Many a ChipWINner will recognize the Cheapbeats netlabel, not just from their co-release ‘Cheapbeats = WIN‘, but also interviews with James York here on the blog, and, of course, their slew of impressive releases within the chipmusic community. Now celebrating their ‘two point seventy three anniversary’, they’ve released a compilation featuring previously released songs from every single artist who’s ever released on their label and entitled it ‘All Stars’. The album is one hell of a ride from start to finish, and I really do wish I could give each track its proper recognition; that would, unfortunately, make for a VERY long review. As a result, I’m going to give you a rundown on my five personal favorite tracks. Let’s take a look at some of the amazing sounds this album has to offer!
The album opens with Holy Konni’s ‘Kate Moss Magic’, which demonstrates some very interesting pitch bends before truly integrating them into this melodic work. These may sound a tad out of place the first time they occur in the track, but it’s something the listener should grow accustomed to rather quickly. A swing-like rhythm can be heard in many instruments throughout the track, giving the song a bit of a free-flowing vibe rather than a more static, unwavering feeling that is much appreciated. Additionally, the use of strings and piano chords in tandem with chip voices isn’t something that you hear every day, helping to assert the calming nature of ‘Kate Moss Magic’.
little-scale’s ‘Manila Mafia’ is a track highly reminiscent of trap music or future bass. For the most part, the hi-hats and snares in this track don’t resonate very much, if at all; this is somewhat of a common trope with regards to electronic music, utilized either because it’s simply an interesting, appealing effect or because it allows the listener to hear some of the more intricate touches in the other instruments. Square wave chords and triangle bass tones round out little-scale’s amazing synthwork, and, although ‘Manila Mafia’ ends a little bit more abruptly than I’d like, it’s still a great example of how chipmusic can be fused with so many different genres to a near-perfect extent.
Following ‘Manila Mafia’ is MONODEER’s ‘DAWGZ’, which is arguably my favorite track on the album. A heavy, bass-driven melody contributes to the track’s energy alongside gratuitous sampling of animals barking and meowing. Something particularly interesting about ‘DAWGZ’ – and MONODEER’s music in general – is the minimal use of the noise channel and the simple instruments used as noise percussion. A majority of the rhythmic focus is within the WAV channel itself, be it through MONODEER’s signature kick or dubstep-like wobbles. His latest trap hit isn’t to be missed.
The legendary Galaxy Wolf makes an appearance on ‘All Stars’ with the unique ‘Hyper Boom Geometry’. This track is nearly impossible to place under one specific genre, as it appears to be quite experimental in nature. The pulse and WAV channels don’t always play at the exact same moment as the percussion, but are still somewhat in time with the song’s beat. This gives the track a slightly off-kilter feel similar to the percussion in 4mat’s 2014 release, ‘Nadir’, or 80’s French electronic music in general. ‘Hyper Boom Geometry’ is a curious piece that may require multiple listens to be able to fully appreciate Galaxy Wolf’s intricate, refined touch.
The last track I’m going to cover – and the other contender for my favorite track on ‘All Stars’ – is Tappy’s ‘OPLL-Jungle’. Written on an MSX, very strict hardware limitations are apparent; the percussion, for one, is extremely minimalistic, utilizing a simple kick and hi-hat almost exclusively. Tones used in the melody are quite lush and smooth, and, as a result of this, there’s literally nothing abrasive about this track. ‘OPLL-Jungle’ is a relaxing two-and-a-half minute ambient journey into what a less-than-appreciated sound chip can accomplish in the hands of a master.
This album is available for $8, or for free with the purchase of a Cheapbeats t-shirt. With such an expansive collection of genres and amazing artists’ previous releases, this is a very low price for twenty-five high quality tracks. From xyce to Roboctopus, Auxcide to Men of Mega, and everyone in between, there’re plenty of other wonderful re-releases on this album. If you haven’t been watching Cheapbeats for the last two years, ‘All Stars’ will definitely show you what you’ve been missing.