Hey again there, ChipWINners! ʷᵃᵛᵉˢヾ(＾∇＾)
Hoodie here to intro the triple tag team of reviewers for our latest compilation! In order of appearance, Rhyphte, clover, and Adam Seats share their thoughts on the 26 lovely tunes that make up ‘ChipWINter Wilderness‘.
Dive on into the lovely wintertime read/listen below!
The holidays are here and with them come the tidings of unbelievably dank tunes. ChipWINter Wilderness (S-tier name for this btw) marks the 3rd installment of the ChipWINter series, and the first one since 2014! It’s great to see the return of an old classic, specifically one encompassing reimaginations of other much-loved winter classics within it. Without any further introduction let’s dive right in!
1. ‘Christmas on Mars’ by Jacob Greenmount
Very festive way to start the album and the winter holiday! I loved the instrumentation of all the different voices! The execution of a carol using original motifs is pretty challenging but oh so rewarding when done right. On top of that, being both comfortable and exciting is hard to nail down but this song goes a lot of different places and all of them scream fun.
2. ‘YAY’ by Knasibas
Speaking of screaming fun, ‘YAY’ is a high-density ball of brightness and animation all the way through! I’m also admittedly a huge fan of that soft chime -> pulsewave lead -> dance anthem true-combo Knasibas has nearly patented at this point. This track is such a rush and the unexpected Home Alone sample had me chuckling. I think what I loved most about this one was the inclusion of musical attributes not usually associated with the holidays (looking at you, bass drops)! It just goes to show that there’s way more to the holidays than tradition and classics!
3. ‘home for the winter’ by koi
The drift in and out on this one was really soothing. I just love the energy of this song. This specific strain of nostalgic comfort is actually what got me into chiptunes to begin with, and the warm safe happy vibe associated with the winter holiday is definitely something I fuck with. This track is beaming and uplifting in a really friendly way, from the cheery arps to the upbeat guitar chords to the clear and solid finale.
4. ‘Tundra Fundra’ by Aethernaut
Is that a door opening and shutting in the middle there? Seriously, what is that? I’m big on innovation, and I love me some gosh darn samples. ‘Tundra Fundra’ is a lighthearted romp through the soothing rich vibes of the winter season and the comfort it brings. The fullness of the kick and the charming blips quickly drew me in, but the sweeping lead and soft piano are what kept me around.
5. ‘The Frozen Palace at Mt Glyph’ by Stig
Stig is known for intricate basslines and grooving percussive elements, so when I started up this track, I was not expecting the vibrant soundscape opening up before my
eyes ears. Sort of reminds me of the winter-y levels from the paper-mario series actually, and maybe I’m just projecting at this point, but I get this incredible aura borealis visual listening to this song. Great use of clicky percussion elements throughout (nice to see this implemented outside of the glitch subgenre for a change), and the chord-work had me entranced.
6. ‘Snowball Season’ by Sam Mulligan
The donut-slayer does it again, folks. You don’t have to search for a cryptic deeper meaning or read between the lines here: This song wears its essence proudly on it’s sleeve. And the message is clear – it’s time to have a motherfucking good time. …And you know what, I just cannot shake the feeling that I’ve heard this before, or something like it, from Sam at some point in the past. This song screams sequel to me. Maybe it’s a sequel to the spirit of the wintery chiptune vibe. Maybe it’s a sequel to Sam’s personal unfettered snowball-flinging spirit. Maybe it’s just a song that is very obviously by Sam Mulligan and I’m reading way too much into it.
7. ‘Snow Cone Heaven’ by Dimeback
‘Snow Cone Haven’. What a phrase. This track has a lot of personality in a winter-themed compilation. It’s a quick jaunt that pops off with expressive fatty basslines and full, savory drums. It’s tonally varied with groovin’ syrupy leads and zingy blips and funky arps and has everything you could desire in a chippy blippy sprint through a snowy park.
