Sup y’all? =) President Hoodie here, happy to bring you a track-by-track review of our latest compilation, ‘Bundle of WIN‘!
1. ‘Rollerdisco Rumble‘ by Vince Kaichan
Earlier this year, I reviewed ‘Power Tricks’, Vince’s release with Cheapbeats. When I heard that his track was going to be kicking off the ‘Bundle of WIN’, I knew the compilation was going to be great. ‘Rollerdisco Rumble’ has all of the artistry and delivery that made ‘Power Tricks’ amazing. Built around a crisp beat that brims with zestful energy, the track has what it needs to prepare the listener to fully throw themselves into the album. The breakdown at roughly 3:30 exemplifies this, with a roaring moment that sends spirits skyward before gently guiding them downward into the next track.
2. ‘Milky Way Train‘ by CarboHydroM
CarboHydroM’s work with ‘Milky Way Train’ is remarkable. It manages to combine three disparate auditory sensations into very solid piece of music. In one theme, the driven beats and rapid pace truly get at the sensation of being on a potent and driven train ride. In another, there’s a sparkling nature to the way the instruments play their notes that one would expect from music exalting the beauty of the winter season. Finally, there’s that that distinct spaciness that one would expect from a track with ‘Milky Way’ in its title. Woven together here, I took away the distinct excitement I’d like to imagine comes along with joyriding with Carl Sagan in the “Spaceship of the Imagination”.
3. ‘#prayforparis‘ by freezedream
Among some of us at the blog, freezedream is deeply admired for their ability to craft music that can reach deep down and calm the soul. While the title of this track specifically shines a light on November’s terrifyingly awful terrorist attacks in Paris, this year has had plenty of examples of the worst of humanity. The fundamental beauty of what freezedream brings in his entry to the Groupee is a reason to take five minutes and bask in the peace and goodwill toward your fellow humans that the winter season is meant to highlight.
4. ‘Sanity‘ by The Fluorescent
A dramatic thematic shift from the previous track, and no less artistically impressive, ‘Sanity’ is a gorgeous combination of chiptune and vocal work, and that vocal work is what completely captured my attention. Reading the lyric card, one could simply take away the an overall message of finding new beauty and meaning in life in the face of internal confusion. However, the way those lyrics are delivered really brings them to life. The depth of emotion and projective skill really leaves you believing that the singer is clawing their way through a difficult mental fog to find a moment of clarity.
5. ‘Heavy Influence‘ by ap0c
True to both form and title, ap0c brings some full throated FM work to the compilation. The entire composition has weight to it, and not because the instrumentation is so densely constructed that every note sticks with you. The style of the track also has a full range, from sections filled bright, head held high bursts of energy to lengths of notes that are thick, earthy, and driven. Altogether, this leads to a truly substantial track that will not only stay with the listener for awhile, but really highlights ap0c’s compositional capabilities.
Up next, the second half by Joe Eidson!
6. ‘Resurgence‘ by Awesome Force
‘Resurgence’ by Awesome Force opens with a double-barreled blast of 2x LSDJ straight to the ears. The basic structure of the track is a repeated bass pattern and accompaniment, with melodic fills and frenzied percussion filling out the texture. Layers are gradually added at each new iteration of this basic texture; my favorite part of the track are the longer, smooth lines that enter at the end of each section. The percussion drops out briefly around 2:30 – a welcome breath of fresh air to the relentless attack of notes in this track – and a staccato, glitchy melody is briefly featured. The sheer amount of noise that Awesome Force wrings out of both LSDJ copies is quite impressive, and I really like the consistent use of panning in all parts of the texture to create a large stereo field.
7. ‘Wow! Signal‘ by Toni Leys
Named after an anomalous radio signal reading by SETI in 1977, ‘Wow! Signal’ by Toni Leys is one of the most aurally unique selections on this compilation. Take a moment to read in the liner notes about all of the varied soundfonts used in ‘Wow! Signal’ and it is no surprise that this track stands out in a great way. In addition to the variety of chip sounds, I really like the energetic rhythmic cornucopia that makes up this musical landscape. The opening ostinato reminds me of some afro-Cuban bell patterns, and is most likely one aspect of the Argentenian folk music influence mentioned by Leys. Each section of this tune is separated by different soundfonts, held together by a hip, bouncing bass. My favorite moments in this track are the leads in what sounds like the ‘NES harmonica’ patch, reminding me of some glorious beach landscape in a far away 8-bit world.
8. ‘Earth 2.0‘ by For Astronauts and Satellites
Originally appearing as part of the soundtrack for ‘Wait’ by Keaton Slánský, ‘Earth 2.0’ opens with long single-note pads. A plaintive guitar soon enters the mix, and one gets the sense of being a part of something vast and immense. Pulsing bass and an increase in texture activity adds to the gradual crescendo, and, contrary to what might be expected, elements of the music actually drop out at the peak rather than get louder or busier. I really love the contrast that this track provides within the compilation. The beauty of this music is in its simplicity: long tones with notes that combine to form pleasing intervals, mixed with a contrasting instrumental timbre. Sometimes the old saying ‘less is more’ also applies to music, and For Astronauts and Satellites manage to say quite a bit with only a few important elements.
9. ‘Geneva Drive‘ by Auxcide
My fellow Pennsylvania resident Auxcide brings his A-game and a big list of equipment to his track ‘Geneva Drive’ on this bundle! I absolutely adore the introduction in this tune! There is something simple and nostalgic about the oscillating melodic line that is soon coupled with a deep bass and simple backing percussion. The drum sounds and overall production elements bring the track into the 21st century, but the overall style of the music do not sway too far away from the retro feel. Lush, expansive musical textures dominate most of the track: bass, drums, long synth lines, and the oscillating eighth note texture all combine with a melody made up of mostly longer note values. An interesting shift happens at the end of the track, where the sampled piano takes over the melody and accompaniment. The immediate stylistic change is a great example of good proportion in musical composition. The coda is long enough to make sense to the listener and hear the repetition of musical ideas, but short enough so that such a disjunct and abrupt change of pace does not spoil the previous 5:40 of fantastic music.
10. ‘Cha-Cha Nesis’ by Yoann Turpin
Yoann Turpin’s ‘Cha-Cha Nesis’ is an instantly-funky party that will put a smile on the face of any grinch in the room. The track is a jangly blend of percussion that provides a busy and fun-sounding texture when combined with the steady rhythm of the bass and keyboard accompaniment. Two things really intrigued me when I first heard this track; the first is how the simple rhythm in the introduction is immediately transformed into the raucous percussion party a few short measures later. The second is the melodica performed by Mathieu Demange. I had grand visions of being a professional melodica player in grade school, and hearing it featured so prominently in this track brought me back to my earliest days of musical exploration. The melodica doubles synth lines in the main section of the tune – which is a great sound! – and there are several spots where Mathieu trades solos with both the chip synths and a piano. Finally, the last third of the song harmonizes the melody with a bunch of seventh chords, which sound absolutely fantastic within the overall texture of the piece. Even the fade out keeps the party alive, as the percussion texture refuses to stop until a few moments after the instruments have exited.
11. ‘Jingle Bits’ by Pieces of Eight & Friends
Finally, I can’t let you go without briefly mentioning the bonus track included on the bundle! In the tradition of some other Pieces of Eight contributions to ChipWIN compilations, the hidden track here brings together many of the people who worked to bring you this bundle in a fantastic sing-along of ‘Jingle Bells’ with a bouncy chip accompaniment and a few important schoolyard lyric alterations. Here’s to a happy holiday season and a fantastic new year to you all!