Sup y’all? =) President Hoodie here, terrified to bring you a spooptastic track-by-track review of our debut comp of spoopytunes, ‘HalloWIN‘!
Chances are you’ve already devoured (or been devoured by?) this deliciously scary album upon its release date last Friday. Well, here’s a chance to do such all over again and this time aided by the creepy writing prowess of four of our blog writers. Starting the frightful journey, it’s R. Morgan Slade!
1. ‘Verdict of the cruel Snake King‘ by zabutom
‘Verdict of the cruel Snake King’ opens the gates to this creepy chiptune castle with a quirky take on classic haunting organ melodies. There’s a frankenstein-ean lurch to the tempo that locks ‘Verdict of the cruel Snake King’ in a scrumptious dance of lumbering unease. Playful use of harmony cements ‘Verdict of the cruel Snake King’ in its unnerving setting by filling off-beat moments with one-off and distant effects which spawn a “did you hear that” feeling. Created using Magical 8-Bit PlugIn and VST synths, zabutom absolutely nails the responsibility of setting the tone as the first track on this spooky compilation album with charm and distress…
2. ‘Welcome to Spookyville‘ by Turbo Chip
‘Welcome to Spookyville’ experiments with a high-energy take on All Hallows’ Eve with grungy dives and warbling melodies that are fantastically unsettling. By giving the melody over to a series of chimes, Turbo Chip toys with innocence dangling inches from terror through this extreme juxtaposition. A theremin-like accompaniment breathes down the back of your spine as the coalescence of innocence and terror continues, sewing the contradicting tones closer and closer together until the experiment is complete; a haunting monster cobbled from disjointed parts that breathes life into its beautifully terrifying form…
3. ‘Room 237‘ by Themnotyou
Themnotyou establishes the creep factor instantaneously with low rumbling sweeps and fades accompanied by a constantly descending melody, creating a hard-hitting sense of doubt; the musical expression of losing grip on your own sanity. An intriguing leap into a hopeful melodic interlude dances on the edge of safety, and ‘Room 237’ evolves into a cohesive reflection of past terrors; like the morning after surviving a harrowing night in a murderous motel. Lessons learned and back on the road again, Themnotyou builds the last half of ‘Room 237’ into a welcome respite from distress to survive another trial…
4. ‘Theme of a Witch in Particular‘ by Petriform
Petriform grabs the reins and steers the intro of ‘Theme of a Witch in Particular’ straight off the dirt road and into the terror-soundscape of a predator-infested woods. The pursuit of safe haven is ever present as is the encroaching threat, presented through a constant bait-and-switch of melodic direction and tone to lock you into a sense of predator versus prey. Hissing percussion exemplifies the ever-present threat while ‘Theme of a Witch in Particular’ charges towards its apex, culminating in a sudden cliffhanger that trickles into oblivion as though the forest broke before you to reveal a sheer cliff edge where many before you have been driven to their doom…
5. ‘I AM ZOMBIE‘ by Sam Mulligan
‘I AM ZOMBIE’ made me laugh SO HARD.
I won’t ruin this experience by quoting ANY of the lyrics. What I will say that this personal highlight follows the thought process of a zombie on the hunt for brains, and enjoys a level of self-aware abandon through absolute commitment while revelling in its own absurdity. This song absolutely makes me a fan of Sam Mulligan for comedic chops alone, but ‘I AM ZOMBIE’ is an earworm that will send you on a ravenous search for anyone who hasn’t heard it yet so you can be the first to infect their braaaaaaaains…
Up next, it’s the only man prettier than I am -> BronxKuma!
