Sup ChipWINners? Welcome back to Quick Shots, the album review column where I take a gander at new releases and throw my fifty cents in on their overall quality. This time around, instead of reviewing albums from a few underdogs in the scene, I’ve taken the time to look over releases from three artists that I first became familiar with because of Chiptunes = WIN! Each of these artists were all featured in ChipWIN Vol. 1 and not only have I loved them all since then, but I’ve seen them continue to grow and change in ways that have made me look at music differently. So without further ado, I’d like for you guys to join me as I take a gander at new music from Lukhash, Whitely, and +Let’s Disinfect!+!
‘The Other Side’ by Lukhash
Kicking this article off in bombastic fashion is Polish native Lukasz Polkwoski, better know as Lukhash. I first became familiar with Lukasz’s high energy music with the track ‘Pixelove‘: a groovy, sexy tune that delivers booty shaking goodness upon every listen. Funky vocal samples, solid drum work, heavy bass, twinkling pulses, and surprisingly complex rhythms and leads for music that’s decidedly electro, ‘Pixelove’ set a high standard for what I would come to expect from Lukhash in the future. It is not an easy track to live up to. However, Lukhash is not just a normal chiptuner. With a solid background ranging from classical tutelage in piano, guitar, music theory and ear training to various professional experiences with rock and metal bands, performing as a solo artist, and as a composer for independent films, Lukhash is the sleepytimejesse of Poland’s chiptune scene. So when I got the chance to listen to ‘The Other Side’, I knew I was in for a treat, and Lukhash once again delivered.
Ranging from bombastic tracks like ‘Another World’ to the synthwave infused ‘Eighties’, from wubby and frenetic songs like ‘Poison’ to Game Boy heavy tracks like ‘Android’, Lukhash has set an album before us that is truly a treat for the ears. Between its tight composition, masterful post production and gorgeous presentation, ‘The Other Side’ might be Lukhash’s strongest LP to date, as well as his most homogeneous.
While there’s certainly nothing wrong with making an album that has a similar sound through and through, I will admit that it was a bit disheartening to not hear any hard hitting guitar on any track of this album. I was strongly looking forward to a song that would combine his electronic and rock sensibilities the way “H8 U 2” did on his previous album, ‘Falling Apart‘. Though this development isn’t entirely surprising, as Lukhash has moved further away from his rock roots over the years, it is still somewhat disappointing to not hear something with his guttural guitar shredding this time around.
Despite this one let down, however, ‘The Other Side’ is still a thoroughly enjoyable album, and is definitely an LP I’m sure sounds even better live than it does through an mp3 player. Combined with the fact that ‘The Other Side’ is both longer and cheaper than ‘Falling Apart’, Lukhash has made it so that his music and presence in the scene is as unavoidable as xyce! If you haven’t jumped on the Lukhash hype train, you are missing out my friends, because you have no excuse to not be partying to Poland’s prince of pulsewaves.
Fave Track: Midnight Lights
Bang for Buck: 4.5/5
Replay Factor: 4.8/5
Overall grade: 4.8/5
Space Romance by Whitely
Up next we have ‘Space Romance’ by Thomas Lowe aka Whitely, a surprisingly young artist from the UK who has managed to make me smile since I first heard his work. With about five years of experience under his belt, Whitely’s raw talent is superseded by his stylistic range, as he has flowed across sub-genres more successfully than most of his peers have. ‘You and Him‘, the track I first heard of his through ChipWIN Vol. 1, seemingly defined Whitely as an artist obsessed with big hall dubstep, as his song turned negative emotions from love soured into a combination of dance hall goodness and moments of inner turmoil. These feelings would get played out strongly in the EP of the same name, but then something happened that seemed to change Whitely’s style — as I knew it — as well as my perception and appreciation of him. That cathartic event was Sea Punk.
Over the next few years, Whitely would release a single, an EP, and an LP that not only allowed him to bloom as an artist, but caused me to fall in love with his work. This is primarily because Whitely, through these Sea Punk inspired collections, presented music that was surprisingly reminiscent of early 2000s trance by artists like Dutch Force, Air Wave, and Mauro Picotto. In fact, while I’ve encountered other artists who occasionally use motifs of trance in their music, I’ve yet to experience someone who loves and uses the atmospheric, spacey sounding buildups of this sub-genre of edm as much as Whitely does. So when, shortly after Lukhash dropped ‘The Other Side’, Whitely released ‘Space Romance’, I was incredibly hyped! It was like experiencing aspects of Vol. 1 and the romanticism of first falling in love with chiptune all over again! So did this new Whitely album live up to expectations?
It did, but in a way I never expected! For as diverse as Whitely is, one thing that did strike me as interesting about him was that he seemed to be following in Sabrepulse‘s footsteps of slowly leaving chiptune. While he still used aspects of it in his music, between 2012 and 2014, Whitely’s music had become much more mainstream and polished. These aren’t bad things at all, as artists are wont to evolve and hop platforms at some point in their careers. But while Sabrepulse has stayed in the realm of higher polish music, only occasionally splicing in his Game Boy with his DAW work, Whitely went back to basics and made a classic LSDJ dance album! My brain exploded into rainbows as soon as ‘Super Rave’ hit me with its ‘HIT IT!’ vocal sample, rippling arpeggios, and high octave melody! The rest of the LP follows suit, creating a synesthetic experience that was sharply reminiscent of work by people like PANDAstar, Kedromelon and Zef! Each track, from the frenetic ‘Iron Fist’ to the funky eponymous album track, the dream inducing ‘Tokyo Sunset’ to Whitely’s collaborative effort with Mizaki, ‘Sugarblast’, all perspire classic Game Boy chiptune in their most carnal form! This culmination of arps, bleeps and waves ended up scratching an itch I didn’t know I had! For all the need for polish, innovation and refinement I’ve come to expect in doing these reviews, Whitely’s ‘Space Romance’ reminded me of the joys a simple LSDJ cart or two can bring, and for that, I’m deeply grateful. Combine these simple joys with the fact that the album is name-your-price and you have an LP I cannot recommend strongly enough. Download this album. Download it now, damn it!
