THIS IS IT. We’ve come up to the last ten tracks of Volume 7, and I can’t begin to express the rollercoaster of emotion that was experiencing this album without being able to share the hype with everyone in our Discord channel during the release party.
Fortunately, I have a platform where I can have opinions regardless of how right or wrong I can be (thanks, Internet! <3), so without further ado, it’s time to jump into the first track on my list to cover!
41. ’24 Suns’ by Bleeds//Chipocrite
Every volume there’s at least one name on here that makes me excited to see contributing to these compilations. This time we’ve had a handful and I have the luck to review ‘24 Suns‘, a compilation between Bleeds and Chipocrite. Built through one instance of LSDJ, this track throws back to an era in 2015 where heavy rhythms and even heavier WAV channels reigned supreme. What’s impressive to me is how clean the noise percussion sounds despite being a faster-paced rhythm using what seems like a longer decay time. Even further on the sound design front, the way that the sustained pads/held notes go in-and-out of phasing to provide a chorusing effect is an excellent example of how such techniques are not used enough in 1xLSDJ pieces.
42. ‘Tides’ by Blake Inc.
While I’m not familiar with Blake Inc., I was immediately on board the moment I heard some 2A03 goodness from the song ‘Tides‘. I was nothing short of hyped the moment I heard a well-composed and pretty intro with a somber attitude turn into a bouncy 8/12 rhythm with a dramatic interlude. While there has been a trend to see how fleshed out you can make the 2A03 (and expansions) sound, this song is proof that there is always room for excellent traditional usage of duty cycling, pulse voicings and solid composition. This track has immediate vibes that sound like they’re inspired by Tim Follin’s intro to Solstice both in its bouncy nature, heavy drums, the lead melody, and the way that the percussion changes up regularly to switch to a fill in every chance it can at the end of every measure. We need more adventurous Famicom-based pieces like this.
43. ‘And By Night, We Take the Castle’ by Soleviio
Immediately after this we encounter the romanticized, neo-baroque piece ‘And By Night, We Take the Castle‘ by Soleviio. What starts off as a Touhou-esque piece turns into a story devised on two copies of LSDJ with a ton of melodic exposition and returns to a specific melodic phrasing enclosed between plenty of note flourishes and embellishments. This is a very busy piece that has compositional elements familiar to me from classical pieces and concepts not often heard outside of musicals and opera, which was a pleasant surprise to hear. As someone who loves his swing grooves, to not mention the brief swing interlude even in passing would be a great injustice. Even if it doesn’t seem to fit thematically, it still sounded great, which in the end is what really matters. This has a lot of great ideas that could easily be split up into an album with this song being brought in to tie them all together, which makes me excited to hear more of what Soleviio comes up with in the future.
44. ‘Starry Ocean’ by Blue Navi
Almost experiencing a little bit of déjà vu, I realized I’m reviewing more music from Blue Navi (to which I certainly have no complaints.) ‘Starry Ocean‘ is a wonderful example of the kind of sounds you can expect out of Blue Navi, from the nearly mellow lead instrument, to the punchy synth bass, right down to the fast-paced percussion which the song gets a lot of its energy from. The texture on the water sample is vivid, and the usage of filters to occasionally provide a feeling of something perhaps seeming drowned out or wet with reverb is a nice touch. The song is very mellow and pleasant, much like the title implies, and it’s always great to hear more tracks come from Blue Navi, an artist you may have remembered from previous installments of Chiptunes = WIN under their former name, “ayoshutduff”. Keep the same eye on Blue Navi as you did on ayoshutduff; you won’t be disappointed.
45. ‘Chronoscape’ by Kartmaze
OH HELL YES. BUCKLE UP AND GET READY FOR A LESSON IN AWESOME PROGRESSIVE JAMS FROM KARTMAZE. You may be rolling your eyes with the capslock-cruise-control, but you do NOT see that Kartmaze is on a compilation and NOT get beyond excited. As expected, Kartmaze’s ‘Chronoscape‘ immediately delivers a badass progressive jam that goes through an array of emotions, time signatures and styles while always returning to the fast-paced rhythm established in the beginning of the track. Every volume has some sort of spectacular example of a genre. Volume 6 had a lesson in making jazz fun and exciting thanks to Deathro. This time, Kartmaze brought us a progressive track to remind us how much fun you can have outside of the usual musical standards we’ve heard or grown up with. All of this, of course, while still maintaining a wonderful track to listen to and immediately play on repeat. This one is going to be a hard track to not speed in a car to, considering how much hype it builds up throughout the song.
46. ‘ghost party at the cathedral’ by Michael Okon
Next up is Michael Okon’s ‘Ghost Party at the Cathedral‘, and it definitely has a very whimsical vibe about it, which is a nice change-up from the last few tracks. It feels almost as if one of those ghosts happened to be Nelward with the way this song seems to have the same jazz-infused zane and both prominent upright bass tones and specifically-filtered piano keys. It also involves crazy chord transitions and a wide variety of textures in both the instrumentation and the percussion (especially the percussion.) What I am suggesting is that this feels as if someone decided to take on the spirit of the soundtrack to the Mother series of games and make an original, unrelated song with a lot of the same properties. There is a lot to unravel in this short piece, which makes this a track that’s fun to analyze on a production level. Make sure you play it a few times and listen critically to appreciate both the composition as well as the production value.
