Happy New Year Chipfam! This month, the Forge has been graced with the copy of ‘Genesis’, the debut album from Chronowolf (Mat van Rhoon). Mat’s been writing music since 1997, getting his start on an old Atari 1040ST that he purchased from his school when he was 12. His composition style has leaned to the orchestral since the beginning, but thanks to chancing upon the styling of noted Dragon-rider and friend of the blog Kubbi, Mat has joined the ranks of the Chiptune elite.
His chiptune exploration led to Singularity, his wonderful contribution to Chiptunes=WIN Vol. 4, which I thoroughly enjoyed. The positive response that he got to his early work, including ‘Singularity’, inspired Mat to put together Genesis. Overall, its an innovative melding of an orchestral style with what we know and love of chiptune. Personally, I immensely enjoyed the album, so join me past the fold and get your listen on!
‘Genesis’ is defined as ‘goal of gradually introducing folk to hearing the combination of chiptunes with orchestral music and choir. He approached this by varying the style of the tracks from heavily electronic to heavily orchestral, spending time exploring the space in between. As such, it is worth one’s time to savor every note on this LP, and I encourage the reader to do so. Here, I’ve chosen to highlight the four tracks that really jumped out at me as representative of the solid work Mat’s done in achieving his stated aims.
The choice of ‘Sir Gamesalot‘ to open the album is, quite simply, superb. The composition of this track illustrates all the elements that Chronowolf wanted to showcase with this album. The first fifteen seconds capture a sense of the classic on two levels. The classic that is an original era NES side-scroller opening, and the classic that is a piece of orchestral music that will puff one’s chest with a zest for adventure. Chronowolf then begins weaving in a solid set of modern kicks and snares that stoke the energetic fires of the track. The composition intertwine these themes wonderfully through the next section of the track, dancing with one another, highlighting their respective strengths. Then, in its final minute, Chronowolf’s orchestral roots explode through to the surface, and the track rides out to its conclusion in a proud symphonic fashion.
With its heart-filling swells and driven pace, ‘Genesis‘ is an aptly named track that will kindle an ember in the listener’s heart, and stoke it into full flame. The operatic vocal that introduce the music hook the ear as they blend into some swinging chiptune awesomeness. In the following minute Chronowolf demonstrates his phenomenal musical talent by building some truly inspirational tones from a relatively new media before a series of heralding trumpets are ushered in by a return of the vocals. Blending the chiptune with strings facilitates a smooth transition from the electronic to the classical, which is used with equal talent to create a quiet moment in the track. This moment to breathe builds a bridge to the end of the track, where a strong guitar riff not only serves as a brilliant blend of the classical and electric, but also stokes that initial fire back to life to take the track to its conclusion.
‘The Dry Run (Cry Wolf)‘ takes a more contemplative tone and measured pace than the previous two tracks I’ve highlighted. Chronowolf has allowed himself to fully delve into the electronic side of his influences with this track. This is four minutes of beautiful synth-wave perfectly seasoned with chiptune spice. That said, I believe Chronowolf’s love of film scores and orchestra still shine through in the undertones. For me, ‘The Dry Run‘ immediately drew me back to cheesy 80s sci-fi action movies, specifically the prep before a high stakes action scene. The addition of the Speak & Spell vocaloid issuing commands gave it that specific feel of a cyberpunk training simulator scenario. Truly fitting that mood, the entire track is infused with a sense of focus and preparation, upon which a sense of excitement and trepidation is built as the track draws near to its conclusion.
With ‘Command Module‘, Chronowolf has allowed himself to show off exactly just what he’s capable of with naught but the power of his chips. Musically, this is not just an anthem, its a manifesto. The unrelenting kick marches the music forward from the moment it starts. The rising melodies are not only energetic, but they’re proud and determined. Musically, the entire track serves as the perfect backdrop to the real star here, the Texas Instruments TI99/4A Speech Syntheziser. I was deeply impressed with how Chronowolf used it to construct the vocal component of this track. Not only are the lyrics clear, they come out spoken with firm conviction. I daresay that the TI99/4A was dropping some bars in this track. I don’t know if it was Chronowolf’s intention, but I would be very interested to hear a few more tracks out our synthetic friend, perhaps even a nerdcore throw-down.
Again, I encourage the reader to get over to his Bandcamp and listen to the rest of the tracks on this album. He’s only asking $2 for a copy, and in my humble opinion, that is beyond fair. As first releases go, this is pretty amazing, and I am really looking forward to what Mat brings to my speakers next. While he talks a lot about being influenced by orchestral music and film scores, what I’ve heard here makes me think that the lad has a breadth of talent that will lead to some amazing explorations in chiptune. Look to some great stuff from this guy!
Now get out there, spread the love and make some chip!