The chipmusic community has gotten the rare opportunity to watch an artist truly expand technically and stylistically in Nanode. Beginning under the alias Metatronaut, Nanode released his first full-length album ‘Waveform Warrior‘ in mid-2015, and subsequently killed the project to further his musical style. ‘Loopy‘ was released in October 2015 under Nanode, which was an excellently executed Nanoloop EP. He then transitioned towards LSDj as his instrument of choice with the release of ‘Journey‘ in 2016, and each release has become progressively more impressive. Nanode’s talent can’t be denied, and just when we thought nothing could top early 2017’s ‘Voyager‘, ‘Void’ has been announced, teased, and will be released shortly. Having had the pleasure of listening through the album early, I can assure you that the album is his best work to date.
Starting off the album is ‘Nightmare (ft. Infodrive)’, a phenomenal way to start off the album. Nanode makes it a note in much of his music to keep things feeling fresh – a focus on variance, if you will – and this song is no exception. A rather simple melody serves as the introduction, and it’s repeated with a second voice layered an octave below it before segueing into a new theme. This is recognizable as a build to the song’s ‘drop’, and as Nanode’s beats are often stylistically comparable to modern electronic music, mounting snares and hi-hats emphasize the end of this buildup and smoothly transition into a new section. The WAV bassline is strong here, as are the insane arpeggiations in the listener’s aural background. A brief return to familiarity occurs at the 2:34 mark, where the melody played after the first drop is reintroduced in a less frantic environment, and the song builds up again. First-time listeners will be thrown for a loop on the song’s slowdown and cleverly performed trap-esque second half; this is a huge departure from the first half of the song, although not unheard of. Callouts to the song’s first moments occur at the end of this track, and are pitched down slightly before the seamless transition to the second song…but we’re jumping a track ahead for the sake of this review.
‘Null’, the third track on the album, starts off with percussion familiar to listeners of trap-styled music. Hi-hat trills are omnipresent during the song’s chorus segments, in addition to setting the tone at the beginning of the track. The main theme is established within the first few seconds of the song, and several returns to this theme can be noted across octaves. A simple break segment occurs twice during the song: once at the 0:51 mark; and once more at the 2:21 mark, with a second note played above it to create a chord. The first drop in the song isn’t calm by any stretch of the word, but note cuts at the end of each musical phrase add further layers of intensity and tension to an already energetic track. The second time the song’s drop occurs, a new arpeggiation is added to the listener’s aural background, which serves to make ‘Null’ even more hype.
‘Daze (ft. knife city)’ is an incredible collaboration between two extremely notable chipmusicians. Nanode and knife city combine forces to create an unstoppable banger of a track that’s sure to leave its listener dazed and impressed, especially with regards to innovative compositional techniques. The song is well-structured and each phrase is uniquely crafted, hurling the listener into a new soundscape with each transition. Extremely expressive chords are present throughout the second half of the track, starting at the 2:47 mark and continuing through the second half of the song. An aggressive entrance of the WAV channel is foreshadowed by a quick buildup occurring at the 3:12 mark, and these two artists do not disappoint with regards to intensity and danceability. The song mellows out in the final moments of the track, offering the listener only a brief reprieve from their IMPOSSIBLY HORRENDOUS FATE OF ETERNAL HEADBANGING AND DANCING.
The last track I’ll be covering today is ‘Format’; as the album is seamless all the way through, ‘Daze’ transitions perfectly into this track. This song, while significantly shorter than the rest of the tracks on the album, isn’t lacking in variance nor intensity, as will be evidenced upon the first listen. For the most part, ‘Format’ is a catchy, hard-hitting ‘tune that has a melody that’ll be stuck in your head for the rest of eternity (I promise). At 1:04, the song returns to the familiar introduction to the song before performing a new melody; this is a well-executed change that retains the original feel of the song while launching a new layer of sound to the listener. Bass in the subsequent chorus is off the wall, and the technique remains a mystery to me; it definitely involves the WAV channel, but the sheer depth of sound coming from the channel is absolutely absurd and impressive, and calls to mind techniques utilized by IAYD.
I’ve managed to score an interview with the man behind the music, Sam Sher AKA Nanode, to provide a little more insight as to what went into this masterfully crafted EP. Check it out below!
Aydan Scott: You’ve become quite the prolific artist as of late; how long did ‘Void’ take to compose, from start to finish, and what went into it?
Nanode: ‘Void’ was a really odd record for me to produce. Right after I finished ‘Voyager’ I almost immediately started working on ‘Lost’ (formerly titled ‘Grimoire’). I started getting more into IDM around that time and realized that it was the exact sound that I was aiming for. After that, it was a matter of putting the influx of ideas onto paper (or rather the tracker) and getting to work. Composing took around 5-6 months, with about 1 month of polish. The rest was a matter of finalizing artwork and mastering!
