Welcome back to the Forge ChipWINizens, and I hope November finds you all as well as it finds me, riding the wave of All Hallows Eve wonder through to Thanksgiving. October gave us quite a wave of excellent releases, and among them was Jredd’s latest, ‘The Next Level’. A follow up to his 2012 release ‘Vector Nova’, ‘The Next Level’ lives up to its claim of being ten tracks of FM madness.
The latest in a long history of chip composition, ‘The Next Level’ highlights Jredd’s talent, how far he’s come as a composer, and has me looking forward to where he’s going to take his career in the future. If you’re at all curious about the adventures Jredd has had on the path to today, the Retro Obscura podcast did an excellent one on one interview with Jredd on the 19th of October.
Focusing on the present, the album art is the first hint that something pretty epic is going down here. Put together by Michael Penta, this lovely piece of sci-fi apocolyptica might prime the listener with a particular mental backdrop for the album to come.
Hey, ChipWINners! Many of you are probably familiar with the prolific and talented VGM remixer Benjamin Briggs, especially all of you OCR veterans out there. Benjamin Briggs’ music is always of the highest quality, and his newest release – filled to the brim with completely new and unique music – is no different, and could honestly be one of his greatest releases thus far. Hot on the heels of his ‘Patreon EP’ is ‘FEARLESS LIVING’, an album based on the last six months of Ben’s life itself.
The album opens with the triangle bass-heavy ‘Recurring Dreams’. Kick-snare patterns common in electronic music are combined with octaves, string voices, square-tone melodies, and several unique chordal sequences in order to achieve a very mysterious sounding tone. The album’s namesake and its fourth track, ‘Fearless Living’, introduces the listener to a simple chromatic note progression, and builds on it with a glitchy, breakbeat-esque drum pattern before segueing into its sawtooth bassline and eerie, danceable tones. The track changes in mood close to the two-minute mark, and Ben’s musical prowess really shows with a flawless key change to go with it, finishing off with a return to the main theme of the track, but slower, adding a slightly more relaxing feel to what was previously a tense track.
Influences from dance, funk, jazz, and game music can all be heard on ‘FEARLESS LIVING’. The album’s third track, ‘New Game Plus’, is a perfect meld of dance and game music, for example. The track’s melody may remind the listener of the end credits to an old game that they just can’t quite put their finger on. A looping percussive rhythm, the likes of which appear in many popular dance tracks, helps encourage the listener to pay more attention to some of the more intricate touches in the track, such as the quiet arpeggiated square chords behind the melody around the 2:18 mark, or the harmony played behind the same melodic phrase at about the 2:30 mark. Upbeat, swing and dance vibes abound in this track that’s sure to be a fan favorite.
As can be heard in tracks from his previous releases, such as ‘The Grinding of Isaac’ from ‘The Briggs Effect 2’, Ben’s music displayshints of jazz and funk overtones. One track where the influence really shines through is ‘Sweet Berry Wine with Flexstyle’, a mellow, melodic solo-driven song. Memorable chords in a bluesy key provide a backdrop for square-tone riffs and FM-esque synths that are sure to please. The chip melodies in ‘Selecting Continue’ are also reminiscent of jazz music, being laid over a very catchy rhythm. The album closes out with ‘We Could Quest Together’, featuring some seriously phenomenal guitar work that works very well with the chip and other electronic voices throughout the track. Improvization is a huge aspect of jazz music, and a majority of the track sounds improvised to a great extent, making this one of my personal favorites.
Ben Briggs isn’t the only musician to show his incredible talent on the album, however. Two guest artists provided remixes for Ben’s tracks, the first of which being ‘Methods (Flexstyle’s Mad Scientist Remix)’. The track screams house and electro influence, and an extremely aggressive bassline in this remix helps to bring this danceable track to an awesome climax at the three-minute mark. The second remix, ‘We Could Quest Together (General Offensive! Remix)’, changes a number of the voices and solos in the track and gives it a much more heavy metal feeling, but not before faking the listener out with a calm, acoustic opening, making for a flawlessly expectation-shattering introduction. Chip instrumentation is prevalent, and the snare roll buildup morphs the track into a headbangingly excellent ballad.
Each individual track holds a lot of meaning to Ben Briggs, as was hinted at near the beginning of the article. The album details his own journey for the last six months of his life, and you can really feel the emotion and love put into every song. The album is available as a pay-what-you-want download on Bandcamp, and this is definitely something that every avid chipmusic enthusiast should pick up. Keep your eyes peeled for an exclusive interview with Ben Briggs himself about ‘FEARLESS LIVING’ soon, right here on The ChipWIN Blog!
Happy Friday, cats. It’s funny – here I am, right on the cusp of my 24th birthday, and I was thinking to myself that I wasn’t going to get anything nice. Turns out the universe proved me wrong once again, because Monomer just dropped his new album ‘Labyrinth,’ and boy howdy, this album is, as the kids say, “most ill.” Let’s dive right in, shall we?
