Hey Wassup, ChipWINners, and welcome back to Quick Shots! This time around, in the spirit of the holiday weekend coming up, I’ve decided to do a track by track review of a compilation album that’s like auditory fireworks to go with the magic you’ll see in the night sky this Saturday! Showcasing some of the best the scene has to offer (including several artists that are new to me), this collection is something that’s bound to inspire, make you smile, and bring you closer to your loved ones. So turn up the volume, fire up the grill, and pop open a Bud Light, cause it’s time to fap–I mean, it’s time to review the latest Pterodactyl Squad Compo: Baby Pterodactyl! WOOOOO!!!
‘Lush’ by Alex Mauer
Kicking off this awesome 14 track album is chiptune veteran Alex Mauer. A man of many talents including illustration, graphic design, music composition and break dancing. You might remember Alex from my interview where we discussed his career thus far. Continuing to pave a path all his own in the scene, Alex leads the way with ‘Lush’, a masterfully composed piece of music that lives up to it’s title in every aspect. Bubbling arpeggios ripple alongside a dulcet lead, making for a dreamlike experience that will stir the soul of anyone who listens. This song is perfect for holding someone close while reminiscing about about the good old days of chasing fireflies as a kid. It also makes for a wonderful lead-in track, as what follows is one of the coolest tracks I’ve heard in a good while.
‘Couch Sleeper’ by (T_T)b
‘Couch Sleeper’ is a song that made me do a double take. Not because of how good it was (and it is quite good), but because I could’ve sworn I was listening to an early Slime Girls release when I first heard it. With its clever use of the Game Boy’s pulse and wave channels as harmony to go alongside the rhythm of the guitar and drums, (T_T)b presents a tune that invokes the familiarity and comfort that comes with a good sofa bed. From good times with friends playing video games to languid Sunday mornings watching reruns, nights of stumbling home drunk to passionate one night stands, ‘Couch Sleeper’ has come to hold a surprising place in my heart, solidifying (T_T)b as one of the bands I must always have on my mp3 player.
‘Forest of Parasitic Fungus’ by Norrin_Radd
Following up in sinister fashion is Norrin_Radd with ‘Forest of Parasitic Fungus’. A song which appeals to the planeswalker in me by an artist whose name appeals to the Marvel geek in me, Norrin’s foreboding aria instills a sense of danger, reminiscent of awakening on an alien world, only to realize you’re surrounded by danger at every corner. As the song progresses, its syncopated snare drums, heavy bass, and gnarly guitar riffs build, reflecting a sense of helplessness as the danger gets closer. Just when you think you can’t run anymore, the song suddenly stops, making for the auditory equivalent of a creepy pasta, as it leaves a lingering sense of doom. One that, on it’s own, seems to come across as a mercifully brief death for an innocent victim. However, due to clever track placement, the danger only continues, as lpower steps in and takes over in appropriate fashion.
‘Overworld 1’ by lpower
‘Overworld 1’ continues the sense of unease Norrin_Radd started, as it exchanges one sense of danger for another. You may have escaped with your life from the initial threat, but you’re still on a world unknown. As you escape the forest, you find yourself on the edge of a plateau that looks out onto a landscape that’s seemingly both desolate and alive. Anemone-like plants pulsate and blow in the wind as marvelous beasts forage on flora beneath a purple sky with a green sun and blue satellites. For all its wonders, this world is frightening as hell. Your awe of the majesty that surrounds you is cut a sense of of trepidation. Your self preservation instincts kick in, you move forward and find the will to survive and get off this rock. This scene gets played out in magnificent fashion in this song, as lpower’s subdued drums, low, rumbling square waves and an alternating pulsewave panned in just the right way creates an alternating sense of both unease and curiosity, making for some spoopy, Halloween in July vibes. Definitely a song that works year round and should be kept in mind for October.
‘Hangover Apocalypse’ by Please Lose Battle
Continuing the surprisingly eerie ride this album has become is Please Lose Battle with ‘Hangover Apocalypse’. Starting out with a sense of creepiness that’s less 80s horror and more 30s black and white Disney Cartoon, the song opens with a tip-toeing pulsewave that’s reminiscent of someone sneaking into the kitchen for a late night snack. As they open the fridge and reach inside for leftovers with which to make a sandwich, they are unawares of the frightening presence, one that has been crawling behind them silently, watching their every move over their shoulder. The late night muncher turns around to fix his sandwich, comes eye to eye with the creature…and after a delayed reaction, he breaks out of his drunken stupor as all hell breaks loose! A Bugs Bunny-esque chase scene ensues as the melody and rhythm pick up in pace, becoming incredibly lively as pulse wave arpeggios, noise channel drums and bassy tri waves get inter-spliced for a sense of frenzy that ends on a rather playful note, making for one of the most imaginative listening experiences I’ve had in a while.
