It’s amazing to me how much more rapidly summer pushes forward the second I start to think of how quickly it’s passing. It’ll be August tomorrow, and for some of us, it’ll mean we are moving from the scents of slow summer mornings and freshly cut grass to clean paper and sharpened pencils. For all us New York City folks, it just means the same routine: Escaping the smell of hot garbage to find refuge in tiny apartments where even DMGs seem too big. No matter where you are, though, we have all been graced with the return of 8bitpeoples, hosting Kris Keyser’s new release, ‘Reviver’.
This month on the Blog, I wanted to review a beautiful album written by Australia-based artist and technologist, little-scale. Created by using modular synthesizers, this album works with a niche form of sound design well known to those into various forms of synthesis. I had the opportunity to talk to little-scale this month and it was my mission to get their take on why moving from Gameboys to modular is so appealing, while sharing the specific modules used during the performance of this album.
The world of modular is super in depth, hectic, and beautifully chaotic. Pictured here is a Buchla 200e I grew to get to know and love a few years ago.
Spring marches forward and the month is quicklycomingto an end. Between the extra hour, change of sunlight, and good music, I’m feeling pretty good. This month, I wanted to sharean album with the ChipWIN communitythat was brought to my attention by President Hoodie called ‘Hue’, by MYRONE. While the album is not chiptune, anyone into tracker programming can easily appreciateprogrammed synths and acknowledgethe time spent in recording, mixing, and playing instruments, especially guitar.
IDecade—yet another amazing Italian chipmusician—is a relative newcomer to chiptune. You may have seen him posting his LSDJ tutorial videos around the Facebook group recently, but he started in 2015 using Milkytracker. Since his transition to LSDJ in 2016, he’s been making catchy dance tracks in various genres, and he’s made an immense amount of progress in the 2 short years he’s been releasing musi. With his latest album, ‘Sinergy’—released this past December—he’s ready to set the international chip community on fire.
Happy New Year ChipWINners! The artist that’s firing up my auditory nerves this month really needs no introduction. chibi-tech is a legend in the scene, and someone who’s work was instrumental in sinking Chiptune’s hooks into my heart. Her December release, ‘Psycho Somatic Generation’, was originally an exclusive Kickstarter stretch goal for Bitmap Books’ “NES/Famicom: a visual compendium” 2016 funding drive. Now its available for the whole world to hear, so hop past the fold to get a taste of how delicious these tunes are.
Straight away, it is self-evident that ‘Beyond Bounds‘ was the correct choice to open the album with. Soft, twinkling plucks combined with dreamily flavored square waves conjure a feeling of purposeful centering. A palpable feel of bringing one’s self to rest in light of excitement to come. That peacefulness gives way to a heart fire stoking breakaway mixing that uplifting wind with a crushing bassline and thick snares deeply reminiscent of the NES Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle’s soundtrack. Together, their breakneck speed is given an surf twinge, spurring an exciting adventure feel. These two motifs juggle back and forth for the duration of the track, not only mixing well, but serving as palette cleansers for one another and preparing a listener for wonderful compositions to come.
‘Sapient Amphibians on ATVs‘ elicits a very interesting sort of nostalgia. That fondness for the past mixed with a healthy amount of bitter frustration. Battletoads’ Turbo Tunnel was singularly one of the most infuriating levels I threw myself against as a child, and I’m sure I’m not alone in that feeling. However, the music kept pulling me back in for repeated high speed face splattering collisions with concrete walls. chibi-tech’s style and composition in this track ripped those memories up from the depths violently and wonderfully. The rapid clip to the drums, the jazzy bass tones, the bright and evenly paced melody mixes the obvious homage with chibi-tech’s own unique contributions into something so good that I almost want to play Battletoads again.
‘Smugface Mafia‘ is an excellent complete switch up of style, keeping that toe tapping pace alive, and adding an interesting Prohibition era flavor atop it. Fitting to the title, the track takes a turn for the nefarious, introducing minor chords, strained tones, and plenty of tension. These elements are mixed with enough contrasting lighthearted energy that an element of comedy pokes through in places. The strength of that light-hearted energy ebbs and flows throughout the track, leaving me wondering just how seriously one should take these self-satisfied ne’er do wells. Are they expert rum-runners who will sink you to the bottom of a river, or bumblers just barely staying out of the reach of Johnny Law? Either way, a good bit of music here.
As excellently chosen as its counterpart, ‘Return to Bounds‘ makes for a beautiful close to the album. Not just because it hearkens to the lovely closing of a hard-fought Metroid game, but because chibi-tech’s unique additions to that underlying theme leave a track that is as hopeful for the future as it is a closing to the past, especially when mixed with her signature pacing and crisply hitting instrumentation. This is just shy of five minutes that evokes a tinge of sadness that the album is over, but almost more-so encourages that the ending be accepted with energetic dance. By the end, the phrase ‘See you next mission’ can be seen in a much more eager light.
That’s just a handful of tracks from the album, and they’re all worth listening to. I’d highly suggest ‘Meta Within Meta‘, and ‘Young Crescent‘, as a couple honorable mentions. Regardless, I highly encourage anyone and everyone to pop on over to chibi-tech’s Bandcamp page and pick yourself up a copy of this album to enjoy extensively and repeatedly.
With that, I’m closing the Forge – so get out there, share the love, and enjoy yourselves some Chiptune!
Back in November of 2015, I had the pleasure of talking with Joshua Faulkner and Daniel Romero of the Salt Lake City super synth duo known as Conquer Monster. Their album, ‘Metatransit‘, had just been released the previous month in October, and on top of being incredibly sound design savvy with a variety of instruments, synthesizers, and a C64 on their album the group also performs live and focuses a good portion of their time on reeling listeners in with visuals. Debuting on December 11, 2017, the group has taken one of their tracks ‘Posthuman’ from ‘Metatransit’ and created a retro video featuring the artists in a 90s point-and-click inspired video game.