Describing the next five tracks from our 4th compilation album is a lot like plucking five roses from a stunning bouquet, or stacking five bacon pancakes onto your plate from a pile fresh off the griddle: you can’t go wrong, and they taste even better with syrup. (Chiptunes = WIN does not endorse the practice of eating syrup-coated roses. Chiptunes = WIN does, however, heavily endorse bacon pancakes.)
Volume 4 is a gathering of the best from all corners of the community. There are only beacons of chiptune mastery here, and though your personal tastes may steer you toward some songs over others, each track is a curated experience, and all come highly recommended.
Without further ado, I am honoured to bring you Chiptunes = WIN: Volume 4’s tracks 16 through 20. Come listen!
16. Unsign – Asteroids
Delightfully off-beat, strobing eternal pans and intricate erraticism explore the spaces in between in Unsign’s ‘Asteroids’.
‘Asteroids’ is a fantastic example of what I can only describe as ‘found music,’ meaning that ‘Asteroids’ feels very much like a controlled chaos in which unlikely, unique sounds have come together to find musical commonality amongst them.
There is an organic nature to the composition of ‘Asteroids’ that I really enjoy. The melody is compressed into an erratic, pulsing siren that beckons from beyond, piercing the deliberate emptiness with a contradictory-but-perfectly-matched opposition to the deep rhythm foundation.
Unsign has admirably sidestepped the beaten path, allowing rhythm to discover itself beyond the standard strobing melody. That, combined with the embracing of a vast, empty, space-like tone works in tandem to create the sense of something being discovered from nothing, being embraced and stoked like a flickering ember until it bursts to life, crackling with the full heat of a nurtured flame.
17. Twelfth Chromatic – Galaxy 24
If happiness was a tracker setting, ‘Galaxy 24’ would have that dial cranked up to eleven. Twelfth Chromatic rocks the chimes hard in this cheerful, warm-chip-embrace of a track that just smiles from start to finish. Instantly dripping with light-hearted cheer, ‘Galaxy 24’ by Twelfth Chromatic keeps a quick pace as it epitomizes adorableness with reckless abandon.
The way Twelfth Chromatic fills in the off-beats and the spaces in between with complimentary chimes and extra snare beats is what elevates this piece into Volume 4 territory. These extra moments feel like they are playing with the main elements; testing and teasing the core of the song much like a young girl might beg through a keyhole for her older sis to come out and build a snowman. (NSFW) :)
‘Galaxy 24’ flirts with a holiday feel, and could easily become the soundtrack to your pals tobogganing down a hill of fresh powdered snow before curling up with a hot cup of cocoa and a plate of chocolate chiptunes.
18. Sieken – Heartaches & Hatchlings
‘Heartaches & Hatchlings’ attacks hard and fast with unrelenting shifts from one ear to the other with an array of sharp, purposeful, competitive melodies. The ensuing confusion to jab left when you’re expecting a key change, and swing right the moment you think you’ve got a handle on the melody’s ever-shifting arc.
‘Heartaches & Hatchlings’ exemplifies the core concept of “Chiptune”: heavy, consistent loops interwoven at a maximum capacity while an energetic, frantic melody pushes the envelope of possible beats per minute with chaotic intricacy. There’s a lot to take in within ‘Heartaches & Hatchlings’, and if you can keep up, there’s a lot to respect about Sieken’s compositional work.
Sieken challenges you to keep up, and rewards the faithful with a masterful through-line that hides its ability to pull you along for the ride as it ties ‘Heartaches & Hatchlings’ together into a frenetic breakdown designed to give you a moment to breathe before its breakneck climax. ‘Heartaches & Hatchlings’ is enticing, daring, agile, and a must-listen.
19. Masikus – Eternian Silver
‘Eternian Silver’ relishes a trudge into the grungier chip-realms with a focus on cementing an interwoven bass and percussion foundation using a myriad of subtle complimentary instruments in tandem until they simply cannot be ignored as simple instrumental accompaniment and become main characters in Masikus’ successful experiment.
There is such method to Masikus’ madness, digging deep into a bob-and-weave style percussion set and allowing that baseline to compete for the spotlight alongside the ever-building main melody rather than allowing it to default to traditional background filler. The result is a welcome second character in ‘Eternal Silver’ that grows into a welcome secondary perspective.
The ‘low-to-the-ground’ tonal theme and the transformation of traditional melodic instruments into true accompaniment work to flip expectations on their head, creating a topsy-turvy track that defies presumption and offers a fresh, less-predictable exploration into a pseudo hip-hop corner of the chip-verse. Masikus delivers in spades with finesse and a clear willingness to carve out a path away from the norm.
20. Stjarnstrom – Beast Engine
Do you love tell-tale 80’s synth? Then you’ll die over Stjarnstrom’s ‘Beast Engine’. Underneath that all-encompassing swollen SID synth lies a warm, intricate nest of decadent bass and faithful percussion. A foreboding tone competes with an opposing one of hope in this swirling love-letter, supporting a stellar, sweeping, echoing melody fighting off despair and setting the stage for reverie.
Stjarnstrom executes ‘Beast Engine’ with finesse, polish, and humility. This final track on today’s multi-track volume 4 review caps off five incredible works from five unique artists, showcasing five very different approaches to chiptune music. For Stjarnstrom, a direct vision and commitment to his strengths are clear ingredients for ‘Beast Engine’ to become a celebrated work for volumes to come.
Volume 4 coverage will continue on July 31st with tracks 21 to 25, reviewed by our own Chris “Stereocast” Krogsgard!