‘Karakuri Night’ by TQ-Jam
Popping in a combo breaker on the early Halloween celebration is TQ-Jam with the jazzy ‘Karakuri Night’. I’m not sure what puppets have to do with jazz, but god damn if I didn’t think this was a Joshua Morse or Vince Kaichan song upon first hearing it! Not only does ‘Karakuri Night’ scratch that perpetual itch I have for synthy jazz music, it satisfies in a way that can be enjoyed on a holiday weekend such as this. Having fun with your friends barbecuing? Play this song. Making mixed drinks on your stoop with your family? Play this song? On the way back home from an amusement park while fireworks pop in the background? Play this friggin song. It amplifies the magic of any good time and makes everything feel wonderful in ways that, generally speaking, only The Flight Away makes me feel. Well done, TQ-Jam. Well done on giving me summer nostalgia during an already nostalgia inducing time of year. I can’t thank you enough for that, especially since it seems that thanks to EvilWezil, we get one last trip to Halloween Land before the album can continue.
‘My Will Be Done’ by EvilWezil
Coming across less as scary and more as Disney villain song intimidating, ‘My Will Be Done’ is a song by EvilWezil that’s reminiscent of mid 90s alt rock from bands like Garbage that gratifies in ways only a stranger’s Youtube playlist of 1 hit wonders can. Beginning with a sequence that’s slightly anxious, the rhythm builds up as he croons hauntingly over the melody, sending shivers down one’s spine. Its one of the most sexy experiences I’ve ever had while listening to chiptune, as his voice creeps upon my consciousness like someone scratching gently along the back of my nervous system, watching my muscles twitch here and there at their touch. For all the lovely singers and rappers the scene has, the only voice who I can adequately compare this too is HedonismBit, whose own vocals have resonated deeply in my chest during open mic performances I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing front row. If I could get more music like this, from EvilWezil or otherwise, I would be very happy. It would not only make it easier to expose non-chip friends to chiptune, but it would also expose jaded chip friends to the reality that there’s much more to the scene than happy Game Boys and bleepbloops.
‘Meadows of a Dilapidated Utopia’ by Fragger2040
That said, because this is chiptune, happy Game Boys are in abundance, and that’s not a bad thing. After all, where would be without music from games like Mega Man or Power Quest to instill a sense of wonder in us that we’d seek to recreate in our own fashions? We’d be listening to Katy Perry, that’s where we’d be. Because we don’t want any of that, we have an adventurous tune from Fragger2040 kicking off the second half of this compilation. Featuring resplendent wave channels, lowkey drums and a song full of melody the conjures a feeling of romanticism only video games of old can stir up, ‘Meadows of a Dilapidated Utopia’ feels less like a continuation of the spooky theme that’s been so dominant on the album to now and comes across more as a continuation of the world lpower conjured up in his song. It conveys the sense of contentment and inner peace that comes with having overcome a great struggle and finding your way to safety, both physically and emotionally. That’s a feeling I can not only get behind, but gets compounded on as arcadecoma. takes over on the next track.
‘Sonic 2 Epilepsy’ by arcadecoma.
‘Sonic 2 Epilepsy’ doesn’t sound much like a Sonic theme, or even a song that one would encounter on a Genesis/Mega Drive game in the first place. Rather, it’s decidedly Nintendo sounds continue the feeling of contentment and adventure established by Fragger2040, deepening the impression on ones soul that reminds them of what they’ve overcome and fills them with hope for the adventures to come. Snappy drums, stuttering rhythms, and looping melodies that conjure images of running through loop de loops (perhaps the only thing seemingly in tune with the title) makes for an experience that is, for lack of a better word, pleasant. This song is pleasant, and I’m a-okay with that, especially because this song acts as a palette cleanser before the next act.
‘Alien Hand Grenade’ by ChasingBleeps
Having grown tremendously since he first came onto the scene, ChasingBleeps continues to prove why he earned his Best New Artist nomination back in 2012 from WWCA by making a banger of a track in ‘Alien Hand Grenade’. Having seemingly been inspired by the playfully dark antics of DJ-PIE, Chasing Bleeps almost brings us back into creepy, Halloween territory, but keeps shit pumping at a fast enough clip to get people to do something they’ve yet to do with this EP.: Shake dat ass! From it’s heavy bass to snapping rhythm, spacey pulses to chest vibrating wubs, it will take a lot of self control to keep you from working dat booty on the dancefloor! If by some chance Chasing Bleep’s grooves are too mainstream and you like your club to feel more like a moshpit, well hold on to your butts, cause the next song is a fantastic treat.
‘BRK TST’ by Galaxy Wolf
Making a song that harkens back to days of breakbeat, drum and bass, and heavy, hard hitting electronic music everyone who wasn’t into EDM was calling “Techno”, Galaxy Wolf barrages your ears and your very being with the veritable musical assault that is ‘BRK TST’! From the moment the opening break beats hit you, you know you’re in for a body slamming, fist swinging treat. Galaxy Wolf brings more energy, more fire, more raw fury and carnality to this song than any other artist’s offering on this album. If music by artists like Nasenbluten, or any of the other artists from Bloody Fist Records, is your thing, this is the song you’re going to play on repeat all day. When you’ve had your fill of thrashing about, you’re more than welcome to proceed to the next track and have a very different sort of fun time with Videogame Orchestra.
