Hey, what’s up ChipWINners? It’s your boy BronxKuma, welcoming you back to the blog. This time around, we’re going to be doing something very special, as today I’ll be joining forces with Viridian Forge & Chris Krogsgard to cover the latest release from the label: ‘Forest = ВИН‘!
‘Forest = ВИН’ is a truly noteworthy release because it represents continued success for our collective. Taking the opportunity to work with Kubbi and Agri, the founders of the Russian based Forest net label and long time supporters and partners of ChipWIN, we’ve put together a collection of aria that is truly wonderful. This is something we’re all very proud of, as this stellar accomplishment is the 18th album ChipWIN has released in five years! Consisting of thirteen phenomenal tracks from all over the globe, ‘Forest = ВИН’ is a labor of love that is so absolutely resplendent that we just can’t wait to share with you. So let’s not waste anymore time: sit back, relax, and plug in those headphones: it’s time to go wandering into the Forest.
‘On a Tuesday‘ by Tom Foolery and the Family Jewellery
Kicking the album off in high fashion, Tom Foolery and the Family Jewellery (formerly known as TV Zombies) gets the party started with his bombastic retrowave track ‘On a Tuesday’. Composed entirely in maxYMiser for the Atari 1040STe, this sweet, thumping jam combines retrowave with aspects of big hall and trance to create one of the most energetic album openers I’ve ever heard. With it’s snappy clap samples, deep, chest reverberating bass, and sparkling pulses, ‘On a Tuesday’ legitimately sounds like a track made by better known chip veterans like Trey Frey and Kedromelon. It’s exciting, fun, and honestly makes me feel awful for not having heard of Tom Foolery before now. I take great pride in sniffing out talent to review for the blog, and the fact that Tom Foolery managed to go under my radar hurts. This is especially true as Tom Foolery not only shows off how deftly skilled he is, but he inadvertently made a song that would allow Kubbi and Agri to form one of the best one-two punches to have ever been released on a Chip=WIN album when taken into conjunction with it’s follow up track.
‘NITEMARE‘ by Electric Children
The second track on Forest = ВИН is a true haymaker, as it’s composed by the indomitable Electric Children. I’ve had a long standing admiration for Jack Waterman as an artist, going as far back as when I first got into the scene and saw him perform live alongside artists like Boaconstructor and Vince Kaichan for Frostbyte’s album release party. I also took the time to interview him when his album–‘Year Long Hangover’–came out way back in 2013. Since then, not only has Jack continued to grow as an artist, but he’s maintained a level of consistency among his releases that’s enviable, and this contribution he’s made to Forest = ВИН is no exception. Combining LSDJ and Vengeance drum samples in FL Studio, ‘NITEMARE’ is a fiendishly good track from an artist that has already established himself as one of the best when it comes to getting a crowd jumping. From its pounding kick drums to its snarling wubs, its sick lead to perfectly timed vocal samples, Electric Children shows the world how to get a party going. Combined with its sick drops and Kubbi and Agri’s incredible track placement that pair this with Tom Foolery’s ‘On a Tuesday’, ‘NITEMARE’ is a song that you’re going to want you haunting you for a long time.
‘Sunset Liftoff‘ by Jogurt (Bonus)
Something I personally love is when I can recognize who an artist is right away. Being able to pick up on who is performing from the opening notes is something that makes me grin like an idiot, and very few people do that as well as Jameson Sutton, aka Jogurt (formerly known as Shadix). Having met Jameson a few years back at my first MAGFest, I’ve had ample opportunity to see him grow as a composer over the years. From his lush, orchestral covers of classic VGM to happy chiptune about hedgehogs, Jameson is one of the most accomplished producers I’ve ever known. With his vast understanding of music theory, classical instrumentation and sound design, I can honestly say no one I’ve met in the scene makes use of or has as powerful an understanding of Sega’s YM2612 as Jogurt does. Combining funky bass, snappy drums, and lush guitar amidst a catchy pulse lead, Jogurt crafts music with Sega sounds that would make even The Flight Away jealous. If that isn’t enough to get you to want to listen to and support Jogurt even more, I honestly don’t know what to tell you. You’re only doing yourself a disservice by not following him.
