There are many things that I love about Chiptunes = WIN, one of them being that our annual compilation album is a truly equal opportunity event. Submit an awesome track, and any talented newcomer can comfortably sit alongside the more established names in the scene. Case in point: the subject of my consideration this month, Talkboy Arcade (Daniel Goodman). His rousing debut track ‘The Longest Distance’ was hosted on Vol. 2, which was followed up the next year with ‘Azure Skies’ (which I had the pleasure of reviewing in my section of the Vol. 3 track-by-track writeups). These two excellent tracks comprised the totality of his output. That is, until now!
Talkboy Arcade has recently released his first collection of tracks, the ‘Lepidoptera EP’. The lepidoptera is the beautiful and large order of insects that includes the moths and butterflies. And like the lepidoptera, this music absolutely soars. With 4 carefully crafted tracks on offer, composed entirely in FamiTracker using the 2A03 sound chip + VRC6 expansion, let’s delve into a track-by-track breakdown to see just why you need this EP in your earholes.
A quick percussive measure followed by an ascending glissando kicks off ‘Tropic Commando’. It then launches into a joyful wall of sound where the lead melody is complimented by some lovely sawtooth bass. While it’s under a minute long, ‘Tropic Commando’ is an endearing opener which sets the stage for the rest of the EP and calls to mind the liberating freedom that a butterfly must feel while emerging from its pupa and taking flight for the first time.
In ‘Galactic Ocean’, Talkboy Arcade builds upon the kinetic energy that he’s forged in the first track. The main hook serves as the anchor to which the melody will always return, while various effects such as sharp staccato stabs and pulsating synth-like voices are spread throughout the pulse channels. These unexpected flourishes keep things interesting and rewards the listener upon repeated listens. About halfway through, the tempo slows and the song adopts a somewhat sentimental tone. The percussion during this section is particularly impressive, which switches between a slow and measured beat to a frantic jam just about every other measure. Becoming more and more sporadic, it ultimately goes absent entirely in order to put the spotlight on that glorious hook.
The title track is also the longest on the ‘Lepidoptera EP’, as well as a fanciful journey brimming with engaging variations on its main theme. This effervescent track really captures the spirit of the entire EP. A bubbly bassline blends with all manner of beautiful bleeps and bloops and a wailing refrain that echoes across nearly every channel in this track. In my mind, it conjures up imagery of a carnivalesque parade that’s taking place amongst an even larger celebration.
It’s a tough call, but I’m leaning towards ‘Emerald Highway’ as being my favorite track from the EP. It has this fantastic swirling quality to it, all the while guided by a consistent beat that gives the track a healthy dose of swagger. The carefree melodies contained within ‘Emerald Highway’ occur simultaneously, sometimes dueling, and then suddenly rejoining to harmonize with one another. It’s a very organic track that seems to twist and unfurl before your ears, and is an excellent closing number to an overall delightful experience.
After his stellar contributions to two ChipWIN volumes, it’s wonderful to see the ‘Lepidoptera EP’ materialize. It’s available on Bandcamp, pay what you want, and I wholeheartedly recommend supporting Talkboy Arcade’s future musical endeavors with a donation. As an added bonus, your download will come with all 4 FTM modules. Opening these tracks up within FamiTracker reveals just how well constructed these tracks are. I also find it noteworthy that my previous review on this blog was also from a UK-based artist who uses FamiTracker as his musical creation tool of choice, Fearofdark. This leads me to conclude that there is quite a healthy and formidable presence of FamiTracker phenoms from across the pond. As always, keep it locked to the ChipWIN blog for more insightful reviews and exciting announcements. In the meantime, keep your hands and heart held high!