Welcome back to the cavalcade of Volume 5 reviews ChipWINners! This fine Monday, I’m happy to be taking a deep-ish look at tracks 21 through 30 with you dear readers. This selection includes some of my personally favorite tracks, albeit, at the end of the day all 51 tracks are all pretty examples of raw chiptune talent. Without further digression, jump past the fold for some more slightly more focused rambling!
Donut Shoes starts the section off with ‘Highway Lottery‘, and impressive bit of 0CC-Famitracker work. With a beat that rolls right along, this track manages to mix together components of a swinging beat and an almost game show tension to produce a unique theme. There’s danger, excitement, and someone behind the wheel who is very good at pretending they don’t care. The ‘Hey!’ sample at the 30 second mark introduces an element of cockiness that is cemented by the introduction of the duty cycled whistles at a minute ten. From there, the action and tension that Donut Shoes builds before the conclusion of the track is impressively done. Briefly, the brashness of the track parts to allow a moment of concern to show. Worry over nothing, as the track becomes calm and confident in its final moment, ending on a final ‘Hey!’.
After listening to ‘LIGHT ZONE 3Pm‘ by AYOSHUTDUFF, I knew I found my personal favorite of the ten amazing tracks I had privilege of reviewing for Volume 5, and not simply because that opening vocal sample reminded me of Friday night speed-runs of Turtles in Time with my childhood friends. That grabbed my attention, but the slow, building intro with its warm and welcoming instrumentation sunk the hook. The track deliberately and methodically layers together at a pace that gives a visceral feel of building momentum. The drop at 1:30 is equally impressive, as the track falls into a quiet, almost meditative tone beginning to pick up the pace again. The momentum that rebuilds has a distinct energy to it. There’s no ‘going all out’ here, rather a sustainable flow that could go on for hours before seamlessly breezing into its conclusion.
My first thought after hearing the opening chords of Amphibious‘ ‘Perennial‘ was that it belongs in a 16bit JRPG. The action packed opening leaps straight into a paced, throaty, synth bass line that would slot right into one of FF6 and Chrono Trigger’s extended story battle montages. With its twists and musical hits, a sense of confrontation builds before breaking away into a chase of sorts. The jazzy rush at the halfway mark ratchets up the intensity before breaking into another argumentative patch. At 2:15, the moment of sudden quiet erupting into a tight break down let’s you know that things are about to great real. The speed and intensity that build with the conclusion provide a wonderful endcap to the flavor that built along the entire composition.
With a title like ‘QUIT YOUR JOB! DEATH IS COMING! JOIN THE SKELETON WAR!‘, I don’t even know what to do. Enlist? Who are the Skeletons even warring against, Pieces of Eight? The dark tracked guitar solo opening certainly conveys that something wicked this way comes, and as the rest of the metal-laced strings join with a purpose, there’s a definitive sense of purpose and intensity. Yet, there’s a brief burst of bright energy just after this that could either be hope or simple battle lust. As the drums of war begin to beat, PoE shows some serious chops in the blending of some dank chiptune and traditional metal styles. One can almost smell the wasted battlefields wafting off the chaos of the composition. The last minute of music really drives the experience to a gritty conclusion as the tracks descends into hones itself into a singular point that tumbles into silence at the very end.
Switching the tone up from the previous track dramatically, ‘Gaz & Butterhead‘s opening is what I’d expect out of a coffee house jazz band fending off a rainy summer afternoon. Theory of N only dwells in this revery momentarily before bringing in the bright swinging core of the track driven along by the beat of the drums. There’s a wonderful sway and swagger to get folks up and move to beat back foul moods and fouler weather. The almost spacey break away at 2 minutes is reflective as it pitches into the high and bright notes. A reflective interlude that is a well places bridge to the thematic tie up introduced a minute later. The opening sense of quiet melds with the initial break away drive that produces both a sense of acceptance and a roll into a powerful conclusion.
梅干茶漬け (Umeboshi Chazuke) shifts the tone dramatically again, with ‘OmochiMochip Pe-ta-ta-Turn‘ dropping right back into classic LSDj sounds. No time is wasted ramping up the steam, and the mute drop a minute in is just a subtle drift that build right back into the action. However, the unique flavor of the track shows itself at 1:35 as there’s an eye-popping thematic shift into a hip-hop beat punctuated by hearty ‘mews’ and ‘heys!’. Then another theme shift at 2:15 into uplifting and triumphant tones and then another shift 2:35 into swing and swagger that is punctuated by a confident and knowing pling at 2:45! Closing on a calmer refrain of the opening themes, this is a beautifully executed musical chameleon.
Shifting back to the chill and relaxed, ‘What can I say (feat. Jredd)‘ adds some much appreciated FM synth to this section of the comp. MBtech uses those soothing Genesis tones to take the pace down a notch to let listeners regain their composure with a chill, enriching and rolling track. Anyone familiar with Jredd’s library of work can hear and appreciate his always talented influences in the front half of the track. In the back half, a ‘flavaful’ vocal sample introduces some unique and deeply echoing drums. The track shifts here, no less chill, but it takes on a dark and meditative tone. A brief reflection that introduces warm electronic twangs that see the track peacefully to its conclusion.
‘Summer Glitch‘ is aptly named, as Bitonal Landscape‘s contribution brings us an inspiring, almost Brodey-esque, march infused with all the heat and hopes of the summer. The hopes and dreams never quit here. The bright duty cycled flutes that join in early on complete the image of a sunny stroll down the beach with ocean spray in the air. There’s an tonal shift near the middle of the track that adds a sense of wonder, an appreciation for all the mysteries and magic of the sea. Not breaking stride, the track returns to, and closes on that original smiling strut.
Blood Code presents what is easily the chillest track of the section. ‘Justin Bailey (feat. SoftProxy)‘ is a welcoming track, protective and rebuilding in its themes. I’m not sure what stands out more to me across the track, SoftProxy’s brilliant vocal work, or how Blood Code manages to get his chip work to stand distinctly from the vocals without overwhelming them. Also impressive is Blood Code’s ability to infuse brief bursts of energy into the track with drum hits, only to have them fade immediately back into the chill energy. Just enough to keep the music flowing right along. The final lyric of the track sums up the experience, ‘We can breathe’.
Naturally, after that relaxing and gentle experience, its time for another wrench in the works. Aquellex wakes the listener back up right quick with ‘Wanderflux‘. Inspired by rhythm game fare, this contribution never lets up. Tension and danger drip from your headphones as the music conjures images of arrow hell raining down a screen. True to form, even the ‘quiet moments’ of the track are almost illusory. Just brief moments to sip some oxygen before another chaotic cacophony of sound demands the attention of lightning quick reflexes. The track wraps up in an almost impossible to follow clusterbomb of sound that slides down into its closing silence. An exhausted and proud collapse.
Don’t forget, there are still another 20 tracks of ear exploding amazingness yet to come. Head on back over to the blog at 6pm CST on Wednesday. We’ll have Glenntai himself reviewing tracks 31 – 40 for your reading pleasure. In the meantime, why don’t you pop on over to the ChipWIN Bandcamp and download a copy of the compilation to enjoy on your own time.