Floating through nebulae and flying through space are typically associated with a sense of excitement and discovery, perhaps a sense of wonderment concerning what kind of life may lie beyond our own limited scope. ‘The Signal’, an album written by demoscene and horror movie score-writing veteran Wojciech Golczewski of Poland, provides a stark contrast to the optimistic ventures of aspiring astronauts. It paints a picture that evokes enigmatic and frightful visions of the cold and desolate void that is our universe, interspersed with brief, touching moments of optimism. Before we head off on our excursion, do note that this is an atmospheric, ambient album; this is best listened to in one sitting, preferably in the dark, in order to better experience this artist’s vision. Now, come. The signal beckons us.
Sup boys and girls, it’s your man Kuma! You know, one of the things that I love about the scene is how curious we are about new hardware and software. People of all ages and skill levels are constantly pushing themselves to be more crafty, finding new ways to create music and visuals. It’s really cool. But with new tools being released and updated constantly, making the choice of what to use can be rather daunting. Furthermore, a lot of what’s on the market isn’t worth your time or money. That’s where this article comes in. So You Wanna Make A Chiptune is a column in which myself (and possibly other artists on the blog, as well) will help shine a spotlight on the weapons worth adding to your arsenal, as well as advising against the ones you should avoid! With that said, let’s get things started!
If you’re like me, you’re probably on your phone or tablet a lot. Checking Facebook, listening to Soundcloud, sharing hentai pics of chiptune artists on twitter. Fun stuff, for sure, but did you know you can compose music on your mobile device, too? It’s true! There is a huge gallery of resources at your disposal for music composition on the go, and while there are a lot of different ways to do it, the kind I’m gonna be focusing on today are tone matrix apps.
Tone Matrices are programs that allow you to create music by pressing on buttons within a grid (16×16 is the most common ratio) to create musical patterns that can be played in a sequence for song creation or can allow the user to improvise easily during live performances, much like the Tenori-on by Yamaha. Think of it like a Lite-Brite that makes music. Why am I focusing on these kinds of apps in a scene that focuses heavily on trackers and DAWs? Because not only are tone matrix programs simple, easy and fun to use, but they’re also arguably the most intuitive and unintimidating programs to use.
Starting things off in our article about tone matrix apps is…Tone Matrix. Yeah, that’s what it’s called. Based off the tone matrix program of the same name by Andre Michelle(a Polish producer who created the PC version for use with the online DAW Audiotool), Tone Matrix is exactly what it says it is…and nothing else. Lacking the multi instrumentation, pitch control, scale shifting and pretty much everything that makes the version Andre Michelle made that works as a stand alone browser sequencer (as well as a plugin for Audiotool), Tone Matrix is the most barebones tone matrix composer you’ll find, and honestly, it sucks. With jarringly loud tones that increase in pitch way too much the higher on the scale you go, a dull design, and only two options in the menu available, Tone Matrix is an app to generally stay away from. It’s free, and takes little to no memory, so if you want to play with it just to get your feet wet with the idea of what a tone matrix is, feel free to use it for that. Beyond that, this app is gross and a major disservice to Andre Michelle (whose music I highly recommend listening to).
Breakdown: Functions & Features: 1/5 UI: 3/5 Bang for Buck: 1/5 Reusability: 1/5 Reliability: 1/5 Overall: 1/5
Moving on from Tone Matrix is a program near and dear to my heart called RollingTones. Also inspired by Andre Michelle’s program, RollingTones is everything Tone Matrix should have been but never was. Designed by Czech designer and photographer Vit Hotarek as an homage to Andre’s program, RollingTones is one of the most deceptively powerful tools you will ever find for music creation on the android market. Taking up a measly 5mb, the program features a 16×16 grid, numerous instruments, and several playback and editing options all neatly displayed on the main screen. There are also several other features available within the program that are made available upon pressing the menu button. RollingTones features over 40 different instruments, fully functional saving options (limited only by the amount of space on your device), the ability to insert, copy, paste or delete patterns on the spot, octave shifting, single pattern or full song playback, audio quality output control (all of which save as highly versatile .wav files), tempo shifting ranging from 60-220bpm, a comprehensive help menu, a snappy demo song and 35+ scale types to compose in! The best part of all is that it does all this for free. No ads, no bloatware, no microtransactions. 100% Guile loving, cheeseburger eating, ‘Murikan free. It’s a very versatile program, one that I’ve enjoyed using to perform on Clipstream with, but it certainly isn’t without its problems.
