Chipspace is MAGFest’s chiptune open mic stage, which is available to any and all MAGFest attendees interested in & capable of performing chipmusic at MAG. (tl;dr – It’s a Jamspace for chiptunes yo!).
Marshall Art being the epitome of amazeballs at MAG 12 Chipspace.
In other words, if you’re coming to MAGFest 13 and want to perform some chiptunes, Chipspace is the place for you. This year we’ll even be setup for visualiststo hook up and jam along as well. IT’S A CHIP PARTY FOR EVERYONE.
Also, HOT DAMN! LOOK AT THESE CURATED CHIPSPACE SHOWCASES:
HELLA AWESOME flyer by Jason Rosa and Justin Franco of Play It Loud/Kawaii 8 Bit.
LSDJ Masterclass w/Storm Blooper: Turning Your Old Game Boy Into a Musical Instrument – Sat, 1/24 1:30pm – 2:30pm
Others TBA (or not; we may just drink beer instead lulz)
CHIPSPACE IS GOOD. CHIPSPACE IS FUN. CHIPSPACE IS MASTER OF ALL. & stuff.
More info on Chipspace HERE. Chipspace guidelines HERE.
Welp, I reckon that covers pretty much everything M13 chiptune this time around.
HYPE TRAIN IS GO.
Also: HAVE A RANDOM HILARIOUS M13 PROMO VID BY “VP” SWACKHAMER:
As always, only one thing left to say….
SEE Y’ALL AT MOTHERFUCKING MAGFEST!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
President Hoodie Founder & Project Manager of Chiptunes = WIN
Hit play on ‘Macro’ below and prepare to dance. Welcome to ‘Monochrome’ by tiasu.
‘Monochrome’ by tiasu is an eight track chip-dance album that knows itself inside and out, expressing high-powered, strikingly danceable beats with a confidence that demands the attention it deserves. Labyrinthine amalgamations of familiar chip sounds and welcoming dance rhythms work in tandem to ensnare your attention immediately, with the above track ‘Macro’ being a remarkable example of tiasu’s artistic execution of electronic music.
‘Monochrome’ is a solid chip-dance album of eight tightly cohesive tracks ordered to deliver a satisfying night on the dance floor, which this album provides in spades.
Savvy employment of familiar chip sounds fused together with welcoming dance beats blur the lines between traditional electronica and classic chiptune, allowing fans of each genre a dynamic album everyone can embrace, exposing listeners to the highlights of both music categories. Breakdowns within ‘Spectrum’, for example, delve into a dub-step vibe that benefits greatly from the particular chip sounds tiasu has chosen, creating a unique “lighter” dub-step riff that melds fantastically with the album’s established tone.
The final ‘Monochrome’ track ‘Focus’ takes the furthest departure from the album’s dancebeat themes with the integration of a grunge bass through line, experimenting with a dark and gripping electronica sound moulded around a melody more akin to the rest of the album.
With a presentation as strong as ‘Monochrome’, insight into tiasu’s creative process is invaluable. Fortunately, tiasu was kind enough to spend some time sharing his experience constructing ‘Monochrome’, and that interview continues below:
Pixel Recall: How close is Monochrome to your initial conception for the album in terms of composition, theme and tone?
tiasu: Monochrome developed very organically – I didn’t start out with any specific preconceived ideas of what I wanted the album to sound like, but after I debuted two tracks at a gig and saw the reaction they got, I knew I had a direction & sound I wanted to keep!
Pixel Recall: What’s your live set-up like? Do you have a favourite piece of hardware?
tiasu: My live setup is very minimal – I use a gameboy for one or two tracks, and the rest is all in Ableton, controlled with a launchpad and korg nanokontrol. Oh and there’s also a – quite frankly, ridiculous – bat onesie, which is critical to the whole setup!