8. ‘Fractals’ by 4ntler
Wow. This gives me so much energy. I love winter music that transcends the cultural one-dimensionality of specific winter holidays and embraces the ubiquitous moods of the deep winter/end of year seaaon associated with family and frost. And mmhmh that key change towards the end. Strong start and strong resolution. Actually, just strong throughout. Good stuff as usual, Fourntler! ;]
9. ‘The Haven’ by AJAXE
my thoughts exactly
This bass is fat as fuck and chock-full of carbs. Call me a masochist, ‘cause I loved getting slapped by this one. The fullness of the snare and bass riffs accompany the radiant lead perfectly. Bells and slap bass in chiptune? What a time to be alive. Upbeat, invigorating, and catchy — what more could you want? This is the song that’s gonna kill your holiday diet with it’s based lipids.
Up next on tracks 9-18, it’s clover!
Hi, I’m Clover! These are easily some of my favorite chipWIN tracks ever, and I’m so glad I get to talk about them! :) The holiday season can be tough sometimes, but things like this can make it so wonderful. I hope you enjoy ChipWINter as much as I do, and either way, I believe in you!!
10. ‘First Snow of the Year (feat. UNI)’ by 5percentsoda & poplavor & KARUT
From the moment I heard this song, it has captured a feeling I can’t let go of, and I can’t stop going back for more. The celebratory upbeat winter happiness sets a wonderful stage, for both a surprisingly complex and bouncy instrumental, and the emotive flowing vocals that tie it together. The melodies offer a polarity that conveys an honesty about the coldness and warmth of this season, and as a diverse and mega-collaborative effort, it is perfect for this winter comp in particular. Those background “ooos” that come in just emanate a Christmas pop spirit. Other highlights include the literally countless arps, the synth melody that gives the vocals a rest (sounds like a lead you can get by manipulating C64’s hardsync!), and this one blip that hits during the chorus on every 2 and 4. The section right before the chorus is my favorite, though, jumping into an effective minor tonality and giving every part an unparalleled clarity. The snare rolls and active bassline set a nice groove, chiptune arps and countermelodies shine, another synth floats above, and it so clearly portrays the singer standing as snow falls around her. You can hear the snow falling.
11. ‘Skaði’s Winter Mattress Blowout Sale (You Can’t Beat These Prices)’ by Megabit Panda
This is the song that gets stuck in your head at work. It plays as you get through a hectic day and look forward to getting home and laying down on your comfy new mattress. It’s no secret that Megabit Panda can bring the funk, and this track is glistening with talent, but it’s particularly impressive how they dial back their sound to fit a casual mood. Dya’s iconic melodic tension is aptly understated, although his avidly free sense of rhythm is ever present, especially in the chorus when those delicious harmonies come in under the lead, while the unconventional arrangement keeps it grounded in a store-from-an-rpg vibe. That is, until Adrian’s striking solo gives the bridge a pronounced contrast to selling us this down to earth nature – again tasteful and not overdone – a reminder our holidays can be quite unpredictable. Also it has the lick. Come on. It’s the lick.
12. ‘Borealis’ by HangOnGetReady
Much like its namesake, HangOnGetReady’s ‘Borealis’ is full of color and inspires a sense of cosmic wonder. Spatial melodies and vulnerable lo-fi dnb feel are instantly reminiscent of Auxcide, especially their previous tunes for ChipWIN comps in the winter season. However, what I love about HangOnGetReady’s approach is again how colorful it is. The bass is layered, the harmonies are moving. Every piece of the puzzle holds a unique timbre as the journey blends together. The arp accompanying the punchy hit section grabbed my attention right away, and the way it’s seamlessly integrated into the familiar main passage is gorgeous! Unfortunately, since this isn’t an Auxcide track, it also ends below the 4 minute mark. The experience flies by, although this isn’t a bad thing – HangOnGetReady makes wonderful use of the time and it paints a stellar picture.
13. ‘used BLIZZARD’ by HarleyLikesMusic
Oh my god. This track. Oh my god. Simultaneously carrying the spectacle of a playful battle theme, and the restless cacophony of an unforgiving final challenge, Harley encapsulates an aberrant snowstorm, fitting nowhere and everywhere, tight and loose in all the right places. This LSDj work is untouchable, with crunchy pulse instruments and calculated melodic disarray, panning and precipitating to create a full and unbridled chaos. The wave channel is full of surprises, especially in less intense sections, and the noise and percussion are fucking divine. This song consistently gives me an anxious and jubilant excitement, stronger than nearly anything else.
