- Heyo, ChipWINners! Welcome back to Quick Shots! This month, I’ll be reviewing work from three artists across the creative spectrum who have each brought something rather unique to the table. The first is a debut EP from a chiptuner with EDM leanings. The second is an artist I’ve featured in my interview column who has recently put out two new singles. The third is an offering that skews more towards Nerdcore than chiptune, but was too unique to pass up on sharing with all of you. So lets not waste any more time. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the works of Gigibyte, Thorazine Unicorn, and 8-Bit Mullet.
‘Arrival EP’ by Gigibyte
‘Arrival EP’ is the debut album of Gigibyte, an Ohio native who started out as a Youtuber before getting into music production. While they don’t seem to have been a prolific video producer, the little content that is there does reveal a great deal about Gigibyte’s personal preferences in music and media, foreshadowing what one can expect from this record: feel good EDM. ‘Arrival EP’ is unabashedly sincere and straightforward in its expression of love for video games and mainstream dance music, and this simplicity makes Gigibyte’s entry into the scene enjoyable. Combine this with their proclivity for layering the warm, dreamy melodies of their music with pristine piano work, and the result is an album that’s highly reminiscent of music heard in rhythm games like Geometry Dash or AudioShield. Early tracks such as ‘They Came To Dance’ or ‘Nightfall’ have simple, infectious melodies that’ll easily have you tapping your toes, but never to the point where you feel overwhelmed. The experience is akin to hearing a really cool, open license track on Youtuber’s opening credits before their video starts in earnest. You’ll probably enjoy what you’re listening to, but I doubt you’ll drop everything you’re doing at that moment to find out what that song is because you absolutely need it. This in itself isn’t a bad thing though, because while Gigibyte may not be making bangers, they do manage to incorporate some cool moments in their songs to break up the monotony of what you’re hearing.
One moment that stands out in particular is a bridge during ‘Tales of the Ancients’, in which Gigi transitions from a funky slap bass solo into a thirty-second piano solo that features some nice jazz chord progressions over a samba beat before the last drop of the track. However, moments like this will also make you wonder why Gigibyte chose to present ‘Arrival EP’ as a concept album. While all the tracks are competent and enjoyable, only the opening and closing tracks (not including the bonus eighth track) feel like they’re related in any way to what the title implies. It’s a bit of a let down, because to have an album based on such a solid premise that doesn’t properly convey the story that’s implied by the titles of the tracks leaves one feeling a bit empty-handed, even if all the tracks are pleasant to listen to.
That aside, ‘Arrival EP’ is a fine debut. While it may not bring anything new to the table, those who find joy in rhythm games, particularly the first iteration of Geometry Dash, will find Gigibyte’s introductory album rather enjoyable, and should definitely look forward to hearing more from them in the future.
Favorite Track: ‘Departure’
Bang for Buck: 3.5/5
Replay Value: 3.5/5
Overall Grade: 3.5/5
‘Black Hole Jam’ & ‘Big Bang’ by Thorazine Unicorn
Up next for review are two new singles from Thorazine Unicorn. If the name sounds familiar, it’s because they’ve been featured on ChipWIN before, both on our very first compilation and also on the blog. A trio that combines Sean Monistat’s pop sensibilities, Ducchess Wendi’s dark wave proclivities and Rebekah Red’s haunting lyricism into a tightly knit unit, Thorazine Unicorn is an act I’ve had a lot of respect and admiration for both and off stage, as they’ve been a mainstay of East Coast chip scene since before I became embroiled in it back in late 2011/early 2012. Their ability to play off each other’s strengths and enhance them, combined with their enthusiasm, style and stage presence made them one of my favorite acts in the community, and I eagerly awaited their new arrivals with bated breath. This is why I’m a little disappointed by the two recent offerings TxUx has put out. Providing two singles released separately over the course of two days, Thorazine Unicorn’s newest tracks leave a mixed impression on their audience, particularly myself. I’ll start with ‘Black Hole Jam’. ‘Black Hole Jam’ is a song I’m actually rather fond of. It’s stylish, haunting, and absolutely sexy, oozing with a classic style and sensibility of 80s Goth culture. The sparse guitar chords add an atmosphere to the synth work and drums without overpowering them, allowing the song to show of the capabilities of Korg’s DS-10 software nicely. This also allows Wendi and Rebekah’s voices to flood the senses of their audience, overwhelming them with sensuality and confidence that exudes a sense of Dominance which is absolutely irresistible. It’s a phenomenal piece of lofi industrial music that I would quickly point to as an introduction to Thorazine Unicorn’s work.
If by now you’re wondering what I’m disappointed by with this track, it’s its release date. ‘Black Hole Jam’ is a song I have a lot of nostalgia for because I got to see it performed live at one of the last Pulsewave shows I went to after having spent the time prior to that event with Thorazine Unicorn drinking and eating at a German beer hall. Everything I love about the track was an eleven out of ten because TxUx really knows how to work a stage, and getting to see and hear Wendi and Rebekah’s on stage chemistry was something really special. The thing is, that was two years ago, and while I know good things come to those who wait, it bothers me that it took this long to release ‘Black Hole Jam’ as a single. If it had been included with a new EP or LP, I’d have been okay with waiting, but the fact that ‘Black Hole Jam’ wasn’t, at the very least, packaged with ‘Big Bang’ seems like a strange move. But perhaps it may have been for the best, because while not a terrible song, ‘Big Bang’ is not nearly the crowd-pleaser ‘Black Hole Jam’ is. The reason for that is, unfortunately, the use of LSDJ over Korg DS-10 in the track. On a technical level, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the tracker work in this song. The drum fills are solid, the use of noise and bass are on point, and Sean, as always, knows how to work his guitar in conjunction with LSDJ to make for a tight composition. The problem comes from the sound of LSDJ itself. While I’ve heard many an artist use LSDJ to make some incredibly diverse music, Thorazine Unicorn’s style lends itself more to the cleaner, polished tonality of the DS-10 than they do to LSDJ, which lends itself more towards Sean’s solo work as a punk rock act. This is a crying shame, because everything else about the song is on point. Perhaps if they reworked the song to include some DS-10 with the LSDJ or just replace the latter with the former altogether, it would be a much more solid piece, but as it stands, ‘Big Bang’ is actually held back by the staticy sound of LSDJ from its true potential.