Pixel Recall: It’s been less than a year since your release of “mission control”. What do you personally feel has been your largest growth piece artistically between last December’s “mission control”, and this year’s “Monochrome”?
tiasu: With every release (Monochrome is number 7!) I’m getting better at creating something more cohesive, for lack of a better word. Mission control is 9 cobbled together tracks, and the album’s track order is the same order that I wrote them. With Monochrome, there were a whole bunch of rejected tracks (some of which I’ve released elsewhere), that I didn’t include because they simply didn’t fit with the sound of the album. Technically, the mixing, mastering & overall production is getting better too – which is always nice, it can sometimes be hard to listen to the old tracks, the production value… Some of it is shocking!
Pixel Recall: Do you have a specific plan of attack when it comes to composing a new track, or do you find each track comes to you in its own way?
tiasu: Each track comes about very differently – sometimes you can sit there banging your head against the wall hoping to get some workable idea, other times you might start humming a tune and suddenly there’s a 5 minute track sitting there!
Pixel Recall: Do you have any tips or tricks for aspiring artists looking to perform live electronic music like yourself?
tiasu: Tips and tricks? Honestly, just keep doing it – have fun, enjoy the process of writing it, enjoy performing it. One of the best things I’ve ever done has to be a challenge called ‘Weekly Beats’, writing a track every week for a year. Not every track is good, in fact the majority of mine are done in a very short space of time and complete rubbish, but that’s half of the fun!
Pixel Recall: Open mic: Any last thoughts, shout-outs, advice, or tour dates you’d like to make sure to share with your fans?
tiasu: I’ve gotta thank Derris ‘Nine-finger’ Kharlan, GZom, Biko, Loubanging & Sean ‘Birdball’ O’Dowd for putting up with me, Cody Hargreaves, Chris De Cinque, cTrix, aday, Pselodux & Claire Plunkett for being awesome, Belinda Haas for all the good times, the amazing SoundBytes/SquareSounds crew for putting on awesome shows (and being such rad people), and of course Chiptunes=WIN! I’m 100% sure I’ve forgotten about a million people I should thank, sorry!
I’m playing at the SquareSounds ExpansionPAX gig on the 2nd November at Forgotten Worlds in Melbourne, and I may or may not have a sneaky new track to play too…
‘Monochrome’ is cheerful, industrious, self-assured, and frankly music to groove to.
‘Monochrome’ by tiasu is available for download right now on Bandcamp, with pay-what-you-want pricing. ‘Monochrome is a must-listen, and if you can afford it, remember to support the artists you love so they can keep creating more of the music you love.
Pixel Recall (R. Morgan Slade) ~ Support the artists you love ~
As time goes on, I find myself being less and less hyped up on new albums. Perhaps it just comes with having too much to do as an adult, or being over-saturated with great music means it takes a lot more to “wow” me these days. Maybe I’ve gotten used to the familiar names and faces, and am waiting for something new. Or, it’s because nothing else has been Kartmaze’s ‘The Lighthouse.’ Some of you may recall my previous interview with Mads Aasvik, our Norwegian friend who put out ‘Seven Journeys to a New Home’ last year. Mads swore that a pre-Christmas release of his new album was extremely unlikely, but it looks like he secretly kicked his butt in gear and got this thing churned out.
It’s difficult to find words to describe this album without sounding trite and cliche. I’m one of those people who, when someone comes to me about something and says “OH my G~~~O~~~D, THIS ____ISTHEGREEEEAAAAAAAATEST,” I immediately lose all desire to partake of whatever this thing is and it is forever dead to me. So what I have to say about The Lighthouse is simply the measured truth:
This album is a wild ride from start to finish.
If you think you’re prepared for this album, you are wrong. I’m going to go ahead and call this the sleeper hit of 2014, because I don’t think ANYONE (except, perhaps, Mads himself) had any inkling as to how good this album is.
Weighing in with 9 tracks and just under an hour’s worth of music, this album is simply impressive.The first track starts, and the only thing I could think was “This is what Danny Elfman would sound like if he did chipmusic.” You’re immediately hit with a slow, sweeping, cinematic introduction, without any hint of “chippyness” to it, and already you know you’re miles away from anything you could have guessed.
By the way, I hope you packed a lunch, because this is going to be one hell of a trip.