6. ‘Dead Space‘ by Auxcide
Kicking off my part of the tour through HalloWIN is Auxcide with ‘Dead Space’, a track I’m grateful to be reviewing. Auxcide is an artist I’ve had the pleasure of seeing grow over the years, and while his style has evolved over time, his greatest strength–the ability to establish atmosphere–is in full force here. His inate talent to paint a picture with music makes him the Brian Jacques of chiptune, and it’s a joy to be able to hear his work featured on another compilation of ours. Opening with deep, swelling bass, fuzzy noise and twinkling pulses, this track soon turns into a suspenseful synthwave monster that gives other artists like Slothfella and LoneMoon a considerable run for their money. Featuring a lead that’s a fantastic throwback to scifi and horror of the 80s, ‘Dead Space’ plays out like a missing track from movies like ‘The Running Man’ or ‘Total Recall’. It fits wonderfully right alongside darker, more conceptual music composed by artists like Abducted by Sharks. Ultimately, if you’re looking to scratch that itch for dark, heady, cerebral spooptune, this is the track for you. But if you’re looking for something a little more party, stick around, cause the next track might be just for you.
7. ‘♥︎ノンケの涙‘ by sylcmyk
If Auxcide’s offering was a bit too heavy for you, and you’re in need of something with a bit more of a punch, then sylcmyk’s ‘♥︎ノンケの涙’might be more up your alley. Combining playful triplets, snappy drums, and a lighthearted melody, this song isn’t necessarily spooky, but has just enough of the nostalgiac sounds that are associate with Halloween to make it an appropriate party track for this time of year. Furthermore, the subtle hints of funk amidst this pleasantly electro track are quite similar to LukHash’s earlier offerings to ChipWIN, as the song definitely makes me recall ‘PixeLove’ in strong fashion. This subtle groove amidst a relatively simple melody makes a fantastic dichotomy to ‘Dead Space’. It cleanses the palette and helps the album segue nicely from dark to party in a way that’s enviable. Sylcmyk should be very proud of that, as not only does ‘♥︎ノンケの涙’ stand on it’s own as a solid dance track, but it helps pave the way for one of the hardest hitting tracks HalloWIN has to offer.
8. ‘Don’t Get Me Lit‘ by Graz
Following up sylcmyk’s ‘♥︎ノンケの涙’ in dynamic fashion is Graz with ‘Don’t Get Me Lit’, which clocks in at a sweet 4:20 (LMAO, whats good homie?). Continuing his long tradition of contributing pulse-pounding bangers to ChipWIN, ‘Don’t Get Me Lit’ wastes no time turning into a filthy, grimey, wub filled massacre! Filled with gut-punching vocal samples, nasty wubs, and expertly interwoven yowling over a bed of sharp kicks and snares, Graz once again proves why he is a force to be reckoned with in the scene. Furthermore, this track’s clarity, in conjunction with it’s placement on the album, speaks volumes about the amount of work that went into compiling this LP. Everything from Stemage’s mastering to his joint track placement with President Hoodie displays a level of care that helps HalloWIN stand out among our extensive catalog. Speaking of standouts…
9. ‘Doom Cast‘ by D.B.O.Y.D.
For more than three years, Auxcide held the title of having the longest track to be featured on a ChipWIN compilation. Clocking in at 8:42, ‘Realms’ was a sweeping journey through a desolate, haunted space that was highly redolent of vampire franchises like Castlevania. With its haunting organs, harsh, lonely wind effects, and slow build up into a staggering banger, the track became an instant favorite among fans of ChipWIN Vol. 2. Auxcide’s reign, however, has come to an end. At an astounding 10:24, D.B.O.Y.D.’s ‘Doom Cast’ does a great many of the things that ‘Realms’ did properly, but does them in a way embraces the DMGs even more than Auxcide’s legendary track did. Much like ‘Realms’, ‘Doom Cast’ features a slow, foreboding buildup, eerie noise channel sweeps, but the similarities end when the track opens up in earnest. While ‘Realms’ became a dubstep masterpiece, ‘Doom Cast’ stays much more in the realm of traditional chiptune. This allows the track to play out as if it were a stand-alone piece from a much larger concept album revolving around gothic horror, and results in a listening experience that is astounding. In short, not only has D.B.O.Y.D. successfully usurped Auxcide’s thrown, but he has truly outdone himself with a track that, even on it’s own, gloriously encapsulates a sense of horror on a grand scale.
