October goes out in a glorious cascade of Norwegian flare with ‘Diafon’ by Vian.
‘Diafon’ by Vian is absolutely, positively guddommelig.
If you, like me, don’t have the pleasure of the ability to understand Norwegian, that’s okay. ‘Diafon’ offers depth beyond understanding the lyrics, part of the charm lies in letting go and allowing Vian to sweep you into their euphoric sound. I almost don’t want to google translate the entire lyric set. ‘Diafon’ is prolific with an expansive compositional structure that forks and turns with deliberate precision, creating pockets of wonder between instantly gripping hooks as transitions tease your expectations. ‘Diafon’ holds so much power in its delivery, yet manages to employ that power in concentrated, intentional doses for maximum impact. Production values are crisp and professional, making ‘Diafon’ a stellar release destined for album of the year status.
Soft swirls of piano, tight drum work, dreamy acoustic guitar, ringing electric guitar, hypnotizing vocals, and fleeting electronica find common ground on Vian’s alternative indie journey of expressive, progressive sound that gels so well together you’d think the band had been together for decades. Tracks range from ethereal alt-folk-electronica to prog-rock power ballads as Vian traverses ‘Diafon’ with confidence and a defiantly strong sense of self.
Last March I wrote that “…we should be so lucky to get a follow-up album in the future” from Marissa Hapeman after reviewing her chiptune debut ‘Pretty in Pixels’. Forget luck. Marissa Hapeman returns with explosive fervour with her second major chip-release ‘Solstice’.
Tease your musical palette with ‘Waiting For Good News’–
–then dive into the full ‘Solstice’ review continued below!
Welcome back to the breakdown of the Chiptunes = WIN: Volume 5 compilation album! PixelRecall here with the esteemed privilege of rounding out the final bundle of tracks along with you! By now I hope you have downloaded the album for yourself (if not, grab it HERE) and I’m sure you have your own thoughts on the final ten tracks of the compilation so let’s jump in and compare notes!
This is one of those moments where we at Chiptunes = WIN felt compelled to break open our scope to bring an album to the forefront that orbits our main focusing sub-genre because when you hear this incredible collection by Col Bennett (featuring several MIND BLOWING collaborations), you’ll be thankful that we made the exception and brought FM-84’s masterful dreamwave artistry to your attention.
Start your ‘Atlas’ journey with ‘Arcade Summer’, a delightful ambient introduction into FM-84’s 80’s synth dreamwave stylings, but be warned that this is only the tip of one magnificent iceberg…
‘ARCADE SUMMER’ by FM-84
There is so much more to love within ‘Atlas’. Continue on through the review below and experience the dreamwave decadence that ‘Atlas’ has to offer…
This three track EP by Jesse W. D. James is an unrelenting wave of innovative chiptune music, artistic expression, and experimental composition.
Jesse W. D. James is a producer/composer with a Bachelor of Music in Piano Performance from Greenville, South Carolina’s Furman University. He has composed video game soundtracks for studios such as Zero Gardens and Plutono, as well as produced music with his dance/progressive band The Fire Tonight. Jesse also has an extensive video archive that features his work on YouTube, including ‘Pixel Tsunami’. (more…)
Nostalgia is a word that gets overused when describing chiptune music.
nos·tal·gia [no-stal-juh, -jee-uh, nuh-] noun
1. A wistful desire to return in thought or in fact to a former time in one’s life, to one’s home or homeland, or to one’s family and friends; a sentimental yearning for the happiness of a former place or time: a nostalgia for his college days.
2. Something that elicits or displays nostalgia.
(I never understood dictionary definitions like #2. It’s like asking someone what they meant and having them just repeat their last sentence.)
Nostalgia is relative.
If you have never ridden in the cab of your mom’s (or dad’s) big rig during a cross country cargo run, you would never look at a big rig stopped beside you at a red light and feelnostalgic about it. To describe Dmitry “C-jeff” Zhemkov’s latest release ‘Big Steel Wheels’ as nostalgic is not only a disservice to the depth of the album but also relies on the fact that you’ve drenched yourself in the cartoons of the 80’s and/or the hair-metal rock ballads that served as their soundtracks. If you hear the words “hair” and “metal” together and think of this, or this, or this, then you are about to journey down a rabbit hole of awesomeness, the likes of which may add a whole new sub-genre to your musical tastes. There are those who will envy you for standing on the doorstep of their own nostalgic golden age. Cherish it. Enjoy the ride.
If you’re the kind of person who feels the warm-and-fuzzies whenever you dust off your copy of “The Transformers: The Movie” to re-experience its mind-blowing soundtrack, then buckle up because them nostalgic feels are incoming.