While each song allows you to have up to 99 patterns in it, this total is mathematical and not theoretical, meaning that whether your song is composed of 99 unique, individual patterns, or maybe 10-12 patterns you’ve repeated, as long as that total equals 99 THAT’S IT! Song’s done! Trying to exceed that amount causes RollingTones to crash and can lead to file corruption. Furthermore, while there are numerous options available to you for instrumentation, RollingTones lacks pitch control and modulation for individual instruments, and also doesn’t allow for mixing of different types of the same instrument in a song file. What that means is that if you start composing a song using a square wave, you not only can’t add a triangle wave to the song to add different sounds to it, but trying to do so changes all the notes you inputted using the wav instrument from square waves to triangle waves. It can be a pain in the ass, but exploring limits and finding ways to circumvent and push against them is what chiptune is about, and with RollingTones, it’s definitely possible to do so. Furthermore, while he’s slow to implement changes, Vit Hotarek is a programmer that listens to his audience, and updates the program with new features whenever possible. This leads me to believe this will be a problem of the past with RollingTones given time. Regardless of when this happens, RollingTones is a fun app to use, and I highly recommend playing with it, cause you just might surprise yourself with what you make while using it.
Breakdown: Functions & Features: 4/5 UI: 5/5 Bang for Buck: 4.5/5 Reusability: 4/5 Reliability: 4/5 Overall: 4.25/5
Nanoloop 3.0 for Android
Created by Oliver Wittchow, a programmer and musician based out of Germany, Nanoloop has long been the undersung little brother of the big 3 portable trackers (those trackers being LSDJ, LGPT and Nanoloop), but don’t be fooled: just because it’s been underutilized doesn’t mean it sucks. Whether it’s one of the classic carts or the newest version for Android (and I products, as well. This is the one program on this list that doesn’t discriminate against mobile platforms), Nanoloop is truly a powerhouse to reckon with. Taking the already established simple and powerful design of its predecessors and combining it with the ease of use touch screens offer, Nanoloop is more than just a tool for chiptuners. Between its intuitive 4×4 tone matrix grid, editing options such as pitch, lfo, cutoff and volume control for each instrument, and the ability to use both native instruments and samples for music creation, Nanoloop 3.0 is not only the most powerful option available on this list, it’s arguably now the most versatile of the 3 big trackers, as it’s capable of everything previous iterations of the program could do as well as almost everything RollingTones can do and more. While I will complain that, compared to RollingTones, getting used to the symbols and song creation in NL takes a little bit of getting used to, once you’ve learned how to walk with this bad boy, you’ll be up and running faster than Sean Monistat can put out EPs. If you have $3 US dollars to spare and have even been slightly curious about this program, I’m telling you: take that leap of faith. It is money well spent.
Breakdown: Functions & Features: 5/5 UI: 4.5/5 Bang for Buck: 4.5/5 Reusability: 4.5/5 Reliability: 5/5 Overall Grade: 4.85/5
That does it for this edition of “So You Wanna Make A Chiptune”! Tune in next time as we take the time to review some classic, demoscene style trackers and help you determine what tools will work best for you! Also, don’t forget to check out articles from all of our other amazing talent here, Including Adam Seats, AutoRemi-PK, Professor Oakes, Viridian Forge, Chip Mom, Hoodie, R. Morgan, and all the other talented, wonderful staff here at ChipWIN. Last but not least, regardless of what you do, how you choose to express your creativity or who you choose to share it with, remember, Kuma loves you.
“As always, we’ll reach the other side. As always, I send my best regards. I do not know where I am headed next, but I know that, as always, a great adventure awaits…”
As the year 2013 comes to an end, we’ve covered some seriously incredible artists and their work here on The ChipWIN Blog. It’s amazing how time flies, and I’m happy to say that this has been a HUGE year for the chipmusic community. As many of you know, SMILETRON has been put to rest, so to speak; no more productions will be seen under this alias. However, a new path is being forged by this legendary musician, artist, and wanderer, under the name of Tri Angles. Expressing himself with a new sound, Tri Angles weaves a beautiful, intricate, lo-fi soundscape as a gift from himself to the world with each song he creates. ‘EXILE’ and ‘OUTLAW’ are Tri Angles’ most recent presents to the world, just in time for the holidays.