‘Mega Boss‘ by Graz
Another artist who has been impressing me for quite a while, Graz has managed to contribute another song to Chiptunes = WIN in the form of what might be the first true banger of the album. From the opening twinkling harmonies that overlay an incredibly fat, fuzzy bass, to the popping bubble sound effects, slick lasers and bombastic break beats, ‘Mega Boss’ is something that tickles a different kind of nostalgia for me than chiptune. As opposed to recalling days spent Game Boy with my friends or partying to Trey Frey and Bit Shifter as an adult, Graz has reminded me of a deep love I have for break beat music, particularly for songs produced by 1.8.7. This song could just as easily fit in alongside tracks like ‘Pittsburgh’ and ‘San Francisco’ off of 1.8.7.’s ‘Cities Collection’ as it could in this fantastic compilation album. For that rekindling of something I held very passionately to my heart, Graz has my sincerest gratitude, as nothing gets me going quite like proper break beat.
Covering the next four tracks, it’s Wayne Manselle aka ViridianForge!
‘Caustic‘ by Alex Lane
Alex Lane kicks this section off with some serious spooky sounding chips. Tight and tense chords that are in quick turns usurped by bass waves as murky as midnight. Joined by sharply rising arps, its difficult to avoid not being taken by that feeling of being slightly on edge. However, for all of that stress and concern, the flow of the track is simultaneously danceable. For my own experience, I was torn between the urge to be watching the edges of my vision and the need to groove along with the beat, grinding right along through whatever dim path the music is tracing. As if that journey weren’t fascinating enough, its topped off with a sudden positive flourish, briefly climbing from the fog, wrapping the composition with a dab of hope.
‘Minstemann‘ by Fark
‘Minstemann’ hits the ears like a pleasant shock of cool water on a hot day after the previous track. Filled with all the youthful energy that befits the title, Fark’s contribution to the album captures the essence of vibrance and innocence and mixes it with a healthy dash of the zest for life. This is the sort of track that has a chance of encouraging even the bitterest old fart to frolic amongst the grass and trees on a warm spring day. Fark also deserves some serious credit for the skill with which they blend multiple instruments to achieve this effect. Yes, there’s the chiptune every reader of this blog loves, but blending in guitar and piano brings together a totally immersive soundscape.
‘Justified Vindication‘ (Bonus) by Ap0c
Immediately, I was struck at how effectively Ap0c captured a lamentful feeling with a tone as warm as FM tends to be, and impressed again with the expert craftsmanship of the upswing at the thirty second mark. It captures the feel of eyes rising up from the ground, flames behind them, refusing to accept whatever defeat lay in the past. From there, each movement and note stretches upward toward that ‘Justified Vindication’. This track would make an excellent soundtrack to any variety of its titled subject, be it of the grueling training montage variety, or a bloody slog against terrifying odds. The conclusion of the track though, that is what truly hits home. There’s not an epic climax here, no final triumph of fireworks and fanfares. No, there is a sigh of relief and the sweet release of exoneration as the music fades away.
‘Transitway‘ by jmr
Rounding out this chunk of Forest = ВИН!, jmr has put together an easy listening jam that simply flows. With the emotional range of the previous three tracks and the shock of transiting between them, ‘Transitway’ allows a listener to slow down and simply be for just shy for four minutes. Its warm, rolling mix of classic arps, squares and triangles, are sure to bring a smile to one’s lips. Especially as the track subtly ranges hopefully upward as it meanders to its conclusion. Leaving the sensation of a distinct appreciation of the reality that is and is to come buzzing along one’s ears, enjoying the rest of the tracks is just that much easier.
Finishing up the last five tracks of this magnificent comp, it’s Chris Krogsgard!
‘Audience of Plushies‘ by Laffe the Fox
Just over a year ago, I published a glowing review of Laffe the Fox’s delightful bit-pop album, ‘Red Eyes and Grey Skies’. Since then, this talented Russian chiptuner’s creative juices have continued to flow, having just released a follow-up album, ‘The Spotsaver’, via the Cheapbeats netlabel in July as well as the track we’re discussing now, ‘Audience of Plushies’. Composed in FL Studio 9 in front of a live plushie audience, ‘Audience of Plushies’ retains that signature style of bright and happy bit-pop melodies set within a gloomy atmosphere that make this an unmistakable Laffe track. The bassline continuously rises and falls, creating a see-saw effect that carries the low end of this track throughout its running time, while the lead melody soars to ever-increasing heights, which gives the overall soundscape a playful and optimistic vibe. The gloomy atmosphere is applied by attaching a reverb effect to just about every element of ‘Audience of Plushies’, which gives the impression that every note is echoing among the treetops as we dance deeper into the forest.
