Chiptunes4Autism has been going for 4 years strong now, and another spring season brought us what may be their most exciting compilation yet! 28 tracks showcase a varied, fun, and hard-working collective that will take anyone who wants to help. All proceeds go to charities proud of neurodiversity, supporting autistic self-advocacy, mental health resources, and networks for marginalized groups. It’s really great. Also, the music kicks ass, and the people involved will steal your hearts.
By ‘steal your hearts’, of course, I mean I’m going to try and cast them in a heist movie.
LATERALIS: THE SUPERSTAR
Like any good Soderbergh flick, ‘Volume 4: Infinite Potential’ starts by introducing a superstar. An actor who’s been in the spotlight before, and a character who knows their stuff. I’ve heard multiple friends of mine say something along the lines of, ‘I want to write a track like Lateralis.’ His work is distinct, classy, and full of tight sections where each element is planned and executed with precision. If we need a leader and a motivator, ‘Dreams’ is perfect for our role; high-energy, punchy chiptune drum ‘n’ bass grit. Lateralis describes this track as ‘the battle that is overcoming something you initially thought was impossible’.
STIG: THE VETERAN
The foil to our superstar, Stig is our veteran. Having produced music for over twenty years, he’s classy as well, but makes for a more laid back conman. Stig’s music detailed and complex, with a levelheaded sureness and honesty that only comes from experience. ‘No Mask’ may be my favorite piece he’s written for a chiptune comp, and there have been a lot of them. Legato and intricate in structure, rhythm and melody, every movement adapts to the setting. Every sound feels tailor-made to this specific piece. Like the ultimate sleight of hand, his work flows by in a blur, as if he wasn’t even there.
ANALOGSTIK: THE ACTIVIST
AnalogStik is one of my first recruits, with quite an impressive resume. His personal bandcamp is a treasure, and his credits include games for Xbox Live and shows for countless television series. Even more valuable (for both C4A and our heist) is his service as an activist, whether it be mentoring university students, working under the International Game Developers Association, or advocating for fair wages and treatment of voice-over professionals in the game industry. As an agent who will support people and garner the support of others, his track ‘Just Before Work’ is such a cheerful and genuine addition to this comp. Bumping along like a friendly conversation, this tune heavily reminds me of the ‘Baba Is You’ soundtrack. I find this extremely fitting; ‘Baba Is You’ is a game dear to my heart, and it is all about taking the laws of the world you are given, breaking them apart, and solving problems by imagining a different world and establishing a new and better ruleset. ❤
DUZZLED: THE WILD CARD
Duzzled is the inexplicable. Something about ‘Distorted Persona’ makes me flip the hell out, and I can’t quite place it. It’s tense, but jittery, like a concoction of anxiety and caffeine. It stands out with a maddening sense of working magic in its meter, and ingenious sound effects. Duzzled says the inspiration for this track was ‘old retro video games going crazy due to glitches and the glitches in the track reminded me of when you have ADHD’. They’re an aptly relatable and quite engaging choice to cast as my wild card!
BIG SHERM: THE ENTERTAINER
Big Sherm walks in strides with limitless confidence. Their voice is amiable, and hypnotizing. With a whole 20 track album under their belt, it’s no stretch to say we could get them into the luxurious venue of our choice. For this to work, we need a rapper not just skilled in mass appeal, but also subtlety. I’ve been listening to ‘Big Sherm Aint Shit’ recently; I quite like it, but I especially love how I can just zone out, not even catching half the lyrics. Big Sherm has that kind of consistent and familiar tone, sure to complete their assignment with ease. For their Chiptunes4Autism track, the foundation is a Korg DS-10 beat by none other than Gustuf Young, moniker Asperkracken. Gustuf founded C4A, organizes their shows and albums, and contributes to each one. Sticking to the theme, maybe he’d be our fixer? xD
ATKSTAT: THE DEMOLITIONIST
Now that the socialites laid the groundwork, we’re approaching the total breach. ATKStat describes ‘Journey to Centaurus A’ as an adventure, and a journey, ‘with all its danger and all its fun‘. The guitar work is catchy as hell, and the rest of the instrumentation and general mood reminds me of this kind of weird rock jam style I’d hear on old PlayStation games. The ones about cars, dirt, rusty cities and barren lands. After building for a little while, the track just explodes, as more melodies stack up and twist and turn like joints or gears. Soon it paints a scene of tumbling rocks and concrete crumbling. The repeated chromatic descent is like a chemical reaction; mixing with everything around it and sparking the fuel on contact, ATKStat makes an opening for us to break through.