10. ‘Speak N. Spell’s Spooky Stories – Movie Pitch #1‘ by Pieces of Eight
Not to be outdone, Pieces of Eight wraps up my part of this tour through HalloWIN with ‘Speak N’ Spell’s Spooky Stories – Movie Pitch #1′. This brief piece of music is perhaps one of my favorite tracks on the compilation because it does something that none of the songs on the LP have done to this point: it embodies terror. While the preceding tracks have certainly been suspenseful, grand, foreboding or lit, none of them quite capture the sense of dread that true thrillseekers are after. Pieces of Eight more than makes up for the dearth of true scares on this album by making the experience small, quiet and personal. Playing out like a campfire tale that strikes much too close to home, ‘Movie Pitch #1’ tells the story of a person who is too good to be all that they claim to be. More than the horror of a stalker, more than the disquieting loneliness that comes with facing this threat this menacing, Pieces of Eight makes ‘Movie Pitch #1’ a classic piece of auditory horror because the monster he speaks of is inescapable. It is a presence that is so unassuming that no one would ever even consider this person to be the source of such great violence. But, lo! When the danger is realized, it’s far too late, for he is already among us, and his name is *hurrrrkkkh*!
Since, uh, Kuma seems to be suddenly indisposed, I guess Joe Eidson better take the next five! Good luck, Joe! -hides-
11. ‘BRAAIINS!!!!’ by Zantilla
This chilled-out, jazzy track from Zantilla is a little peak into what a band made up of zombie Cab Calloway, ghoulish Thelonious Monk, and spooky Jaco Pastorius might sound. I really like the psuedo-Leslie rotating speaker effect on the organ patch, and there are some very tasty solos sprinkled around the main riff. The ultra-funky synth bass thumps along for the entire ride, and gives us a few choice licks near the end of the track. Brains, it’s not just for breakfast any more!
12. ‘Chad’s Cool Quest to Spook the Sleepless C64’ by Chain Reaction
Chain Reaction brings the retro sounds of the C64 screaming into the modern age with ‘Chad’s Cool Quest…’, which runs through several styles in its short duration. The opening is quasi-Baroque in the same light as the early Castlevania soundtracks, but quickly evolves into a pulsing dance track with steady bass and percussion. The second ‘Rave From the Grave’ section has some tasty portamento accompaniment with a free, sololistic melody and another funky bassline. The chaotic ‘Boss Battle’ closing section ties the themes together with a rush of energy before arriving with a jolt at the final chord.
13. ‘This is Halloween (feat. Duchess Wendi)’ by Let’s Disinfect!
Lo-fi LSDJ work opens this eerie track, combining floor creaks from Edgar Allen Poe’s house with haunting lyrics delivered by Duchess Wendi. Out of the five tracks in my portion of the review, ‘This is Halloween’ is the least straightforward track in terms of traditional melody and accompaniment. This approach makes it stand out in the mix, as well as providing some authentically creepy sound design. I like the noisy approach and am always a fan of smoothly combining vocals with chip elements, and I enjoy the steady beat that drives the music forward.
14. ‘Night Visions’ by Dya
Dya’s ‘Night Visions’ opens with an intense texture full of stereo panning and pulsing sixteenth notes. The dreamy, shimmering melody that enters at 0:40 adds another layer above the steady accompaniment, and the difference in registers really helps each element stand out in the mix. This isn’t a typical melancholic nocturne, but still manages to nicely convey a sense of darkness and lurking danger. One of my favorite moments on this entire album happens about 2/3 into this track with a tasteful tempo and groove shift – perfectly executed and just the right length compared to the rest of the music.
15. ‘BTZP (Building Tension Zio Porcone)’ by Starving GOGO
Starving GOGO’s ‘BTZP’ is the only 100% LSDJ track in my portion of this compilation review, and it’s a doozy! The music combines a little of the dissonance and texture from Let’s Disinfect! with the chaos and energy from Dya’s previous track, landing nicely in the album placement if you are listening from start to finish. Multiple sections abound, with chaotic, glitchy jams alternating with beautiful melody/accompaniment textures. I love the extreme high register that Starving GOGO explores, and this is another track with an excellent tempo shift near the end. The last couple of seconds are my favorite part of the track, almost a cheeky turn and wave goodbye before suddenly shutting off the Game Boy.