14. ‘Pælm Snøball’ by Fark
‘Pælm Snøball’ is such a fun track! Fark’s sound choices are chock full of personality, and the happy melodies and upbeat triplet feel compliment that wonderfully. Straightforward and effective melodies sing a tune of unapologetic joy, and the festive silly transitions are such a neat way to add variation to that. Fark has an interesting knack for key changes, and here is no exception! The ending stands out with emotion, working especially well as the section before it is less high-energy and more dynamic. The subtle approaches to syncopation and supporting instruments are nice too, with some lovely piano, and countermelodies in the middle catching my attention. Fark was one of the first ChipWIN artists I ever heard (with ‘Kalle Kanonkule’) and has had nothing but hits ever since!
15. ‘One-Player Holiday’ by Soleviio
Soleviio’s ‘One-Player Holiday’ is so endearing and poetic I don’t believe words can do it justice. I’m enthralled by how it takes its time setting a mood, shifting from simple soaring melodies alone to sudden intricate chord changes and harmonized song, leading the way – all in service of the song, reserved for when needed. When the song picks up, it continues to be just as expressive, with unexpected change-ups, polished boundless arpeggios, and other complements, always pushing onward while the feeling holds you together. It is also unmistakably deliberate, careful work, as even with 2xLSDj it contains some quite impressive channel economy, along with intricate uses of form and instrumentation. While the melodic movement, chord progressions, and sense of adventure remind me of Dragon Quest’s music, I would much sooner compare this to Petriform’s Plasma Luna: emotive, vibrant, and handcrafted – emphatically chip music, with a heartfelt intimacy that I’ve never seen so vividly outside of this community.
16. ‘O Little Town of Bethlehem (feat. Ryn)’ by Lute & Key
Lute and Key’s distinct soundscape is mesmerizing, even with church music. Ryn’s vocals are not just masterful but also a great fit for a peaceful Christmas carol, and it’s really nice to hear them with such charming acoustic guitar playing. With the repetition and lack of percussion, even with moving electronic chiptune parts this piece still completely feels like a sincere scene, sung among welcoming company. The whole thing, especially the ending, is so open and inviting. I want more from these three! <3
17. ‘Spaghetti In My Stocking’ by Shyabeetus
‘Spaghetti In My Stocking’ is an anthem for the free spirits of the holiday season, the boxing day fanatics, the celebrators of candlenights. It’s also great LSDj fare. It’s also making me hungry. A simple cheery progression starts things off, but with quirky sonic qualities that elevate its flavor. The percussion, bendy lead, and spontaneous wave channel features are entertaining as hell. The complete 180 meter change gets me every time, and is so telling – this is a track unconcerned with customs, or norms, and fully devotes itself to weaving a musical narrative, from start to finish, a potpourri of shots and cuts, strung together. Once it’s done surprising you, the ending countermelody wraps things up, and you’re left saying: yum!
18. ‘North Pole Circuit’ by Karl Brueggemann
I love how this racing-vgm take on winter touches on nostalgia without drowning in it. ‘North Pole Circuit’ is lively, creative, and full of skillfully concentrated layering, with modern sensibilities maintaining a retro sound (big fan of all the tools listed in the liner notes: Massive, chipsounds, C700, Reaper). While this main aesthetic is steady and strong, the influences feel diverse. Meandering melodies and borrowed harmonies that can’t stay still remind me of FearofDark, while the funky adaptability and downright sexy basslines call to my mind Jake Kaufman, or Tenfour! The track is just the right length, the solo section is sublime, and props to Karl for crafting such an enthusiastic ending, even in a tune so informed by music designed to loop. I can’t get enough of this one!
Closing out the rest of the comp, it’s Adam Seats on the job!