MISSIONARY: THE HACKER
Of course, the mechanic’s handiwork would be incomplete without the work of our hacker: a technician who works with speed and layers of information. I was actually really excited to see Missionary on this comp, as I’ve loved their other work for quite awhile. It often fits into that dramatic orchestral trance genre you hear in rhythm games, and they recently made an actual rhythm game track. It’s fantastic, and hearing Missionary’s electric speed and rich harmonic movement in a chiptune track was an absolute delight. That said, my real enthusiasm stems from the track’s themes. Titled ‘Tranquillo’, it is introspective, contemplating in their words, ‘calmness and disturbance’. You can easily picture this scene in a small room full of wires, away from the action, typing away in thoughtful solitude, eager to carry this mission to completion.
RHYPHTE: THE ENTHUSIAST
Rhyphte simply defies definition. Every song I’ve ever heard from him simply radiates emotion, with a natural flow and childlike wonder. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a musical artist so free, and with such mesmerizing texture. Rhyphte’s music is like drawing with chalk on a sidewalk. With ‘Alight in the Dark’, his melodies are like bright colorful lines leading nowhere and everywhere, with splots of little drawings everywhere about a winding path. I’m reminded of childhood memories by a light of simple hope, or maybe the somewhat ephemeral journey. Regardless, I know I want Clark on my team. He’s already on it, actually. Rhyphte writes for this blog! He’s really great! How about we write him in as the reason why we’re taking the gold? Perhaps we’re funding an eclectic, enthusiastic architect – one who wants to help people.
MOONWAVE AUDIO: THE ACROBAT
When all the pieces are in place, Moonwave Audio’s goal is simple: get in, swing around, grab what we’re looking for, and get out. Full of risky, deft maneuvers that pay off, ‘Dimensions Beyond’ features meandering melodies, and risers that ramp up with approaching danger and close calls, only to return to a cool and careful state. Moonwave describes this song’s intent as ‘pushing your limits, and breaking down the boundaries in your world’. Nothing conveys that motive better than how they clearly pushed their limits to create it.
GNARCADE: THE GETAWAY DRIVER
Our final cast member, and the final artist on this compilation, Gnarcade slams and shreds with celebratory spirit. ‘In Full Bloom’ is a joyous piece with infectious instrumentation, and the perfect landscape to show as we drive off into the distance. And seriously, I cannot get enough of those riffs, and that sweet sweet bass tone. It’s also a song about identity, and empowerment, a beautiful way to encapsulate this compilation, and exactly how I’d end the movie of my dreams. Gnarcade describes this as a song ‘that wasnt perfect, but that embraced and kept the imperfections’. I will always love music releases that care about good causes, and compilations that support charity, but Chiptunes4Autism will always stand out to me for its way of helping me understand how interconnected our identities and mindsets are with the music we make.
I don’t know about you, but my musical process is much like a good heist film. You spend a long time planning. Get help from the people around you, and work out the details. But be prepared for life to get in the way, and get ready to improvise, as your execution won’t go exactly as expected. Together we can find new solutions, and enjoy the ride. Imperfections and all.
Also, ‘Ocean’s 10’ hasn’t been done yet.
Someone can pitch this. Just sayin’.