Up last, but certainly not least, it’s ViridianForge!
Thanks for the pass in Joe! If you haven’t crawled under your bed with fright yet dear listener, then sit on through these final five tracks. We might get you there yet.
16. ‘The Candy Corn Witch’ by Aquellex
Contrary to Aquellex’s own opinion, ‘The Candy Corn Witch’ is hardly just an eccentric mess. Instead, I find it to be a fine mix of a touch of haunting faerie tale whimsy, disconcerting noise, and a frenzied pace. Winding its way through the track is a whistling and winding melody that embodies that ‘this is supposed to be spook you out’ character of ancient Halloween cartoons. The potential for cheese is mitigated by the careful introduction of distortion and the noise channel. As the pace picks up, and percussive blasts of noise detonate all around your head, it becomes abundantly clear that this Candy Corn Sorceress is playing for keeps. The shouts of ‘yes’ interspersed throughout the music amplify this, giving the direction the music takes a feel of herding you into a trap. As a bonus, Aquellex has made the source files for this track available on Chiptune Up!, so if you still have your wits about you, go get your learn on.
17. ‘gremlins in the chips’ by b-knox
b-knox kicks the tempo down quite a few notches, hitting my personal favorite sort of creepy sound. Slow and distorted, as if you can’t entirely trust what your senses are telling you. A bad hallucinogenic trip where you just have to trust your gut and hope that the portal to Hell standing in front of you is actually the door to your bedroom. The thematic shifts amplify this keenly. Beginning with a hint of ‘Oh snap, here’s Bowser’, the music changes theme and character multiple times across the track. Slow and stretched, to a moment of surf, to suddenly guitar, to distorted strings of noise fading into the dark. All while the voices in the distance remind you — ‘There’s gremlins in the chips.’
18. ‘Demon Dance Party’ by Tommy Creep
True to name, ‘Demon Dance Party’ kicks the game back up a notch by throwing together the backdrop for a foot stomping, howling into the sky, Samhain stomp around a bonfire. That classic witching hour tension is there at the beginning, but then the snares kick in. The snares are followed by a howl that ushers in a gut wrenchingly deep bass track. It hits hard and unrelentingly, with only the howls of the damned and peeling arps breaking it apart. When the revelry takes a breather about half-way through, that tense core returns, making it pretty obvious that this party is far from over. Another round the bonfire, and I’d be lying to say I wasn’t sorely tempted to stomp around my living room along side them.
19. ‘Oh No You Undeadn’t’ by Swerdmurd
Swerdmurd takes us down a very classic trail with his contribution to the album. As an obsessive fan of Castlevania 3 on the NES, every element of this track brilliantly captures its gothic feel of the valiant, desperate, and possibly vain struggle against the endless hoards of darkness. What sets ‘Oh No You Undeadn’t’ apart from the rest of the tracks I’m reviewing tonight is an element of hope. There’s tension here, and there is a struggle against impossible odds that never relents. However, as the track reaches the height of its tension without resolving, there is also a glimmer of hope that you may just last until the dawn.
20. ‘Final Battle -スペース毛虫との戦い’ by Ap0c
Using the powers of Deflemask to pull together some sick FM synths, Ap0c brings the comp to a close in this ‘Final Battle’. Opening with heavy percussive strikes and unforgiving heavy bass, the listener is immediately put on the defensive. So much so that when the track cut to the Mega Man-esque laser blast at about thirty-five seconds in, I wondered if I’d just died. You’ll have no time for that though, as the music pulls you right back into its rapidly racing stream. Perhaps for a minute the listener is left thinking they have a chance, but when those first hints of a memory long past work their way into the track, you’ll know you’ve just been being toyed with. Its over from there. Beautiful torture as Ap0c’s ghosts of Halloween’s past exquisitely tear you apart, note by note. Then finally, at the very end, you are allowed to expire.
Wait. What’s that sound from the shadows? That faint noise that’s so familiar. Is there something more to ‘HalloWIN’? Dare you delve into the download to check it out…?