‘Nellychi‘ by Laamaa
Laamaa is a chiptune composer from Finland that steps up and knocks it out of the park with his contribution to the compilation. Laamaa does an excellent job of subverting the listener’s expectations in ‘Nellychi’. Composed in Renoise 3.1, the track begins by establishing a peaceful tone with a gentle melody set against rolling arpeggios that massage your eardrums. After the first minute, the sharp bassline adopts a somewhat sinister tone before a huge drop that transitions into an intense banger, complete with a thumping dance beat. As the momentum shifts into high gear, the accelerating intensity is punctuated by a bubbly voice that steadily rises in pitch. Midway through, the listener is granted a moment of respite to focus on the peaceful melody that started ‘Nellychi’ before building up steam once again into the track’s second drop. This time around, Laamaa applies additional effects to mix things up, the most effective being an eerie filter that slowly fades the tail end of ‘Nellychi’ into subdued silence that leaves a lasting impression on the listener.
‘Slip‘ by .mpegasus
In the album’s liner notes, .mpegasus describes ‘Slip’ as being a track of two halves. This is clear when listening, as it reminds me of a cantankerous machine that warms up during the first half, before blasting off into the stratosphere in the second. During the first 2 minutes, the central focus is placed on a very pronounced and boisterous bassline that surrounded by experimental blips and effects. During the central transition of this track, the bouncy bassline breaks down in fits and starts, before finally finding its footing and all of the elements of this track coalesce together to become much stronger in force and momentum. The once clunky bassline now has a focused intensity, and the percussive hits on every beat are much stronger as ‘Slip’ speeds along into hyperdrive during its second half. Near the end, reverb is applied to ‘Slip’s high pitched notes, giving it a celestial atmosphere, which gives the impression of having reached the outer reaches of a beautiful starry night.
‘Thriving‘ by Jean of mArc
Among all of the excellent tracks on this album, ‘Thriving’ was one that really struck me hard and left my mouth agape during my first listen through. I have a soft spot for chipmusic that combines chipsounds with the orchestral. What Jean of mArc has composed here is nothing short of resplendent. ‘Thriving’ contains that intangible quality in music that causes a swelling of the breast, and a bright optimism and hope for the future. The playful main chip melody blends perfectly against the supporting orchestra in this piece, and the rising scales bounce effortlessly between piano and pulse waves. The percussion has a very organic sound, and rises in intensity to match the lead melody’s expressive climax. This is the kind of track that you might imagine hearing upon embarking on a new adventure, or finally reaching a destination that you’ve yearned to visit for years. Do yourself a favor and put this track on blast, because ‘Thriving’ is an incredibly strong and inspirational ending to a fantastic compilation.
‘Wildcard‘ by Kubbi (Bonus)
Everyone’s favorite chiptune virtuoso Kubbi grants us one hell of a bonus track with ‘Wildcard’. As the cofounder of the Forest label, this album would not exist were it not in part for his efforts, so it’s only fitting for him to have the final notes of the album. ‘Wildcard’ begins by establishing the main melody that forms the backbone of the overall composition. The first minute has an ethereal and contemplative quality to it, after which the listener is whisked away upon a highly polished and unpredictable musical journey. Sudden stabs, arpeggiated flourishes and percussion hits punctuate every moment and form an experience that is an absolute joy to listen to. We’re then brought back to the melodic backbone, but this time there is a much more lush atmosphere surrounding it, giving ‘Wildcard’ powerful impact and a deep sense of forward momentum. After a peacefully subdued moment, the listener is again thrust headlong into the realm of the unexpected. Kubbi has really perfected this technique of organized chaos. While it’s unpredictable, none of it is jarring or abrasive, and effortlessly transitions back to a peaceful fading melody, reminiscent of a lullaby. All of this is given the sheen gloss of a perfectionist’s production values that makes ‘Wildcard’ and every track on ‘Forest = ВИН!’ a true pleasure to listen to time and time again.