logistics out, feel free to contact 8bitLA if you’re interested in attending this party. Food, pool, chiptune, good fun, and NO PANTS will be things that are happening!

8bit battle royale

Where: Art Share-LA (801 E 4th Place, Los Angeles, California 90013) When: July 5, 2014 How Much: $10, all ages

Last, but certainly not least? 8-Bit Battle Royale. Modeled after the Scott Pilgrim amp vs. amp battle, 8bitLA will be curating an event at the Art Share L.A. venue with installation art from participating Ultranimbus artists on July 5! As giant monsters have made their way up from a rift on the Pacific Ocean’s floor, monsters are wreaking havoc on the streets of Los Angeles, and it’s up to the tag team of chiptune bands (1000 Needles, crashfaster, Buried for a Day, Wizwars, Chalkboards, Here Between You Me, Slime Girls and Cyclops Rock) to send those monsters back to the Earth’s core! If you’re interested in coming, click on this link! But let me tell you, things are going to get a little shaky this summer!

That’s all folks! Professor Oakes signin’ off!


Shadowtravel 7″ Tour: Facebook event

WeeBBQ: Link to come (follow 8bitLA on Facebook for more info!)

8-Bit Battle Royale: Facebook event 

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