Hey there, ChipWINners. It’s been a few months since I’ve written an article due to some extremely time-occupying life events, but I’m happy to be back now! At the end of May, Cheapbeats released an EP showcasing a new artist in the community named Ello Costello. This artist certainly isn’t a stranger to producing music; he’s released a few EPs independently prior to this, such as the freely composed ‘Just For Fun‘ and the environmentally influenced ‘Small Windows‘. With influence and assistance from DonutShoes, an artist who’s been featured on ‘ChipWIN: Volume 5‘ and on ‘Volume 6‘, Ello Costello makes his stunning debut in our niche with ‘started commuting’. Throughout this EP, Ello Costello draws influence from morning cityscapes, the excitement of travel, and his own musical interests. Let’s see what this release has in store for us!
‘started’, the first track off of the EP, opens with consistent synthetic chord stabs; combined with a whooshing, wind-like effect, the song is immediately given additional layers of depth. Percussion quietly taps away as the chord repeats itself, and a chip lead enters, with a melody that sounds as though it’s being improvised on the fly. The time signature changes from 4/4 to 7/8 during the bridge, and the chords’ rhythm and tones are changed; this section has a slightly more intense feel, and we can visualize a city awakening. The more frantic nature of this section, with its permeating chords and rhythms, gives the impression of cars rushing along the highway, changing lanes in something of a mechanical, coordinated dance while the artist watches from above. ‘started’ subsequently hits cruise control and mellows out on the final unique phrase, and for the next two minutes the listener is given ample time to relax and take in the soundscape that Ello Costello provides us. A lush, soothing atmosphere is evoked, with melodic voices blooming and increasing in complexity as this segment continues on. The transition back to the introductory melody, however, is something that I can’t quite get behind; it feels a little off-kilter to me, and I believe it would have worked if the preceding segment had faded out with a synchronized fade-in to the familiar chords of the introduction. Aside from this minor nit-pick, this track blends chip and non-chip elements in a phenomenal manner.
The comparatively mellow ‘started’ is followed by the frenetic, eurobeat-esque ‘so stressful’. When listening to the beginning of this track, I’m almost instantly reminded of Jun Senoue’s ‘Bingo Highway‘ from Sonic Heroes, a game that I played a LOT in my middle school years; as such, ‘so stressful’ strikes a particularly unique chord with me. As the main theme enters, a trancelike repetition can be noted, which continues on for about a minute. While these melodic tones remain the same for the majority of the phrase, a slight permeation can be noted at about the 1:24 mark after a muted measure; the introductory phrase can be very faintly heard in the background, which helps to create a sense of tension and anticipation for the next transition. The subsequent melodic change occurs during the second half of the fourth beat of a measure, which gives this new phrase a different character. A sudden transition to a greatly muted, ‘Year Zero’-esque variant on this new melody precedes another sudden drop in volume before transitioning to a completely new tone. The solo section in this track is incredibly detailed and meticulously composed, featuring a number of amazing riffs, arpeggios, brief returns to the phrase that immediately precedes the solo, and dueling voices. A transition influenced by drum ‘n’ bass brings in the familiarly frantic introductory passage once more, and ‘so stressful’ ends on a high note.
The last track – and the final non-remixed track on the ‘started commuting’ EP – is ‘white butterflies’, a sweet and positively scrumptious piece of music. The song might be a tad difficult to follow for the untrained ear; over the course of ‘white butterflies’, the track flits from a 5/4 time signature to 4/4, and wraps up in 6/8. The beginning of the track features understated noise snares and hihats, and a deep triangle bass, with a brassy, possibly 16-bit melody reminiscent of the SNES era of VGM. The listener’s focus is drawn completely to the melody of ‘white butterflies’, but yet again, Costello utilizes a chip voice in the form of quiet arpeggiation in the aural background to signify a change in theme; as this rises in volume and prominence, an equal focus is put on the main melody and the aforementioned arpeggiation, and the track seamlessly transitions from 5/4 to 4/4. Each instrument increases in volume, and at the 1:42 mark the song’s kicks double in frequency, giving the song a more energetic vibe. I didn’t notice it immediately the first time through the song, but these more frequent kicks also signify the last time signature change of ‘white butterflies’ to 6/8, and this is a particularly clever artistic touch. Ello Costello emphasizes his solo writing skill yet again during this last segment, and this jazzy, improvised-sounding solo fades out along with the rest of the song’s instrumentation. The chord at the end of the track feels a little out of place, but yet again this feels like such a minor issue in the grand scheme of this EP.
‘started commuting’ is available on the Cheapbeats Bandcamp page and Ello Costello’s own, and is a delightful example of the tantalizing atmosphere that the joining of chip and non-chip voices can create. For only $3 USD, one can experience Ello Costello’s chipmusic debut with their own ears (in addition to two remixes that I didn’t cover; gotta leave some surprises for you!). Personally, I hope to see Ello Costello lean more towards the progressive or jazzier sides of chipmusic, as his solo-writing skill is certainly the highlight of this EP. Regardless of what direction Costello takes with his music, I eagerly await his next release.