‘EXILE’ opens with its namesake. The track’s percussive effects are quiet and soothing, never overpowering the chill-out vibes that Tri Angles’ melodies inspire within their listeners. Karle Moulden provides beautiful guitar work for an already awe-inspiring track, and adds to the mood by blending riffs in seamlessly. ‘RETROGRADE’ provides a drum ‘n bass-esque feel to Tri Angles’ signature sound, and ‘HALO (ft. Bubu)’ is an aural experience I won’t soon forget. This track in particular instills a feeling of adventure and longing within me; it reminds me of the many walks in the woods I used to take as a child, and provides a certain sense of wonder for any listener. ‘EXILE’ closes out with ‘TRANSIENCE’, a calming piece that sounds as though it’s straight from a dream. Beautiful chords ring out above an almost near-absent percussion, and as the notes swell, a euphoric sensation arises within its listeners.
‘OUTLAW’, Tri Angles’ most recent single, is a lo-fi drum ‘n bass masterpiece. Opening with a rather straightforward melody, it is quickly changed into something entirely different with the addition of many other instruments. The scratching sounds that appear around the midpoint of the track are a welcome addition to this piece of ambient art, and they leave just as abruptly as they enter, providing for two truly different sections within the song. [Editor’s note: Also, Firefly reference FTW. 8) ]
With Tri Angles having been one of the most influential artists in my life, and, through his previous alias as SMILETRON, one of the first chipmusicians I ever listened to, I’ve always been intrigued by what his musical influences are, and about his musical career as a whole. I reached out to him, and we spoke at length about these things and more. For all of you ChipWINners out there, here’s my exclusive interview with the one and only Tri Angles!
Aydan: First, I wanna say thanks for taking the time out of your day to be willing to do this interview with me. I really appreciate it!
Tri Angles: Of course! It’s my pleasure.
Aydan: I suppose I’ll lead off by asking about your influences. Can you try to describe from where you draw inspiration to make your music?
Tri Angles: Hmmm…from life, I suppose. I’ve always been told that to be a good storyteller, you should write what you know; I try to apply that to music. I write about things I experience, and the ways I view them. I try to put some kind of creative spin on it. I’ve always been of the opinion that for the purest musical output, you have to limit the amount of outside influence coming in, so most of my inspiration comes from life itself, as opposed to say, other musicians, my peers, etc. The vast majority of what I write about comes straight out of my soul.
A lot of it comes straight out of my dreams. I sleep a lot, probably too much. I’m a daydreamer, and a night-dreamer, ha. Always been a little out there. I’ve also been really into this space opera and sci-fi/future western kick lately, and there’s definitely some spillover into what I write.
I guess I try to be a little bit larger than life when I am doing musical things, because that’s what I feel any good storyteller should try to be. You embellish a little, perfect your art, and share it with everyone you can. Past that…just trying to make the coolest sounds that I can!
Aydan: That’s…incredible. Being able to pull that much musical talent without taking much influence from other artists, if any at all, is almost unheard of nowadays. I really respect that! Your music is really inspirational to a lot of people throughout the chipmusic world, myself and Hoodie included, and you’re a really talented musician and artist.
My second question is about the change from your previous alias, SMILETRON, to your new alias, Tri Angles. Can you explain the reasoning behind the change? I personally feel a huge change between SMILETRON’s style, so to speak, and that of Tri Angles.
Tri Angles: Mainly I felt like SMILETRON was a finished story. It felt like the right thing to do, so as hard as it was to let go of my comfort zone, I wrapped up all the loose ends, poured all of my soul into it, and released it into the internet forever. I guess, in some way, that part of me will live forever, and I think that’s a pretty powerful thing.
I really wanted to branch off into new things, experiment with new styles and sounds; my life has been changing pretty dramatically over the last year and I needed a new…direction, I guess. I’m more than a little rebellious at heart and that plays into a lot of it.