I distinctly recall back in April last year during the ‘Quite Operational’ launch party on Arecibo Radio that I said that listening to Monomer was like “rolling around in a vat of distilled 80’s.” As it turns out, that continues to be true. While still sounding recognizably like himself, Gavin has gone out of his way to make this album stand apart – which, given his mission statement over on the Bandcamp page, that makes sense. He says: “My main goal after ‘Quite Operational’ was to create an album where each song had a unique character, not only in the composition but also in the arrangement, production and mixing. This led to a lot of new territory for me, which was both exciting and terrifying, but I’m extremely happy with the end result and can’t wait to share it.”
I feel a track-by-track analysis would diminish the overall experience of this album, so I’m gonna let you absorb it on your own instead.What I will say, though, is that the new auditory maneuvers Monomer pulls in ‘Labyrinth’ are something to be feared and respected. While still maintaining the signature “splashy drums, punchy bass and heavy synth” sound which is so evocative of the 80’s, this album features all sorts of new additions, like the use of vocal samples and some pretty stellar drops leading to something evocative of a slower, funkier hardstyle. Like his last album, Monomer seamlessly blends in the chippy sounds you might expect with more traditional synth and drum sounds, as well as the occasional guitar riff snuck in the background– a sound palate which is at once familiar and unique.
As far as what track shines above the rest, I really can’t say. Eponymous tracks are usually the best on any album, and ‘Labyrinth’ does not fail to impress.However,every song evokes something different – some go for the aforementioned hardstyle feel, some feel like they could have been ripped right out of Tron Legacy’s soundtrack (y’know, that one by Daft Punk – so yes, I am unashamedly putting Monomer on the same level as Daft Punk in terms of quality). Still others feel like the 80’s power ballads of the same type that The Protomen went to emulate in ‘Act II: The Father of Death.’ All in all, I’d say Monomer definitely accomplished the goals he set out with for this album and then some. If you love Monomer, you’re going to love this album. If you don’t love Monomer, you might still love this album, but if not… that’s just, like, your opinion, man. I can abide your poorly chosen opinion, dude.
Pick up the album on Bandcamp from Monomer’s page, on the Ubiktune page, and if you want a physical copy of the album, grab it from Telefuture.
Hey everyone, Clipstream’s Resident Fearless Leader here with yet another new and exceptionally cool chip act’s EP that I want to share with you today. This time around, I’m bringing out Please Lose Battle‘s ‘Bedroom EP’. I’m just going to say this first and get all the silliness out of my system…
Sup y’all? =) President Hoodie here with yet another edition of my regular CWB interview column, ‘Hoodie Highlights’! This time around, I’ll be chatting with a talented individual from a three piece chipband located across the pond. Their self titled debut dropped this past June and caught everyone off guard in the very best of ways. Rumor even has it that they may be coming over to the states to tour! Learn about all of this and more in today’s interview with Matt Squibb of For Astronauts and Satellites! Enjoy!
Hoodie: Heya Matt! To get this rolling along, tell me a little about you and FAAS!
Matt: Hey Brandon! Sure! I’m the Guitarist/Gameboy(ist?) in For Astronauts and Satellites. We are a three piece postrock/chip band from the South East of England, two Guitars and Drums, and are relatively new, putting our first album (and debut release) out back in June.
Matt Squibb of FAAS.
Hoodie: Relatively new, but do NOT sound that way. ;) Wizwars got my attention freaking out about y’all’s debut this summer. I figured it’d be pretty good stuff, but was not expecting it to be quite THAT good. Haha Props for blasting into the scene LIKE A BOSS!
Matt: Haha Thanks! Well, as a trio we’ve actually been writing together in a different non-chiptune project for about 6/7 years! And I’ve personally been playing guitar and making music for about 12. We turned our attention Chiptune way and started FAAS with no knowledge of HOW to Chiptune, nor Chiptune in a live gig setup… Is Chiptune a verb now?
Hoodie: Chiptune is like zombo.com: ANYTHING is possible. 8-)
Matt: FAAS is a combination of our history song writing together, along with our individual song writing expirience, mashed with videogames. =D
Hoodie: That makes sense to me. Y’all definitely sound like you’ve been making music for a good while now. It’s hard to hide that, especially as a band. That sort of chemistry doesn’t happen overnight. Haha
Matt: Haha No, absolutely. I guess I should also point out that the Drummer, Ian, and I are Brothers, and our songwriting goes back even further than that of the trio!
And I guess there’s family chemistry, but I ain’t no Biologist.
But thank you. =) The positive response from the scene has been incredible and SO rewarding! It’s such a great collective too, everyone’s in to everything and wanting to collaborate and learn and move forward
Hoodie: This scene is a fun, crazy thing like that. Lotta down to earth, easy to work with creative folk, both fans and artists. It’s a blast! Glad y’all are jumping right on into it and enjoying yourselves.
Matt: Yeah, and it seems to me everyone is willing to give everything a go, jumping in to LSDj and things, trying stuff out for themselves! I’m glad we jumped right on in, and I’m very much enjoying it!
Hoodie: Good to hear! Although I gotta ask, seeing as how y’all already had something established musically, what prompted the introduction of chipmusic into your act?