19. ‘A Jig For Lady Tempest’ by CarboHydroM
Here, CarboHydroM provides fascinating interplay between very consistent bass and countermelody rhythms playing against a very perky main melody. This track uses one of my favorite flavors of FM instruments too – the bell tone. Obviously bell tones are often associated with winter and Christmas music thanks to old classics like ‘The Carol of the Bells,’ but FM bells just always make a track pop if they’re used well, in my opinion.
20. ‘Slay The Bells’ by ChronoWolf
It’s hard to get me away from Trans-Siberian Orchestra albums this time of year, so I’m glad ol’ ChronoWolf here has something brand new to bring to the metal winter music game. It’s got everything you want – screaming guitars, sleigh bells, tough drums, precise violins, plus a healthy dose of chippy sounds on top from the venerable TI99/4A. It’s a song that says “MEET ME IN THE EFFING PIT…for hot cocoa and a peppermint stick.”
21. ‘Lacquer Lustre’ by Michael Okon
Aw yiss, some smoooooth jams. Regarding instrumentation, it’s all over the place in terms of familiar voicing from the Soundfont Player plus what sound like some live samples as well. In this era of your Shawn Wasabis and your Ujico*/Snails Houses, it’s nice to have something that pops like this that’s much more about calm jams with this type of general instrumentation. It’s definitely a fun little diversion, and only clocking in at 2:09 it’s basically like a nice handful of popcorn between longer and heavier tracks.
22. ‘Sanctuary’ by toasterpastries
The first thing I noticed: Oh hell yeah, lemme get that 6/8 meter. By having the heavy bass pulse on the 1 and the 4, it still feels like an extreeeeemely slow 4/4, but the movement of the melody lets you stay interested with a moving beat. For a track called ‘Sanctuary’, it definitely does make me feel quite peaceful. Give the liner notes on this one a look – I feel like it does a pretty good job of conveying the feeling intended.
23. ‘Tandem Tendencies’ by Storm Blooper
It’s good to just bang out an LSDJ track sometimes, ya know? This is definitely an “any time of the year” kind of banger – it’s got a nice poppy metronome going for most of it so you know where to bob your head, and leave it to Storm Blooper to use every one of those very limited channels to its fullest. It’s surprising to think about what you can squeeze out of a Game Boy sometimes, but I’m always impressed with what Storm Blooper brings to the table.
24. ‘I Want An Octopus’ by PROTODOME
In one of the most surprisingly relatable songs on the album, we have a brand new track from PROTODOME. The fact that there are lyrics to this song that are left as liner notes should be a criminal offence, because not only does this track slap but the lyrics are funny too. Maybe someone’ll do a cover with lyrics at some point, or maybe we’ll live to see the day that PROTODOME’s blue haired waifu makes a return to sing it? Only time will tell. But, I think, what I like most about this is the sort of musical signature that PROTODOME has occasionally shown us. Right at the end of the track, he just completely reduces the instrumentation down from modern synth-y sounds down to your more standard “8-bit” flavored sounds you so often expect from chiptunes. I just think that’s neat.
25. ‘Carriage Ride’ by Vince Kaichan
The liner notes say Vince wrote this during a heatwave in August, and it’s easy to see that he was longing for for the cold and solitary nights of winter to come. While the song starts out pretty innocuous, the flowing and twisting melody that comes out tells the listener that they’re in for a ride on this one. With the swelling basslines and wooshy effects, this really is just a song to help put you in the mindset of settling in for a nice comfy winter’s rest.
26. ‘O Holy Night (ft. Ryn)’ by Awesome Force
Oh hey, the second actual Christmas song cover featuring Ryn this album, and with the heavy synth punchiness of Awesome Force you know you’re in for a good time. Ryn effortlessly belts out some crystal-shattering notes, and the live-drums-over-electronic-sounds that alternate from “atmospheric and thick” to “good ol’ tried and true arpeggios” are the are the two great tastes that taste great together for some holiday-appropriate goodness.
Sure is a shame there’s no bonus track this year. I’m sure we could have all used one final laugh right before the end of the year. Oh well – but you know, they say that in the dead of night on a cold Christmas Eve if you listen real hard, you might just hear someone come a-caroling for you. Butt who?