‘The Waves’ opens up with the more familiar synth sounds one might expect. It’s start is still incredibly calm and peaceful, as though easing us into something more exciting. As the pace starts picking up, it still sounds like you’re in some sort of fantasy story – until the drum breakdown, and then you realize you’ve been led into a prog-rock ballad, only to crash back into calm, slow jams. The album is playing with you. You are a ship on the waves, catching bare glimpses of light (or in this case, pulsing rock) as the sea rolls you ever forwards.
Sweeping you into the third track, appropriately named ‘Storm’. Between driving leads and speedy, urgent drums, you can tell that the game has changed and you’re getting somewhere. This is the Kartmaze we know and love, and he is fully aware of it. The ‘Storm’ passes, and we’re left with a brief piano interlude before realizing what lays before us.
As we get into ‘The Reef’, the mood changes. Everything is mysterious. There are big space synth sounds and echo effects. The melody sounds hopeful, but the clashing chords it is up against instill a sense of worry. Being the longest track on the album (which is saying something, given that they’re all quite lengthy), you really get taken on an emotional rollercoaster as the track goes from curious, to hopeful and upbeat, to urgently driving forward, only to lull you into a false sense of security hits with the slow portion because the last movement of the track is higher energy than anything else we’ve seen. This is my favorite track, and for good reason.
As we fade into the next track, all becomes calm again. ‘The Sunrise’ has come, and whatever urgency that the night may have pressed upon us has passed.While this song is calm, it also has an air of desolateness. It invokes the feeling of being the sole survivor of a rough night at sea; the only one left to see the sun come up.
Then, something crests the horizon, and we have cool violin parts and an angelic choir – have ‘The Ships’ come to save our stranded listener? This track goes back and forth between the tight “real” instrumentation we heard in the opening track with violins and slick percussion and woodwinds into the dirty prog rock we all know and love.
As the album continues, and we go into ‘The Light’ and the listener knows that here we are – this is what we’ve been waiting for. This is the behemoth of a track we knew was inevitable, the epic prog ballad the likes of which would make C-Jeff proud. This track, as the kids say, “goes hard, y’all.” It’s rough, it’s punchy, it’s like a shot of espresso driven right into your eye. As it goes, there is a building fervor that happens not only within the track but within the listener as well, and Kartmaze plays around with that, slowing down the track at key points to tease you, to slow down the process and to hold off the inevitable climax…of the album, I mean. What did YOU think I meant?
Finally, the end comes with’The Sunset’. With this sad little refrain and the sound of rushing waves, we know that the journey has come to an end.
I said it above, and I’ll say it here in summation: This album is what would happen if Danny Elfman and C-Jeff collaborated on an album. I don’t think I can pay it any higher compliment. If by some stretch of the imagination you haven’t gotten this album yet, you done goofed – but while the consequences may never be the same, you can fix your error by following the links below. I can’t wait to see what Mads has in store for us next year. You might say that I expect his work to rock progressively harder?
Alright, I’ll take the sound of the angry mob forming outside as my cue to leave.
Hello fellow ChipWINners! I hope that all of you who were able to attend 8static Fest over the weekend are recovering nicely. (I’m so jealous.) To aid in the recovery from your 8static hangover, how about a heaping helping of ‘The Coffee Zone’ from none other than the Famitracker wizard, Fearofdark?!
Damn good coffee.
If you’re a regular reader of this blog, then it’s highly likely that you’re already familiar with Fearofdark and his incredible album, ‘Motorway’. (Check out DjjD’s awesome review of it published to this blog earlier this year.) ‘Motorway’ made an indelible mark on the chiptune scene, and for years it has remained a preeminent source of enjoyment and inspiration. As phenomenal of an album as it is, ‘The Coffee Zone’, a collection of Famitracker songs both old and new composed over the last 4 years, just may supplant ‘Motorway’ as your new favorite Fearofdark album.
One thing that I really love about ‘The Coffee Zone’ is its structure. The first 5 tracks utilize the trusty 2a03, while subsequent tracks utilize various expansion chips increasing in their complexity and multi-channel capabilities. The expansion chips used range from Nintendo’s MMC5 and Famicom Disc System chips, to Konami’s VRC6 and VRC7, and even an overclocked Namco 163! What results is a melodic masterpiece that doubles as a guided tour which showcases what these chips are capable of by a true master of his craft.