‘Βάζει ο Ντούτσε τη power-up στολή του’ by Videogame Orchestra
So, now that all the hardcore is out of you, and you’ve raged fully, why don’t you join us in the circle around the campfire? We’ve got pita bread, tzatziki, garides saganaki and hell, the smoothest retsina you’ve ever had. After all, when it comes to songs like, ‘Βάζει ο Ντούτσε τη power-up στολή του’ (Duce Puts On His Power-Up Uniform), you’ve gotta celebrate in appropriate fashion. The song is, after all, a souped up, playful, retrobit take on the classic Greek folk song ‘Duce Puts On His Uniform’ that was written during WWII. See what makes this song cool is that, much like Mark Dormin did with his most recent album, Relatives, Videogame Orchestra is sharing their culture in a way that not only preserves tradition, but also makes it accessible for both newer generations and outside cultures looking in. If that isn’t something to make you proud to be an American, proud to be a part of the melting part of culture and diversity that this country is, I don’t know what will. So during this epic weekend, while you’re having your burgers and hotdogs, turn this song on, pop open a bottle of your fave liquor, and remember, someone somewhere, no matter who they are, has a reason to drink and party in their own special way, and that alone is worth celebrating.
‘Nothing Can Be Fixed Here. God, Burn!’ by Marshall Art
Now that our celebration of classic cultural folk music is done, it’s time to get serious, and very few acts in chiptune are as serious as Marshall Art. This deftly skilled duo (who recently celebrated their 4 year anniversary), has not only managed to cross the boundaries of time and space to make music that kicks ass despite the distance between them, but they’ve continued to grow tremendously. Each musical venture they undertake is more progressive and hard hitting than the last. This latest serving, ‘Nothing Can Be Fixed Here. God, Burn!’, is the ultimate testament of their work as a force to reckoned with in the scene. Why’s that? Because this particular version of this awesome fucking song is a live recording from their performance at MAGFest13! Starting out with Streifig’s haunting guitar chords that are highly reminiscent of early work by Metallica, jmr’s deft tracking skills follow suit soon after, and what’s unleashed upon your unsuspecting ears is a song that rivals even amazing tracks like Bit Trash Riot’s ‘Slay the Pumpkin‘ or Jesu’s ‘Dethroned‘! The song takes you on a veritable rollercoaster of emotion that feels like you’ve just awoken to the aftermath of an Apocalypse as the rippling pulsewaves and hard, noisy snares intertwine with increasingly insane guitar riffs which crescendos excitedly. In the end, it culminates into this moment of awesome as jmr yells “GO FUCKING WILD!” as the chiptune part of this epic piece of music glitches out aggressively and Streifig gives one last hard go on his guitar before it all stops! A moment of intense calm overtakes the song, allowing for a moment to breathe and take in the amazing performance you just heard, mimicking the pathos and resignation to the anguish of the world as it is now. The crowd applauds, and a wave of awe washes of you as you, regardless of attendance, have now experienced one of the greatest highs in recent memory at MAGFest.
‘PS’ by Chooshinator
As you come down from the highs of the previous track, Cooshinator comes through and decides, “Hey you know what? It’s party time”. That’s exactly what happens in ‘PS’: a song that feels like the late night after party at the end of MAGFest on Sunday night when the only people who are still around are stragglers and a few staffers who finally get to let their hair down and party with A-Rival and Inverse Phase. It’s a song that, much like that kind of party, is filled with joy, laughter, booty shaking, and good times. At least, for a little while. After a couple minutes of partying hard, drunken stumbling, maybe even a tough fall here or there, the song comes down and the people do as well. It finally hits you that this great moment in time is about to end. Tears fall, hugs are exchanged, and for getting an incredible deluge of feels, you can thank Joe Allen and Jonathan Price, because not only is your holiday weekend ending in a dream like, nostalgic blur of stars and fireworks, but this album is as well, and Cooshinator has lead us out in tremendous fashion.
Thus ends another compilation album that has graced the chiptune scene. While many come and go like good friends like at a festival, Pterodactyl Squad’s ‘Baby Pterodactyl’ has the chops to stay with you for a while. So why don’t you download this album, follow em on social media, and consider donating to them? They’re a pretty kick ass label and they def deserve the love and support for all the hard work they do to help the scene thrive. That said, I hope you guys have enjoyed my track by track review of ‘Baby Pterodactyl’. If you’d like to read more, feel free to peruse the blog for more articles by myself and many other talented people who contribute to the cause that is ChipWIN. If not, eh, that’s your prerogative. Either way, I wish you all the best and hope, regardless of whether you’re an American or otherwise, that you all have a kick ass Independence Day weekend!
Love, peace and happiness from all of us at Chiptunes = WIN!
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