At the same time, a lot of it is still the same. I suppose you could say it’s kind of a sequel. I wanted to start a new journey, but in a completely different direction while still retaining everything I had learned and accomplished on the last one. I definitely feel like there is a lot more room for growth and exploration on this current musical trajectory than there was with SMILETRON.
It’s a little sad to say that I wanted to distance myself from being a “chiptune” artist, because…well, for being so closely tied to the chipmusic scene, I probably write the least amount of actual, legitimate chipmusic out of any of my musical peers. I do definitely try to incorporate that mindset into writing new music, though. I have a lot of respect for it, but at the same time I feel it’s been healthy for my musical growth to distance myself from it.
At the same time, I stay close to the chipmusic world because I really do love it, and the people who comprise it. As far as musical “scenes” go, it’s definitely the tightest-knit, most inspiring, community-driven group of musicians I’ve ever come across and it’s amazing to be a part of it, even if I just drift around the fringes these days.
As for how Tri Angles came to be, well…it’s the name I’ve been given. It seemed like the appropriate, natural progression of things. I adopted it wholeheartedly, even into my personal life. A little bit of anonymity is nice.
Aydan: Anonymity is definitely welcome nowadays. One last question, concerning your future forays into music. Are you thinking of taking an even more dynamic change in direction with your music? Or can you give me a hint as to what your future endeavors may entail?
Tri Angles: Honestly, I don’t know! I kind of just take it as it comes. I feel my musical mind being pulled in a lot of different directions, and it’s getting harder and harder to just pick one and follow through. But I’ve been dreaming a lot recently, so much, an almost overpowering amount…so I imagine things will start materializing pretty soon! Probably some familiar sounds, some new sonic territories. I only know to keep moving forward.
Aydan: Well, whichever path you choose to follow, I wish you the best of success.
Tri Angles: Thanks, friend. :)
Aydan: Not a problem, friend. :) Thank you so much for doing this, again!
As Chris noted two months ago, a large part of the experience of listening to Tri Angles’ music is the responsibility of the listener to interpret it and give it a meaning of their own. I truly hope that each and every one of you has gathered something from this, be it insight, inspiration, knowledge, or anything else.
Howdy, Carbon based life forms! Professor Oakes is back to administer another dose of Chip Treatment – so sit down, strap in, and hold on to your butts! No, super serious pro tip… you’re going to need it.
As I’m sure you’ve brushed up on your recent chip releases on account of my awesome colleagues’ (which include DjjD, PixelRecall, and Aydan Scott) write-ups, it’s quite likely that you’ve gotten all starry-eyed and forgot San Francisco’s up-and-coming electronic rock group crashfaster’s newest release ‘Further’, amirite? And if you didn’t, now is the perfect time to develop a little ear bug and listen to it SOME MOAR. ;)
Hitting Bandcamp with a stellar release on November 19, this bumping, 11-track album has been a two year work in progress for crashfaster’s frontman Morgan Tucker, who also heads 8bitSF and monobomb records (along with the help of Richard Alexander ‘minusbaby’ Caraballo). Interested in the coexistence of and how the quality of the production of music affects art, design, and technology, monobomb records is a multi-vocational ‘plastic arts collective’ based in San Francisco with a production annex in Brooklyn, New York, which, when boiled down, makes cool shiz.
Oozing with a bouncy, melodic rhythm, and dripping at the seams with 80s video game culture nostalgia through the use of analog drum machine core, ‘Further’ is a collection of tracks thoughtfully composed in a narrative arc that emerged from ‘the ashes of discarded technology’. As a whole, the never-fleeting feelings of isolation, numbness and emptiness despite tasks being accomplished served as a catalyst to ‘Further’ and helped to inspire Tucker to compose a beautifully written album. Envisioning an explorer, Tucker references the explorer ‘jettisoned into space’ and ‘forced to contemplate his own purpose while dealing with unending solitude, while casting aside his former life and shedding each layer of his humanity in order to find the truth.’ I don’t know about you all, but I know this feeling all too well.