Favorite Track: Tokyo Sunset
Price: Name-Your-Price (Free)
Bang for buck: 5/5
Replay factor: 4.7/5
Overall grade: 4.8/5
Indulgence and Grace by +Let’s Disinfect!+
The third and final artist to be included in this article is a talent that deserves more respect than he gets, produces more music than I can keep up with, and works under almost as many monikers as Carl Peczynski. I’m talking, of course, about Sean Padraic Monistat. This man has contributed music to ChipWIN and its various collections over the years under Sean Monistat, +Let’s Disinfect!+, and Thorazine Unicorn (along with his wife Duchess Wendi and their cohort Rebekah Red). A singer, guitarist, drummer, rapper, producer and all around incredible presence, Sean Monistat was an artist I became familiar with through two contributions he provided to Chiptunes = WIN.
‘Dreaming Machine‘ — a track he submitted via Thorazine Unicorn — is a haunting, darkwave masterpiece that conjures images of classic 80s goth culture. Conversely, ‘This Computer Can Read Lips’ is a solo effort that combines aspects of darkwave with hip hop, making for a track that comes across as a sinister variant of ‘Rain Forest‘ by Paul Hardcastle. Both tracks were incredibly captivating and showed off Sean’s versatility in ways that immediately caught my attention. Over the years, in getting to know Sean better, I’ve been shocked by just how much he’s capable of creating, as he’s done everything from droning, occasionally groovy industrial to covers of 90s alt rock classics, GG Allin tribute albums, and classic, Irish folk music.
Thus, when Sean reached out to me and told me he’d be releasing a new EP through Datathrash Records, I got stoked! A chance to review the work of three artists I learned about because of ChipWIN in one article, and a Datathrash album at that? FUCK YEAH! ‘Bring on the glitch!’ I yelled to myself internally, as I finally sat down to listen to +Let’s Disinfect!+’s new EP. Once again, however, I was caught off guard by Sean’s offering. Despite the fact that this album is a Datathrash release, ‘Indulgence and Grace’ is a decidedly +Let’s Disinfect!+ album and should be approached that way from the get go. This isn’t to say the album doesn’t have it’s share of satisfyingly hard, noisy drums or blaring static and thumping bass, but what is most enjoyable about this EP is that it is a concept album that’s decidedly a piece of art only someone like Sean could produce.
A concept album about the struggles of a fiefdom in medieval England barely scraping by, +Let’s Disinfect!+ successfully combines several aspects of music I’ve heard him perform previously into a deliciously macabre record. From the moment you press play and ‘Scarcity and Violence’ punches you in the gut with its grinding melody, ‘Indulgence and Grace’ tells a tale of personal and societal injustices, righteous indignation, grief, woe, and revenge as villages of serfs come together to take back their dignity in the face of starvation, poverty and famine. As the album progresses, songs like ‘Beyond the Innominate Village’ and ‘Battle of the Chestnuts’ continue to draw from Sean’s punk, noise and alt rock sensibilities, as the rhythms in each song build in tension and aggressiveness, reflecting the increasingly violent struggle for food, life and self worth among a people whose chances of survival are slim to none, regardless of whether they continue to rebel or quit and submit to their seemingly hopeless fates.
As the halfway point of the album is passed, the last two tracks of the album begin and paint a very sinister picture reminiscent of Goya’s ‘Second of May’ and ‘Third of May’, respectively. ‘Indulgence and Grace’ plays out as a revealing perspective shift in the story telling, as the audience learns of dark secrets, willful ignorance, and purposeful suffering inflicted by the nobles of this land on their serfs. They bear witness to the Lord’s insatiable greed and lust for power as he and his house stuffs themselves to bursting off a cornucopia of food that is more than sufficient to keep the poor alive. As this gluttonous display unfolds, small handfuls of knights and servants reach their breaking point and decide it’s time to end the reign of tyranny that has been plaguing the people for so long. Thus, a pact is made among those who would seek justice and the ‘Cult of the Severed Head’ is formed. As the final act develops, the rebels enact their revenge with fervor and bloodlust as the last of each noble is killed violently by a swarm of people they are powerless over, leaving the listener with a sense of purpose, power, and resolve very few concept albums can produce.
+Let’s Disinfect!+ is an artist that isn’t for everyone. Yet, because of his versatility, I believe most can find something they admire about Sean’s body of work. If concept albums, harsh noise, and the desire to kick oppressive governments in the dick repeatedly is something you want from your music, you should definitely check out this album, along with the rest of Datathrash’s catalog. If it isn’t, I still strongly encourage you to check out the rest of Sean’s work. You’re bound to find something that makes you smile.
Fave Track: Beyond the Innonimate Village
Price: Name-Your-Price (Free)
Bang for Buck: 5/5
Replay value: 4.6/5
Overall grade: 4.8/5
That was quite the journey through the past and present with three amazing artists, but unfortunately, it has come to an end. Before we part, I’d like to remind you all to follow all your fave artists on your preferred social media platform of choice to keep up with all their latest shenanigans. Also, don’t forget to keep checking back here on The ChipWIN Blog as we post content three times a week, always doing our best to stay on the pulse of the latest happenings in this dynamic community! Love and peace to you all!
Kuma \m| (=^(T)^=) |m/