A lot of the chipscene is based in either the Americas, Europe, or Asia. So many talented artists come from these four continents that we often forget about good ol’ Australia. With the recent influx of interest in Square Sounds Melbourne 2018, and a steady flow of music coming from Australian chipmusicians over the last few years, now seems like the perfect time to review one of the most recent works to come out of the region. Calavera is known for his down-tempo bass-filled bangers of tracks, and his most recent work, ‘Kintsugi’, certainly delivers them. We’ll be looking at three tracks from this album in-depth, so buckle up for one hell of a ride.
After a 40-second introductory track that sets the mood for the remainder of the album, the listener is greeted with ‘To Repair with Gold’. It doesn’t take long for an experienced listener to identify that the album is composed through LSDj, as the program’s signature WAV channel sound is flaunted from the very beginning of the song. At 0:31, the percussion picks up in pace and the track hits its stride; groovy, stuttered sextuplets in the song’s rhythmic voices play over a predominantly eighth-note melody, and mesh with chords that crescendo and decrescendo on each measure to create a strong, dark atmosphere. After eight measures of this particular phrasing, Calavera puts significantly less focus on the backing voices and minimizes variance in the song’s percussion to put more focus on the melodic lead of ‘To Repair with Gold’. This call-and-response method of composing is prevalent through this song in particular and is used to great effect, providing a clear contrast between the song’s chorus and its verses, while intermingling the melodies and voices of both at times. At the 2:36 mark, significant focus is put on a melody and a chord in the midst of said melody, but with the introduction of backing octaves, this phrase is pitched up, adding to the song’s tension before returning to the familiar.
Next we’ll be listening to ‘With Hope like a Rollercoaster’. The opening of this song features very deep square and WAV tones with minimal percussion, evoking a very dark, metal vibe. Heavy kicks and punchy snares work in tandem with crashes and glitchy, staccato square riffs to ramp up the intensity of this track to head-banging levels of awesomeness. The song’s riffs being played on a double harmonic scale contributes to the track’s Eastern-sounding ostinato, and is a key that isn’t often heard in chipmusic. There are numerous interesting touches to the track; for example, at the 1:02 mark, it almost sounds like multiple different instruments are trading off the note, but a closer listen reveals a series of simple tone change on a flat note to a specific rhythm. Another interesting technique is used at 1:34; a phrase is played by the lead voice, and another voice responds with a different melody, but quieter. The leading instrument is quite dominant in tone, while its follow-up seems subdued but persistent in nature, and in this observation and several other quirks in this song, it’s obvious that Calavera has put an exorbitant amount of work into it. In fact, a colossal amount of work has gone into this album as a whole…
…and I believe the song that best exemplifies this statement is the final track, ‘The Stars Sung Their Reveries, and I Walked On’. The beginning sounds like something off of an ambient album, with beautiful chords and something of a slight, pleasant dissonance to break the mold. These flowing chords play unaccompanied until 1:22, when the main melody comes in. This square voice comes in quietly, with vibrato accentuating some of the longer notes and frequent glissando – note sliding – throughout the lovely, repeated phrase. Another moment passes, with a slight fluctuation to this new melody signifying yet another upcoming change. Another series of chords enter, saturating the soundscape, and another melody plays quietly above the rest of the song’s established instrumentation. A gust of wind is heard, and the song decrescendos rather quickly and fades into almost nothingness. The faint sounds of footsteps can be heard as the music dies out, and at the end of the song, wind can be heard blowing. This, too, fades into nothingness. Without reading too far in between the lines, this album seems to be the result of a mixture of creativity, love, and other strong emotions, and I strongly believe ‘The Stars Sung Their Reveries, and I Walked On’ is a beautiful metaphor for one’s life continuing after turmoil, or as Calavera puts it, ‘finding hope in the wreckage’.
‘Kintsugi’ is available on Bandcamp for $7, and this is indisputably an excursion worth taking. Varied styles of composition and innumerable emotions coalesce and create a stellar album worth every penny. For those of you attending Square Sounds Melbourne next week, be sure you don’t miss out on Calavera’s set, as he’s almost certain to be playing some of this phenomenal work in his set. Calavera’s latest work is sure to attract a veritable number of fans, both veterans and newcomers to the chipscene alike; I know I’ve got my eye on this artist after discovering ‘Kintsugi’.