Hey dudes and dudettes~!
Tuberz here. Rather than rant about theory and rhythms and other malarkey, Brandon thought it would be nice to get me to review some of the stellar new tracks from ‘Chiptunes = WIN: Volume 7’.
I took up the challenge with eager willingness to enjoy some tunage and I must say that I have really been taken by surprise with the sheer quality of some of this music. That’s saying something because I already thought the music would be insanely good. Without further adieu, let’s hear my ranting about other peoples’ application of music theory.
ARE YOU READY FOR MY SCATHING CRITIQUE OF GAMEBOY JAMS AND OTHER SUCH PARAPHERNALIA???
11. ’41A, Ernie’ – Zackery Wilson
Starting us off is a cute track that stays just as long as it needs to. There’s a lovely harmonic language throughout this track with a very infectious melody. I love those orch hits too. I never really feel bored of this track because of the heavy amount of repetition through development which is a personal tick on the checkbox for me. I just felt like the ending could have been left a little bit less ambiguous as if it wants another 15-20 seconds to close it out. Definitely a class-A banger tho.
12. ‘Starsurge’ – Jamphibious
Funky jams with odd time signatures, chip solos, and infectious grooves? Count me in. Jamphibious brings you in with an ethereal intro before hitting home with a funky af groove (which sounds like a weird mix of Mega Man X guitars and a synthy funk clavinet no less). The simple, but equally as effective, melody darts about with lots of humanistic characteristics and a lot of personality. One of my favourite things about this track is the fun metric idea that happens in the chorus-ish section. Jamphibious keeps you guessing at which phrases will be even and which will be stinted. I just felt like I wanted the funky section with the weird time signature to go on for a little bit longer. Chip solos are totally my jam though. I am a sucker for a good chip solo.
13. ‘Things to Come’ – Boy Without Batteries
*huge* percussion in the intro. I love how full this sound spectrum sounds, and continues to sound throughout. The buzzy pulse lead that comes in at the beginning is really nicely programmed and has such a heavy LSDJ vibe. A minute into the track it really kicks into overdrive and I can’t hold myself back from the head-bobbing. The following section has such a groovy baseline that always finds a way to make me think it’ll hit on beat one, only to trip me up. The breakdown toward the end of the song hits *harrrrdddd* and makes me want to hear a collab with Victory Road.
pls think about it, Boy Without Batteries. You two would make make such beautiful breakdown laden music together. <3
14. ‘Sexy Robot Pool Party’ – 4ntler
This track starts off with some funky bass and the— HOLD UP WAS THAT AN A MAJOR MODAL MIXTURE CHORD. As you can tell, I get a boner for cool harmonic ideas, and the Major III chord gives this song a lot of spice from the outset. The melody that flies around at 1:00 leaves me wishing it didn’t have as much portamento, but that’s a personal preference thing. This track is ungodly funky, and that’s giving me all the good vibes. I have such a poor attention span that the constant changes in the different sections help keep me engaged and focused on the track. There are a few notes in the solo that are a little bit out of key, and not always in a functional way, but again that’s the music theory nerd in me being a jerkface. The coda is definitely needed for the ending, but again it feels like there’s an A# that doesn’t want to be there. Overall however, a very strong submission.
15. ‘Havoc Garden’ – ZBW
15 seconds in and this is already cool. This is the kind of prog that I was looking forward to with this release: rhythmically complex, and very funky. It also solves a problem I have with a lot of chip music. I feel like a lot of chip music is very metronomic and stuck to the beat (durrh it’s a machine) and this track just has so much more life to it than that. It ebbs and flows with its tempo and I think ZBW has produced something that sounds more like a piece of music than a byproduct of code. I really want to hear Animals as Leaders or some other progressive rock band do a cover of this at some point. I volunteer myself as tribute if you need someone! I just found myself wanting so much more development after the meager two minutes and five seconds. Perhaps that’s one of the best parts of the track. I’m left wanting more. This may be my favourite track.
16. ‘Resonation’ – Auxcide
The percussion in the introduction means bizznesssss. This feels like a keygen for a ridiculously illegal 3D printing file from the future. Some of the samples feel like they’re slightly flat, but I don’t actually think that this is a disservice to the track as a whole. They impact this feeling of premonition in just the right ways. This being said, there are some points in the track where they detract from my overall enjoyment. The melody that begins in the section at 2:10~ is a really welcome change that adds some variation. Nice job with this submission, Auxcide. I really like what’s going in the climax section. The stripping back of instruments at the end was a nice touch too.
17. ‘the one with the pulsewave’ – transatlantic softball
Yo. This intro goes straight into the territory that I love with chipmusic. I love this proggy atmosphere a lot. It’s nice to hear some live instruments. I actually had to listen to this one way more than the other entries to write about it because I kept finding myself not writing, and instead just getting lost in the music. The triplet feel in many of the riffs is so fundamental to this track and I love where the artist has taken that and run with it. The breakdown was a nice change, as it showed that the song is not afraid to default to something a little bit more simple to give variation. I’d never heard of this duo’s music before, but I am now a new convert to the church of transatlantic softball. Thank you very much.
18. ‘Fjomp’ – Fark&Sacio
Like Auxcide’s entry, this sounds like a keygen for something I really shouldn’t be trying to access. I really like your sense of melody throughout your A section. You’re not afraid to reach for a larger intervalic structure for your melody. It’s much appreciated. The section that kicks in at 1:50~ is a nice welcome change as it almost feels like its become a different track that has its own sensibilities. It keeps things interesting and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t bobbing along the whole section. The abrupt modulation from B major to C major (a semitone jump, which makes it seem brighter) at about 2:50~ was nice too! It reminds me of a lot of J-Pop music, that uses abrupt modulations to generate excitement and extreme difference (in this case dropping 5 sharps/adding 7 sharps depending on how brutal you like to think of these changes), forcing you to pay attention. You’ve captured that mood entirely. I’m definitely paying attention. and AGAIN you modulate at about the 4:00~ mark. My short attention span has been tamed. I just feel that this would have benefitted from a more concise ending.
19. ‘Pointer’ – Nanode
Whoah. This hits hard from beat one. The sound design is particularly nice in this. The portamento in the melody and countermelody is very nice as it gives a lot of movement to something that’s relatively static. The drop was so nasty that it stole my superannuation to buy cheap alcohol. The riff at 1:50~ is so tasty, it helps reset everything back down before we return to the drop. This could be an “I’m a delicate princess thing” or whatever, but I sometimes find that the noise channel really comes off as abrasive and hurts my ears. Maybe that’s the point, but regardless, this hit me so hard that I’ll bruise in the morning. This would absolutely go-off live. I hope I get to see it some day. I actually really like that it ends so abruptly too. Nice stuff Nanode. <3
20. ‘Arms Race’ – Watch Out For Snakes
I’m currently having an identity crisis. Am I a chip music fan… or a space cop from the future sent back in time to fight python ninja robots? I feel like this appeals to the brooding 80’s synthwave fan in me that I like to pretend doesn’t exist. I think some of the changes (for example the one at 3:00~) could have been smoother. I also find that I have a personal dislike of music that sits statically for too long, and as much as I love the minimalist vibe this is going for, it kind of drains me. This was a very strange one for me to listen through because on the one hand I love what’s written here while on the other I just wish there were more contrasting sections in the song’s five minutes. And yet, I’d happily put this on any day of the week.
So there you have it. My personal review of tracks 11-20 on ‘Chiptunes = WIN: Volume 7’. Hyper-critical at times. Circle-jerking at others. This is a phenomenal album, and I’m thrilled that I got a chance to review it. Cheers Brandon.