Aydan Scott: Was there a driving concept behind this album?
Nanode: The album follows a story. I tried to make the tracklist, as well as the actual content of each song, speak to a moment in that story. While I don’t want to spoil it, I will say it’s based out of the theme of existentialism and lost hope, and that the focus of the story is on the cover art.
Aydan Scott: How’d it feel to write a track featuring Knife City? How’d this kind of a collaboration come to be?
Nanode: Luke is such a fun dude to work with. It was something we’ve been trying to do since I started working on ‘Voyager’. We probably finished it in about a week or two, and then I went back over it a month later for polish and ended up maxing out all the phrases and chains (came very close to running out of tables). I had been sitting on the basic melody for about 2 years or so and I thought he would be the perfect person to finish the idea with. We met in NYC for a few days, where we got massive progress, accidentally deleted half of the track, and then redid it exactly the way it was and added more. In all, it was a dream come true for me. I feel like our styles of writing are pretty similar, the only difference being that he focuses more on house music while I do more trap style stuff. I think that’s why we were able to make the track relatively faster than normal. One thing I can say though is that he REALLY knows what he’s doing. He definitely knows the manual like the back of his hand.
Aydan Scott: What instruments/hardware/kits did you utilize throughout this album? The percussion you utilize in your music is always incredible, and the bass by the end of ‘Format’ is absolutely sick.
Nanode: In terms of the hardware, I was running a GBA SP because nothing else can really run my saves except a GBC or BGB. I didn’t use any external hardware with the exception of my mic to record the vocal sample in Format. What you hear is what you get. A lot of channel economy is utilized throughout, and that’s really what stems from a lot of the sound design. Most of the kits I used were created by Guérin. I don’t want to give away the secret sauce though ;)
Aydan Scott: With regards to album formatting – what prompted you to use seamless transitions between the tracks?
Nanode: I realized that like 3 of the songs were in the same key so I thought ‘eh, why not’. The main challenge for me was trying to see if I could make it seamless while still having the tracks sound good on their own, and I think I did a pretty good job with that. I feel like the only track that might be iffy on that front is probably ‘Nightmare’, though I think that was the best I could’ve done.
Aydan Scott: What are some of your musical influences? What artists do you enjoy listening to in your spare time?
Nanode: I REALLY love artists like Isqa, Kursa, Aphex Twin, Auxcide, Mitchie M, Moe Shop, and Haywyre, just to name a few. The first 3 really inspire my style of music. I really want to develop my sound to something like that in the future. IDM is one of my favorite genres to focus on, especially since it can easily be adapted into other genres like dubstep, drum & bass, or even house.
Aydan Scott: Did you encounter any setbacks when writing ‘Void’?
Nanode: High school and moving definitely took a lot of time away from production, but probably not as much as my SFX gig for Starr Mazer DSP. That took a lot of creative juice out of me for a while. It’s really rewarding to work on big projects like that, but it takes a lot out of you if you have to do a lot of things at once.
Aydan Scott: How’re you holding up juggling college and music? I know this is a particular struggle for a lot of younger musicians; can you give any advice as to how you manage?
Nanode: I mean I’m going to college for music, so it hasn’t impacted my creative process too much. I’m not able to really make a lot of tracks in my chiptune software since that requires a working Windows machine, and Bootcamp hates me for whatever reason when I try to use Famitracker. For now, I’ve been focusing on my Ableton and hi-fi production. I don’t know if I can really give any advice other than ‘school comes first’. Seriously, tracks can wait, work on that essay (which I’m totally not procrastinating on right now).
Aydan Scott: ‘Void’ is officially releasing VERY soon; how are you feeling knowing that what some consider (and will consider) your greatest work yet is on the horizon?
Nanode: Personally, it’s a little scary for me to see the reaction. I feel like this is either going to be a really good release or it’s gonna fall flat. I hope it’s the former, but I’ve listened to it so many times that I can’t tell if it’s good or not anymore. I just gotta let the chips fall where they may and hope that it’s good. If people love it, then I’ll be happy! If not, I’ll know exactly what I need to do next time to make the next release even better.
Aydan Scott: Any final thoughts you’d like to express to your fans?
Nanode: Probably this.
‘Void’ is available as a digital pre-order on Bandcamp for $4.04; clever, considering an item that’s void cannot be ‘found’, and I can wholeheartedly assure you that the price is low for quality like this. This seamless LSDj masterpiece from modern chiptune pioneer Nanode will keep you entertained for months to come, and its modern EDM overtones make this a great album to show those new to the chipscene.