Film scores from the 80’s are a noted influence for Ubiktune founder C-jeff, as mentioned on the Facebook page for the ‘Big Steel Wheels’ release party, and his deep appreciation for them comes through loud and clear with a masterful display of control within his compositions. ‘Big Steel Wheels’ is much more than a love letter to hair-metal, chiptune and Rocky IV. ‘Big Steel Wheels’ by C-jeff celebrates the best of a bygone era by combining a unique blend of hair-metal, rock, and chiptune to create 13 tracks that will appeal to both the curious newcomer and the die-hard fan.
‘Black Lock’ in particular showcases C-jeff’s expert skill, weaving together inspired electric guitar riffs with a big and bold drum kit while captivating synth tones grab your attention and carry you through every beautifully intricate transition into entirely new explorations that keep you guessing right to the end (which is even more impressive when you realize that ‘Black Lock’ is an 8-minute track.) Sound effects sprinkled throughout the album guide listeners through a musical road-trip, be they big-rig engines kicking off ‘A Thousand Bridges’ or the menacing vocal additions during ‘Boiling Point’ coupled with what can only be described as “the most musical gunshots ever heard” that serve to create a borderline radio-play of desperate cat-and-mouse between riffs and silences. The result is a gripping musical experience that pulls you into the world C-jeff has created within ‘Big Steel Wheels’ that will serve as the gateway album for some, and nostalgia fuel for others.
Dmitry was kind enough to answer a few questions about his journey building ‘Big Steel Wheels’ and that mini-interview continues below:
PixelRecall: Tell me about the moment you decided to create ‘Big Steel Wheels.’
C-jeff: During the summer of last year I was watching the ‘Rocky’ series for the first time in my life. It was a great pleasure to watch it. The music was great. The movies were amazing. And then came ‘Rocky 4’. From the very start I was drawn to the music, but as soon as the training montage scene started, I just couldn’t believe what I was hearing; this section changed everything. The music stylistically was so close for what I love, and combined with the montage scenes, it was just a perfect combination.
After that, I discovered Vince DiCola. Some time later, Dan Behrens (Danimal Cannon) recommended I check out ‘The Transformers: The Movie’ soundtrack, and that completely blew me away.
The music of Vince DiCola was such a big inspiration for me that I instantly started to think about my next album. I became immersed more and more into the movies and the music culture of 80s. As a result, all those influences expanded my work developing original soundtracks, building from my experience creating ‘Preschtale’.
PixelRecall: What was the biggest challenge you faced while creating ‘Big Steel Wheels?’
C-jeff: The biggest challenge was probably to keep the sound more or less consistent from track-to-track, especially when I decided to include such a wide rage of genres.
PixelRecall: Do you have a favourite piece of equipment or software that you used to help create ‘Big Steel Wheels?’
C-jeff: Native Instruments Massive was the thing I was very impressed with. It allowed me to create a huge number of patches that I used throughout the album. While ‘Preschtale’ was mostly sample-based, ‘Big Steel Wheels’ jumps on software synths and I think that it really helped improve my sound.
PixelRecall: What is your personal approach to building a track?
C-jeff: With ‘Big Steel Wheels’ I tried the technique of parallel writing. I started a number of songs, building them to a certain level, and then started another song, working on them in parallel while jumping from one to another and vice versa. For example, ‘The Path of Machines’ was the first track I started for this album, but one of the last ones I finished.
As for the songs themselves, it depends on the situation. Sometimes I just play with ideas and do some sketches, making a couple of patterns. Other times I have a theme or a scene which dictates the vibe.
PixelRecall: Now that ‘Big Steel Wheels’ is released, what’s next for you?
C-jeff: I have a number of ongoing projects. Some of them are just single tracks, which will appear on various releases and compilations. Other ones are bigger releases, such as albums and soundtracks.
We have an album in progress with my friend Megus (with whom, back in 2010, we released Around Past as Teleidofusion), that should appear sometime in 2014.
Also, I’m involved in the creation of a soundtrack for the amazing space shooter/platformer Temporus, developed by Firebelly Studios. I’m really excited to be a part of this project.
PixelRecall: Is there anything your fans may not know about you or about ‘Big Steel Wheels’ that you’d like to reveal?
C-jeff: The creation of Big Steel Wheels took me about 11 long months, so I have a lot of curious stuff to share, which I would like to feature in some kind of a diary someday in the future.
‘Big Steel Wheels’ is polished, layered, and most importantly, welcoming. Download your copy on Bandcamp for $7, climb into the cab of your big rig, and enjoy the ride.
Pixel Recall ~ (R. Morgan Slade) ~ Support the artists you love