Volume 7 is a thing ChipWINners, and what a thing it is, am I right?
With this release refusing to buck the trend of each Volume being a new flavor of amazing, I’m honored to be here to bring you the first ten track reviews. So honored that I’ll cut the rest of the standard opening poppycock and get right to work.
1. ‘Greatest Hat’ by PROTODOME
Bright, energetic, sunny, chipper – all are words that sum up what you’re getting in this track from PROTODOME. The rolling music warms up the ears, and one can almost see the cavalcade of artist credits rolling down the bright blue background, the bright beats led by someone wearing a most magnificent hat. Truly, an impressive choice in track ordering to get the party started.
2. ‘Make Me Real’ by Boy Meets Robot
Boy Meets Robot gets to bounce of the established energy and amplify into an explosion of hope and joy. With a whisper of “Please make me real,” the first moments hints of noise and fear are smashed to bits by resounding themes of hope and resolve. Whatever figment, spirit, entity, or automaton that has requested existence, Boy Meets Robot conveys every intention of granting their wish. From the rocketing opening to the starry eyed glimpse into the creative heavens themselves in the middle, this track gives everything and anything to meet that opening plea.
3. ‘Wakanda Sykes’ by Megabit Panda
With so much purpose and energy built up, the chill interlude given to us by Megabit Panda is a nice change of pace. Perhaps my mental imagery is coloured by how much the instrumentation reminds me of Sonic the Hedgehog 2’s Casino Zone, but ‘Wakanda Sykes’ conjures an image of towering brick buildings and neon signs fighting to shine out against foggy skies. On a street corner below, a chip-o-phone playing, trenchcoat wearing individual blows sweet and mellow tunes as the city, alive with late night economic bustle, rushes by around him. A pool of calmness in an otherwise rushing river.
4. ‘Mystify’ by Ello Costello
Spoilers everyone: ‘Mystify’ is straight up my favorite track from this comp, and definitely in my top chiptune tracks of all time. Ello Costello brings a level of thematic transition and misdirection that do amazing justice to his title choice. To quote the artist from the track description, “Mystify is about magic. About doing anything. About the Earth and Sky and the unseen forces,” and that is apt. A full spectrum of mystical energy is here: terror, hope, joy, emptiness, introspection, and pedal to the metal headlong acceleration into a wonderful full stop ending.
5. ‘Ceres Sol’ by Stig
Sitg provides excellent juxatoposition to the previous track with a steady roadtrip track. There’s an energy here, that much is undeniable, but its applied with a smooth and even hand. For my part, with this in the background, I can almost see the sun setting over the rolling hills I’m watching, head rested against a van’s bucket seats. The perfect music for wrapping up a long day of fun and adventure on the coast.
6. ‘YOURLOSS’ by don’tblinkoryou’lldie
I hope you’re refreshed from that little trip, because ‘YOURLOSS’ brings the pot right back up to a boil. Filled with good old fashioned crashing noise, drizzling arps, and mind focusing blips, I wish my childhood NES games had boss battle themes this good. With the fakeout ending, don’tblinkoryour’lldie really lives up to the moniker here as well, ripping the steam right back up to full just when the listener is most apt to drop their guard. This battle is never gonna end, so be ready to be on your toes ’til someone drops.
7. ‘Cubcakes’ by AJAXE
I’ve heard rumors around the beer cooler (what else would you expect a chiptune newsroom to gather around?) that someday there may be a ChipWINter 3, and I’ll be thrice damned if AJAXE isn’t bringing exactly what I’d want to hear on it [Editor’s note: he was right on all counts.
ಠ‿↼ ]. Its tonal construction gives me nostalgic hints of icicles and snow drifts, and its pacing and bassline punctuate that with sleds and wassail. How better to enjoy a winter chiptune party?
8. ‘Boilerroom’ by JammerC64
This is a fascinating track. With a title like ‘Boileroom’, I went in expecting to experience sensations of pressure and tension. Instead, there was something much more camaraderie inspiring about the construction. The underlying bassline, with its driven and precise forward momentum gives rise instead to a feel of a behind the scenes team, working in precise lockstep to get through the days work. As the track move into its slightly more spacey midsection, a parallel can be drawn to that distinct high that comes along with entering a state of flow, before continuing on with the work at hand.
9. ‘wonder’ by ko0x
ko0x is a welcome addition to the on-the-nose titling club. ‘wonder’ is a gorgeous track that elicits that wide-eyed sensation of realizing a whole wide field of new experiences was just laid bare at your feet. With its high skied sounds and borderline spiritual vocaloid chants, its hard not to find a new angle to look at the world around you and be excited for the potential inherent in existence itself.
10. ‘It’s not the same’ by Breakbeat Heartbeat
‘It’s Not The Same’ is both an engaging track, and a welcome turn of pace for the entire volume. Breakbeat Heartbeat brings all their signature talent and style to this track, and for that alone, I am in love with the music just like I love their rest of their catalog. Beyond that however, I especially love the thematic turn at the end of the track. Its a small twist in tone and instrumentative presence done well. It takes a good track, with its chiptars and breakbeats, and injects just enough shattered nostalgia to engender a specific sensation of being shook loose from a reverie, letting the past slip back where it belongs with sad but necessary goodbye.
And with those feels fresh in my heart, I’m gonna turn this rodeo over to Callum who’ll take ya’ll through tracks 11-20. <3