The opening track, ‘Lovesickness’, starts with a sleepy pre-coffee square wave supported by ascending bass scales. 30 seconds in, percussion is introduced to the mix and incrementally, the caffeine rush sets in! Suddenly, the listener is awash in all manner of auditory excellence. Once the track settles into its main groove, what strikes me is the way in which the percussion is used in conjunction with the lead melody to make a strong impact on the listener, rather than merely keeping the beat. Every channel is used to its utmost potential in new and interesting ways, which is a recurring theme that you’ll find throughout ‘The Coffee Zone’. From the jaw-droppingly frantic climax of ‘Gastly’, to the steely-eyed determination of the Follin-esque ‘Scaling the Dragon Fortress’, it’s made clear that Fearofdark puts 110% of his passion and expertise into every single one of his compositions.
‘Pancake Department’ is a song about making pancakes in space and the unwieldy proposition of trying to flip them while in zero gravity. It’s an amusing image when juxtaposed against the stellar backdrop to this playfully funky track. The melody that kicks in at 1:06 is absolutely delightful and one hell of an earworm.
Moving into expansion chip territory, we have what is currently my favorite track on the album, ‘Zoning Residential’. Using the MMC5 expansion, Fearofdark has stated that this track is about a guy who wants to build a city and watches as his humble suburban homes grow into towering skyscrapers. However, when I listen to this track’s sumptuously soothing melody, I’m taken to a place completely removed from urban life such as a seaside town with nary a care in the world. Regardless of the imagery that this track evokes for you, the tranquil and humble beauty of ‘Zoning Residential’ is undeniable.
‘Zoning Residential’ takes me here again.
Elsewhere, ‘Dandelion Ride’ starts out light and airy with rolling arpeggios as its backdrop before rushing in with a very upbeat slice of jazz fusion. There is an intangible, dreamlike quality to this track that fascinates me, especially the section beginning at 2:44 which feels as if the ride we’re taking is slipping further into deep levels of the subconscious. Transitioning from the serene to the energetic, Fearofdark knocks it out of the park again in ‘Penguins of the Apocalypse’, a maniacally joyful VRC6-fueled track of controlled chaos.
‘Flame Repellant’ is an astounding and intense composition with a driving beat and focused dynamics that wouldn’t be out of place as the background music to a high-speed chase. A brisk staccato bassline kicks things off to form the backbone of the song, which is then joined by a remarkably head-bobbing lead that makes excellent use of the VRC6’s sawtooth channel. Sprinkled with lots of killer effects throughout, ‘Flame Repellant’ is a fantastic and rousing composition. The fact that this was the first thing that Fearofdark wrote in Famitracker absolutely boggles the mind.
‘There’ll Always be Next Year’ is a fist-pumping inspiration of a track that takes many twists and turns. The timbre of the lead melody ranges from strong and determined at the beginning to a fragile whisper at 2:16. ‘Hopeless Romantic’ uses the 6-channel N163 chip overclocked to 224 Hz, creating a rare and exciting chiptune experience. The lead melody undergoes fierce vibrato before the entire soundscape’s intensity is turned up to 11 before dropping a beat that would set any dance floor ablaze.
Closing out the album is the title track, ‘The Coffee Zone’. It’s a suitably smooth jam with a lead voice that changes over time, backed by some deliciously Rhodes-like chords. This track contains multiple mini-solos and flourishes over its near 5 minute running time before fading away and leaving the listener wanting to start the whole experience over again.
Bear in mind that I’ve only scratched the surface of ‘The Coffee Zone’; the levels of WIN contained within this album are just too astronomical to capture within a single blog post. What I can say without hesitation is that this is one of the finest chiptune releases of 2014, and is absolutely worth your time and money.
I feel that the mark of a great chiptune musician is that rather than giving the impression that they are executing a carefully crafted composition, it feels that they are actually breathing life into these wonderful chips of old, speaking through each of their unique personalities. Fearofdark accomplishes this in spades in ‘The Coffee Zone’, so expect this to be a regular on your playlist for quite some time. While you’re at it, keep your heart and hands held high!