BACKSTORY: GIMME GIMME.
Matt: Well, I hope you’re SITTING COMFORTABLY THERE BRANDON HOOD.
Yes, we did have something established, and I also had various “spin off” solo side projects and things like that, ranging from Ambient piano/string/whatever music, to Folk influenced singer/songwriter type things. It was actually Ian who initially had the Chipmusic idea, as he is really into his Starscream. Our old band were postrock/progrock influenced and that is the music we all really enjoy playing and writing. Ian played us a Starscream song and said “We can do something like that…” and so, we made FAAS and we tried!
I suppose a bunch of artists say “We are influenced by the sounds of our youth NIRVANANIRVANA!” and, so are we, it’s just the majority of my youth was spent on the NES!
I remember first getting LSDj and just staring at it. It took a good few (weird) songwriting sessions between Mike and I to figure out how to best include it, and we are still figuring out the balance between Chip and Guitar/Drums. I am happy with it overall though!
Hoodie: Sounds like a pretty natural transition then! Awesome. I can hear the Starscream/Infinity Shred influence – great band btw!! -, but y’all definitely have your own spin on it. I’m also quite the fan of the “space” theme when it’s done right. Pretty sure I’m not the only one in the chiprealm who is either. ;)
Matt: Yeah it was a rather natural transition. We all really love the Gameboy tones, especially the low grainy wav channel stuff!
Haha No, I’m pretty sure you’re not alone in that! I’m not sure why Chiptune lends itself to space so well, but, it just does! Our self titled album mentioned earlier follows a very loose space themed concept, which actually really helped with the writing, in terms of pace and feel.
Hoodie: Anything in particular that inspired y’all to do that? Besides, well, space. :3
Matt: Love of concept albums I guess! haha What’s prog rock without a concept album! I’d make FAAS do a Chiptune cover of Jethro Tull’s “Thick as a Brick” if I could! (… side project??). It really did help with the writing, especially as we were just starting out with Chipmusic and it was our first go. It helped to think “Right, this song is about this and is here in the story, and therefore should have this type feel” and so on.
I mean, it definitely worked for the album. And YES on that side project! hahaha
Matt: Ta! And haha, I’ll see what I can do!
Hoodie: Speaking of albums, I hear there’s something new in the works. Anything you can tell me about that?
Matt: Indeed! We are in the studio end of November to record a 3 track EP! It’s called “A Homing Light” and I’m rather excited about it! The tracks have a more visceral, jabby edge to them, emphasising the ROCK in postrock.
We have a release date of the 26/12 (or 12/26) set, so its a late Christmas present to you all! We are going down the Bandcamp self release route again, but shall also be looking to get it on Spotify and such things. You can however, get your mits on an early access copy, and even a limited physical copy…!
Album artwork for “A Homing Light”
Hoodie: Exciting! Already looking forward to hearing it!
But even MORE excited to potentially see y’all LIVE. Care to drop that bomb now?
Matt: Yes! We have kicked off a GoFundMe campaign to make it to America in the New Year! We’ve dubbed it the FAASUSA tour, it’s even a Hashtag!
The basic idea is we look to book shows where the donations come in from; the tour is governed by “you” so to speak! We’d love to share our music and live show with you guys over the pond, so we’re excited to see where our campaign takes us!
Full details can be found at gofundme.com/forastronauts. Each donation and share is REALLY appreciated by us! There are rewards to each donation too; as I say, you can get your hands on “A Homing Light” early if you back our campaign! The dates of early access aren’t defined at the moment, but it will be early December, right after we’ve agreed on the EP masters!
Hoodie: That sounds AWESOME. Will most definitely be pushing the hell out of that and throwing some $$ at it as well. Folk over here would LOVE you guys. I know I would!
Matt: Too kind sir! Thank you for that. It will REALLY help the campaign! Backers also get a thanks Tweet, kind of like a thank you card for a gift! hah =D We’d love to hear from Chipartists and promoters too, to help get some shows lined up!
Hoodie: Will happily put you guys in touch with some folk and see what happens! It’s definitely worth a shot!
Matt: Brandon, you just keep on giving! Thank you! Yeah, we’re really excited to see where this goes, and hope people are excited to see us over in the States too!
Hoodie: My pleasure, dude. You guys deserve it. You’ve got a really great act that deserves some additional exposure. And that’s what ChipWIN’s all about after all. =)
Any areas in particular y’all would like to hit up, or are you literally just down for when and wherever it can be worked out?
Matt: Thank you! We are down for whenever and wherever, though I guess it will have to make sense logistically! haha Wherever the funds come from, wherever people suggest, if theres enough interest from an area, we’ll go there! Though, I would like to go to New York…
Hoodie: We’ll see what happens I reckon! =D
Matt, it’s been pretty fantastic chatting with you. I wish you guys the very best of luck with everything! Any closing thoughts to add before we wrap things up?
Matt: We shall!
Brandon, thank you! Really means a lot! I guess I’d just reiterate that every donation goes a LONG way and really means the world to us three! We can’t wait to see where this goes, and, if it all pans out, meeting you guys in the new year!