With a wide range of styles and techniques and a wonderful blend of complimentary vocals, ‘Further’ is nothing quite like I’ve ever heard before. With a very suitable entrance for the album as a whole, ‘Launch’ is surely a track to take you on an intergalactic mission through the depths of space and time. While it’s a relatively short track (2:50), ‘Launch’ very perfectly intertwines mission control communication and a sense of countdown as the listener themselves feel like they’re ascending into space with each passing second. ‘Launch’, very appropriately, transitions into ‘Closer’, a track in which I feel to be reminiscent of the feeling when the shuttle finally breaks the thermosphere, reaches 0 G, and breaks off the shuttle boosters. ‘Apex’, which is one of my personal favorite tracks, is also ever so perfect—with incredibly memorable but haunting lyrics. I feel incredibly weightless as if I’m looking down at the sights before my eyes in absolute silence knowing no one can hurt me; however, I suddenly feel like my space travels are up ‘In Flames’ as my ashes are scattered across the universe by the end of ‘Further’.
Without the help of Different Fur Studios during the recording process, Patrick Bischoff-Brown’s production, collaboration with Unwoman, Eric Gottesman, Mr. Spastic on some of the tracks, John Greenham’s album mastering assistance over at Infrasonic Sound, and of course the rest of crashfaster (Devin Nixon, Ryan Case & Keiko Takamura), ‘Further’ would cease to exist. ‘Further’ can be digitally downloaded on crashfaster’s Bandcamp for $7, or you can opt to purchase the compact disc (yes, they still exist)! Hot and fresh from the press and ships out to your door within two days, the CD contains a 20-page booklet featuring artwork from Kristen Adam and gorgeous package design by Minusbaby all for $12.
If that isn’t enough to settle your ear buds, crashfaster is also performing at the DNA Lounge in SF December 6, at Frequency 3.0 in LA on January 17, and SJSU February 7, so JUMP ON THAT.
That’s all folks! Until next time! Professor Oakes signing off!
We here at the Chiptunes = WIN Blog are EXTREMELY happy to be presenting a new guest writer, Aydan Scott, speaking this week about chipbreak gigamoth Kola Kid.
So everyone put down your ‘Get Lucky’ vinyls and give your most raucous and welcoming of applause! Take it away Aydan:
Russian chipartist Kola Kid transforms ideas and themes from numerous genres to create an extremely unique and incredible sound. I discovered Kola Kid through StepMania. Songs by Kola Kid in the game include ‘Can’t Hide Your Love’, ‘Purple Drank’, and ‘Spaceman’, all stepped by chiptune prodigy Kommisar. His first release, ‘Rave to the Grave’, is fast, hard-hitting, and extremely aggressive – the essence of chipbreak. His music calls breakbeat artists such as Venetian Snares and The Flashbulb to mind; it also calls to mind Sabrepulse‘s album ‘Chipbreak Wars’, which is, to me, the defining album of the chipbreak genre.
However, ‘Rave to the Grave’ is not the album that I’m interested in for the sake of this review; I’m going to be reviewing ‘Afterparty’, a much calmer album compared to its predecessor. The drum patterns are reminiscent to those of Sabrepulse, but the melodies used are far less harsh and aggressive in tone. ‘solar flux’is the opening to the album, and its soothing melody flows extremely well against the staticdrum samples. The second track, ‘square spooner fisher pusher’,transitions well from the previous track; the fluidity of the transition is one of the highlights of this album.
The third track, ‘like a robot’, takes on a darker tone, whilst still remaining fairly calm. The rhythm and melodies in this song are particularly memorable, and the choppiness of the vocal sampling is a fantastic addition. ‘0909’ follows, returning to the previous, upbeat tone.The repetition in the beginning sets the listener up for a nice change in the rhythm, and as the melody repeats itself, more and more is layered over it until it climaxes with a somewhat abrupt end.
The final track, ‘lucky 13’, is the most interesting to me. It opens with an incredibly aggressive tone, and once the melody is introduced, the drums back off completely before the two of them join together.I feel as though ‘lucky 13’ could have expanded on its theme just a little bit more, and it could have ended less suddenly; Kola Kid’s intent, however, may very well have been to instil this kind of feeling onto the listener. ‘Afterparty’ is an excellent example of “how to chipbreak”; if you enjoyed Kola Kid’s second release, you can download it in the embed below.