All in all, these aren’t bad releases from TxUx, and I’m glad to see them putting out music again. However, the decision to release these tracks separately from one another, as well as the fact that one of the tracks is hampered by its chosen form of instrumentation is somewhat disappointing. I would still suggest checking them out, as I love TxUx and support what they do, but I can’t help but be a little saddened by how little is on offer from them. I can only hope Sean’s recent teasing of “Big News” for the band on his Facebook page as of late makes up for this underwhelming release.
Fave Track: ‘Black Hole Jam’
Bang for Buck: 3/5
Replay Value: 5/5 for ‘Black Hole Jam, 3/5 for ‘Big Bang’
Overall Grade: 3.6/5
‘Latchkey Kid Mixtape Vol. 1’ by 8-Bit Mullet
Last up for review is an album that is admittedly more hip hop and nerdcore than it is chiptune, but after discussing it with Hoodie and really getting a feel for this album, we both agreed it was too damn good to not share and throw some love towards. Featuring seventeen tracks from various artists (one of those tracks being a complete, unbroken mix of all the songs in its entirety) the retro loving DJ from Richmond, VA that calls himself 8-Bit Mullet has thrown together a mix of songs that revel in nostalgia and use samples from pop culture staples to make something that’s both bodacious and poignant. Often times, it seems when we come across aspects of our past in pop culture, especially online via Facebook, Twitter and Youtube, these presentations of our childhood are double-dipped and deep-fried with layers of modern style so topical and current that they often come across as cynical. Whether that cynicism is intentional or incidental, it can be overwhelming, and even depressing, to be reminded on a daily basis that not only are we aging, but that we live in a strange time in which we seem stuck between trying to move forward and holding on to the past, making for what feels like an over-extended adolescence. It’s a boggling, infuriating phenomenon to be consciously aware of, which is why 8-Bit Mullet’s take on the matter is so refreshing. While it is true that his turntablism, combined with the highly polished production of each of the artists he features in this mix are thoroughly modern, 8BM presents this mix with a sincerity and emotional earnestness that is captivating, charming, hilarious, and at times, even tear-jerking. You see, ‘Latchkey Kid’ doesn’t shy away from the past, but it doesn’t attempt to shove it down your throat like a Buzzfeed article counting down twenty songs from twenty years ago with the subtitle ‘Feeling Old Yet?’, either. Rather, 8-Bit Mullet has found a collection of music that takes care to honor the source materials they draw inspiration from, and has put them together in such a way to make the listening experience touching. Therapeutic, even.
From the opening track, which features Jae Enceeti’s clever use of Tony’s confession to Angela in ‘Who’s The Boss’ to create emotional intensity, to the hilarious transition from YeknoMusic’s heart wrenching remix of the ‘Cheers’ theme song to Strazdine’s ‘Seinfeld’ hip hop instrumental, 8-Bit Mullet’s track placement is hard to beat. Each song flows into the other as seamlessly as Primetime TV show blocks spent with your favorite TV families did. In doing so, they remind you that, whether you spent those years watching the shows with your family or alone while waiting for them to come back home, you weren’t truly alone. All over the country, there were people like you doing the same thing: eating Chinese Take-Out, playing with their toys or their siblings, and laughing at Urkel’s latest invention infuriating Carl Winslow, and in some way, helping you to form memories and values that helped you become who you are today. Even if some of these shows mean different things to you individually, it’s obvious that 8-Bit Mullet is astutely aware of the importance these shows have, even to this day, and has put an incredible amount of care into putting this collection together. So much so that, in that struggle to cling to the past and move towards the future, 8-Bit Mullet offers a message of hope. Even if the media we consume and how we do so is vastly different from what we grew up with, there are Latchkey Kids like us all over the world to this day, all of whom are doing and feeling the same things we did in their own way. If those kids can find things to find joy in the way we did, then maybe it’s okay take a moment to remember the old days to help us move forward, especially if it means what we do now helps give those new Latchkey Kids a chance to feel the way we do now.
If you’re in the mood for some good hip hop, enjoy a display the more subtle aspects of turntablism, or honestly, if you need a good cry via a trip down memory lane, download this mix and show 8-Bit Mullet some love. He definitely deserves the support after putting together what might be the most heartfelt release I’ve ever reviewed for the blog.
This album doesn’t get a receive a rating. It’s too good for one.
Well, folks, that does it for this month’s edition of Quick Shots. I hope you enjoyed what I presented to you. If you liked any of the artists featured in this article, feel free to follow them on their respective social media accounts to keep up with their latest shenanigans. I also encourage you guys to keep up with the blog, as we regularly put out new content to help you keep up with the latest and greatest the scene has to offer. Last but not least, if you’re an artist, musician, visualist, DJ or writer looking to get noticed in the scene, keep doing what you do. You never know when a certain bear might notice you.
Love and Peace.
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