Whatup ChipWIN! Been too long. Having had a lot of time to ponder over this next review, I really wanted to explore a unique facet of talent among the community. There’s a ton of creative material out there being produced at an exponentially increasing rate, and while that’s incredibly awesome, it isn’t without a sense of struggle. The more material equals the more time listening which equals a more specific approach to writing these reviews. You can’t write it exactly the same way every time, variation is key. And while I’m sure you’re reading this because either you’re genuinely interested in a proficient artist or because you just like reading about all things chiptune, just know that I hope you all gain a new perspective, and challenge yourselves to find music that’s outside of your comfort zone. Gain new, different ideas about music you wouldn’t normally listen to.
Through endless searching and a few suggestions thrown my way, here we are, reviewing ‘Insomnia‘ by tiasu.
As this is the first time I’m listening to tiasu’s music I wasn’t sure what to expect but man, this is a wild ride from start to finish. Using Ableton armed with Plogue Chipsounds, the artist replicates an intense mixture of chipsets. I feel I can associate some sounds with the YM2612 but then again, I’m never really sure. It’s quite impressive really. Keeping the listener guessing only invokes a sense of curiosity, and while the sounds themselves are great, it’s really the composition that brings the audible orbit full circle.
I had a few moments to talk with tiasu (Saska Ayris) about his album recently:
DjjD: So getting this started, how did you get started in music?
tiasu: I’ve been playing music for the last 16 odd years, and writing music for the last 10, but after meeting the chiptune artist Derris-Kharlan while studying composition at uni, decided that I loved the sound/aesthetic, loved the shows and the community, so gave that a go, and now here I am! As to how I do it – I write it all in Ableton with Plogue Chipsounds and a few other plugins. I write a few tracks, get a feel of how they fit together – see if there’s a common theme – and then try and come up with some names. Quite a lot of the tracks come together relatively quickly, but there is one particular track on this album that was the first track I started writing, I played a demo version of it at a show during PAX AUS, and then just never got around to finishing it until the very last minute…
DjjD: So I’m assuming the title of the album came from…long nights being up trying to finish the tracks? Because then ‘Insomnia’ would make sense.
tiasu: Haha, I actually have a boringly normal sleep schedule – the album title actually just came from spitballing with a really good friend of mine, and then I just came up with a big list with about 20 possible track titles and went from there!
DjjD: As a few final words, do you have any works in progress, or is there anything you’d like to say to your fans?
tiasu: Well, I released a track the other day on Soundcloud but I dunno if you want to include that I’ve got a few people I’d love to give a shoutout too, if I could:
“A massive shoutout and thank you to Cody (ExcessiveProfanity), Derris-Kharlan, Claire Plunkett (who did the album art), all the amazing Twitch casters and communities, Chiptunes=WIN, tehhcakeisalie, Davespineapple (who just did an awesome t-shirt design) & everyone who’s supported the album”
“Thank you, by the way, for doing this dude, really appreciate it.”
DjjD: No man, thank you, for taking the time to answer the questions. :D
The beginning of the title track sounding like Gradius meets the j-pop opening of an anime series. It’s heart pumping action at its finest. If he was going for nostalgia in this track, he nailed it. You’ve got an intro arp which is followed by bass plucks as the percussion swells behind it. It’s a nice buildup which leads into an even nicer verse that hit me right in the feels.
Continuing along the path and observing the next track ‘Delusion’, we hear a softer intro that’s much more ambient which persists this way until 0:35 in, when suddenly the earth quaked to a four on the floor beat with Mario coins overflowing out of the surface from it’s cracked, ridged void. And like that, the melodic breeze swooped down with super s-s-s-solos swishing expeditiously swallowing the current’s avenue; making way for the outro. At that point he was probably going, “Yeah, this’ll do.” It continues for about a minute until the end approaches; here I was thinking this one was going to be a tad more mellow. NOPE. I feel cheated, but do I like it? Yes, yes indeed.
“Flashback” has the most unique intro of the album which begins with a familiar “Sugar Plum Fairy” feel to it. It’s whimsical and lighthearted when suddenly the wider, crunchier, more diabolic electronic background attacks you. A kingdom enjoying an era of peace and prosperity, thriving off the land until they’re engaged by an evil, mechanical force of…evil. A great battle is fought and eventually settles, the ashes clear out and although many are destroyed, the kingdom prevails. Somewhere between 145-150 bpm this track sits as one of the most energetic of the bunch.
“Nightmare” really reminds me of another artist I used to listen to a while back. It has this rough, jagged edged feel to it and really shows one constant characteristic of tiasu’s compositional style: He loves solos. In every single track, he takes the time to have a mini jam session over the track. It ranges from 30 seconds to a minute but it’s always awesome. It’s just this really expressive dynamic that totally separates it from most of the music I’ve heard in recent years. You can tell that those, are going to be a staple of his, and it’s great.
Bursting with energy from beginning to end, tiasu’s ‘Insomnia’ is creative, captivating and inspiring. For anyone looking for a fast paced adrenaline rush, while either working out or heh, writing an article, look no further. This artist sets the bar high early in the year with an album that excels in crisp, dynamic compositions emphasized by amazing production and I, for one, can’t wait for his next album!
Thanks for reading!