A fair and wonderful July to one and all of the Chiprealm! This month, I’m excited to be getting a chance to review the three-times wonderful compilation ‘Chip For Change‘. One time for the amazing talents that are present here, both musically and illustratively. A second time for its dedication to bringing positive vibes into the world, and a third time for donating all of its proceeds to the American Civil Liberties Union. Hop on past the fold where I’ll be diving deep into a few of my favorite tracks, and as an added bonus, the curation team behind the album was kind enough to answer a few questions for our reading audience.
Toronto’s Maggic McLean opens the compilation powerfully with ‘Somethin’s Brewing‘. I’m a huge fan of how she’s melded a rapid series of kicks and snares with pensive and mysterious instrumentation in creating this track. Together, they produces an overall sense of confidence and courage in the face of uncertainty. From the very first note of the track, as the will to take action explodes onto the scene, to a pair of powerful moments roughly a third and two-thirds into the track as additional instruments join in to push back the walls of doubt. This is all excellently layered atop the foreboding tones underneath. Neither theme overpowers the other, allowing the listener to be fully aware of their surroundings.
HEYSUEZO takes the artistry in a light direction in ‘Molybdenum‘ by mixing baroque, modern electronic instrumentation, with some heavy chip flavoring on top. The first half of the track feels like an extended warm up for the zaniness to come. HEYSUEZO stretches the ear and mind gently, exploring the combination of chip and classical composition in a way that reminds me very fondly of everything I enjoyed about Chris and Emily Davidson’s OldStyle collaboration. Drifting away quietly into a building drumline at the half-way point, Doc Brown lays all the cards on the table with a potent ‘One point Twenty-One Gigawatts!”. Its full steam ahead from there to the end as the music becomes a full throated crunchy 17th century ballroom dance complete with Tetranominos spinning, Rockmen teleporting, and Jumpmen running until the band takes their curtain call.
Cicada Echo Valley
‘Cicada Echo Valley‘ adds a peaceful moment to breathe to the sonic palette of the compilation. BC Likes You! does a remarkable amount with very little here. The tenor of the instrumentation manages to do almost all the work of the track. As the cricket chirps give way to the warm rumbling bass tones and slow rolling synths, there’s a sense of time itself beginning to grind to a halt. A moment of mindfulness found in the long grasses of a valley at the end of the day, when there’s naught around save yourself and the insects. The instrumentation progresses like breathing until the mind finds its center with the gentle repetitive tones of the piano. The mind manages to stay there for a few precious moments, centered and catching its breath until the din of reality sets back in as the track ends with a close to white noise.
Compilation curator HangOnGetReady has brings a neat and tidy end to the collection with ‘All Together Now‘. I am a big fan of HangOnGetReady’s first release ‘ANYYES‘ and all of that NES soul shines through in this track. ‘All Together Now’ manages to be equal parts closing credits, ballad of friendship, and song of hope. From the very beginning, the drifting pulses, drifting harpeggios, and dreamy duty cycles give the track the spirit that the show is over and everyone is heading home. At the same time, the quick clip of the kicks and claps infuse that spirit with enough energy to remind a listener to keep pressing on. In the transition to the back half of the track, as the instrumentation swells from a moment of claps and pulses really hammers home that sense that the listener is not alone. Taken all together, the music leaves one, and the compilation, ending with a sense of confidence and hope.
When I first heard Chip For Change, it and its message really piqued my interest. Especially as a big fan of the ACLU myself, and knowing that the team behind Extra Guy is made of some seriously solid blokes. With that in mind, when I reached out to them about the review, I asked if they’d be willing to answer a few questions for the listening audience. They were kind enough to oblige.
VF – Who is Extra Guy precisely?
EG – Extra Guy is another name for the guys at Neon Deity Games (Dave Takacs, Garrett Varrin, HangOnGetReady and Wayne Kubiak). Before making games, we used to write about them. The website wasn’t doing much these days, so we decided to re-purpose it for this.
VF – What was the experience of curating Chip for Change like for everyone involved?
EG – I (HangOnGetReady) curated the project, and found the experience to be really rewarding. It was great to bring such a diverse group of artists together. I couldn’t have pulled it off without their amazing contributions, and can’t thank them enough.
VF – What was the most enjoyable part of putting the compilation together for the team?
EG – Wayne Kubiak, who did a bang up job on the art and track order, says: “The most rewarding was really just having a part with so many awesome artists pushing for change, knowing we’re all fighting for positive change.”
VF – Why the ACLU as the charity of choice?
EG – I’ll answer this one in 5 haha
VF – Does Chip for Change have any goals beyond just raising money for the ACLU?
EG – Chip For Change was conceived the day after the 2016 presidential election. I looked around and saw quite a few people in my life were feeling dismayed, helpless and hopeless. I wanted to help somehow, and I figured music was a good way to bring people positive vibes. It’s ‘pay what you want’ because I don’t want anyone who needs a boost to be turned away.
Additionally, I wanted to give an outlet to those who wished to channel their frustration into something positive. The ACLU is an organization that stands against a lot of what people feared the election would bring, so it felt like a natural fit.
VF – Are there any future plans or goals for either Chip for Change or Extra Guy?
EG – There’s not much to discuss on the future of Extra Guy as of yet, but it definitely won’t be the last you hear from us. At the very least I was hoping to do a Volume 2 with even more artists.
VF – Are there any lessons, all in all, that the team took away from the experience?
EG – The biggest lesson I took away from this as a curator and organizer is to have a marketing strategy for release. Your message and product might be amazing, but it can’t do much good if it sits unknown and undiscovered. The other lesson I learned is how much the chip scene cares. Every artist I spoke to was receptive to the idea and wanted to help in whatever way they could, even if they didn’t have the availability to provide a track.
VF – Any final shout outs for our reading audience?
EG – First off, thanks to you guys at Chip=WIN for covering the release and bringing it to your audience. Thanks to that very same audience for reading this far. Please, please grab the tracks and give them a listen even if you can’t donate. This collection exists, first and foremost, to brighten up your day and provide hope. To those who want to donate, we’re just a hair over $250 raised so far, and we’d like to boost it up to over $300 if possible. Every little bit helps.
That’s it folks, the Forge is closed for another spell. If you liked anything you heard on the compilation, or anything you read in the interview, I highly encourage you to pop on over to extraguy.bandcamp.com and pitch in a couple bucks. Every dollar raised goes to the ACLU to help them in their mission “to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties” of everyone in America. So, kind of a cool thing there.
Rock on, make some cool stuff, and enjoy them chiptunes!