47. ‘MASTER OF WINDMILLS’ by dachampster & JANX
With a name like ‘MASTER OF WINDMILLS‘, I’m immediately excited to see what my friends dachampster and JANX have come up with. It turns out that it’s a heavy rock track with some hard chorusing on pulses and a sawtooth to provide the rhythm. There are a lot of things going really well for this track provided by the unique structure provided by the 2A03 chip with the VRC6 expansion. For instance, the triangle and the VRC6 pulse channel being used as counterpoint to the melody was a delightful touch of emotion. Being able to use more than three options for a duty cycle also provides a lot of texture to the VRC6 pulses, which helps accentuate sounds in the 2A03 chip regardless of if it’s a pulse or triangle instrument. That’s also not to ignore how the sawtooth fills in the roll of the bass instrument effortlessly. Unlike many collaborations, I can immediately picture the different things that each artist contributed to the track through previous pieces they have worked on, and it’s a combo that I would be glad to see making more stuff.
48. ‘Anima’ by Hexadecibel
Continuing down the song list, we have ‘Anima‘ by Hexidecibel. It was puzzling me as to why it sounded incredibly familiar to me right away with the LSDJ intro having a repeating four-note melody that plays second to a moving and rumbling bassline, its own harmonizing lead, and percussion that’s both gritty and quick. Once it moves into the first verse it immediately picks up the dnb nature with vibes prominent in the chip scene since roughly 2013, but I still couldn’t pin where I heard it before. Lo and behold, Hexidecibel then builds up into a very intensive, grimy drop full of rhythmic chaos and dissonant notes all climbing and stumbling about to an overwhelming (yet impressively enjoyable) degree. I had to look at the info, but then I discovered Hexidecibel is a joint project between Nanode and Guerin – two veterans of ChipWIN that have put out their share of hard-hitting tracks, notably of dubstep and dnb genres respectively. This song not only literally sounds like if the two decided to collaborate and combine their brands into one song, but is also damn catchy (which, if you recall either of their songs in last year’s volume, should come as no surprise.)
49. ‘Baddies’ Night Out’ by Karl Brueggemann
Suddenly, JAZZ. JAZZ EVERYWHERE. Or at least, jazz provided by Karl Brueggemann with his song ‘Baddies’ Night Out‘. This song starts off with the bravado you would expect from a group going out to town, but adds a delightful and light-hearted whimsy you would expect from a wholesome, happy adventure montage. Unlike a lot of the songs previously mentioned, you’re not going to hear a section intended to be a mind-blowing banger. What you’re getting here is something very thematic to its name that you could easily picture being used as the background to the montage idea I mentioned earlier. This song uses a bunch of FM instrumentation to really bring the pleasant atmosphere alongside its sassy counterpart. This is a wonderful little piece full of melodic exposition and a lot of techniques heard in jazz and visual media compositions to really bring a piece to be just as entertaining as it is fitting for what you’re trying to have the audience picture befitting to the visuals. This is an excellent little piece for multiple reasons, and is definitely going on repeat on my collection.
50. ‘Carpe Diem ~ Larvatum Heros’ by Tobikomi
And then, Tobikomi came along with ‘Carpe Diem ~ Larvatum Heros‘ and provided even more thematic FM badassery. This song gives a vibe that almost feels fitting to a Western setting and a lot of melodic exposition and dramatic, emphasized harmonized leads. Each different section had something that really drove it forward and I wish I could have heard it expanded upon. There is a lot of emotional fluctuation in the song form without changing the key or chords, leaving the entirety of the two minutes like a continuous ride through something action-filled, and then immediately comes to a hault. I only wish it didn’t come to a hault, because it felt like it could have been expanded to have been made into a progressive/western hybrid that would have made for another track that felt thematic enough to be in a montage of sorts. Regardless of the length of the song, this was a great track to follow up with.
51. ‘And Then We Rebuild’ by Lute & Key
Finally, we came to Lute & Key’s track to bookend this journey. ‘And Then We Rebuild‘ starts off quiet and humble regardless of its opening and continues to provide an orchestral frame to the folk atmosphere it started with. What it builds into is a cacophony of sounds melding together to fit into a grand, atmospheric piece that really paints a picture of the sense of being able to look down and see how small we are in the world while giving us the perspective that we still have so much we can build upon to create something greater than the sum of all of us. Full of a wide array of the emotional landscape of humanity, we’re also provided with things more typically familiar which includes excellent drum and percussion rhythms. This is alongside sweet solos on top of comfortable, repeating measures that seem to transcend you through the time they take to transition and brings you its climactic build of intensity from every instrument previously used. Considering both Lute and Key are no stranger to this compilation (one of them being PiecesOfEight, co-winner of last year’s “best damn song title of the volume” award,) and no stranger to big, crazy and dramatic pieces, this one was a wonderful way to conclude the album on a very positive note.
[Editor-in-chief’s note: while Glenn chose not to review the secret track aka the latest HH remix + artist style parody, I have to add that it’s so gorram hillari-good that we may not do one for awhile, because how does one even follow it? #OctcideFTW]
[Glennitor’s note: What’s an easter egg or secret if it’s spelled out for them? But yes it’s hilarious and if you even listen to one track from this volume you better go find the secret track.]
While this concludes this year’s review of Volume 7, I want to specific encourage all of you to continue your personal journeys through music; whether you’re a fan that doesn’t make music or someone that makes chip music. Each year’s volume comes as a refreshing reminder as to the amount of talent out there in chip music. Faces familiar and new, full of great talent, support and ideas that reflect the genuine potential that thrives in all of us. You are all the reason chip music continues onward, and because of that I thank you for being here in the past, today, and future for your interest, contribution, enthusiasm and support. Together, be it through Chiptunes = WIN or one of the countless other groups of enthusiasts out there, we can continue to grow and see how big and crazy this can get.
Stay awesome and keep enjoying chip music. I’ll see you all… in a bit.