Yo, what’s up ChipWINners? Welcome back to Quick Shots: the album review column where I give you the nitty gritty of some of the newest music to hit the scene, then offer you a numerical little tl;dr to help you decide if an album is right for you. This month, I’ll be examining two high energy LPs that showcase some very different talents and styles. One is from a well known artist in the scene, and the other is a new face looking for their time to shine. Let’s not waste anymore time. Grab a seat and some headphones, and get ready to shake that booty, because this month we’re checking out the latest from DJ SUPER SONIC and Katherine Allan!
Sup y’all? =) President Hoodie back with another Hoodie Highlights interview column! Today, I’m beginning a special series that I’ve been excited to get rolling along since MAG 13 wrapped up. Over the next few editions, I’ll be talking to a few key members of what has become the invaluable “support class” of live chipmusic shows: the visualists. Of course, I’m starting it off by talking to none other than the man himself, Pixelseed! Enjoy!
Hey, what’s up everyone?! It’s your boy BronxKuma — Kuma for short — coming at you again with another round of Quick Shots! For those of you who don’t know, Quick Shots is my sporadic album review column in which I take aim at a handful of EPs and LPs that have come out fairly recently, quick fire my impressions about them and discuss whether they’re a solid purchase for those who charge money for their work. This time around, I’ve loaded up four albums I’ve seen come out over the past month or so that are worth talking about, so let’s stack these targets up, lock em in our sights and pull the hammer back, cause its time go time!
Howdy, fellow Carbon based life forms! Now that the cat has been away and the mice have played (wait, is that how the saying goes?), it’s time to administer another dose of Chip Treatment to all my wonderful readers! It’s certainly been some time since I’ve written an album review (apparently I’ve been too busy escaping to MAGFest 12, Frequency 3.0, and Rockage 3.0 these past couple of months), and this is UNACCEPTABLE. However, it is a great pleasure to write this edition on Trey Frey’s newest album, ‘Refresh’, which debuted on Bandcamp February 11, 2014.
Released by Thebasebit Recordings, the bulk of ‘Refresh’ was written between July 2013 and February 2014, and to my surprise, is a product of once countless hours of dissatisfaction in his work, a cessation in music creation altogether, to an eventual life altering experience. Through such experience, his perspective toward life was changed, and he was instilled with a remarkable sense of inspiration to create this very album. While ‘Refresh’ was titled as a reflection of his personal experiences, he also hoped to bring refreshment to chip and electronic music as a whole with this album, which I believe he has so masterfully done.
Playing the main stage chiptune showcase at MAGFest 12 alongside reputable acts such as Auxcide, Awesome Force, and Cheap Dinosaurs, Trey has far exceeded my expectations of what one can create using Gameboy sound chips. ‘Refresh’ is an inspiring collection of tracks; it continues to captivate me with every listen, and instills such excitement for his contributions to the future of chip music. Curious, I asked Trey when his musical journey began, what prompted him to take to composing and producing, and where his skills as a musician arose from. He responded:
I suppose my musical journey began when I was forced into piano lessons at age 8. I fought against it at first, but after a few lessons, I fell in love with learning about and playing music. Even at this young age, I could be found creating short little songs at my parent’s piano, and studied until I was 13, where I developed an interest in punk and hardcore music. During middle school, I took bass guitar lessons while also self-teaching myself guitar, and I joined my first band. Afterward, I continued studying bass and began studying jazz and classic music, where during high school, I played in several jazz groups, as well as in the local university’s orchestra.
When I was in a junior in high school, a friend of mine introduced me to a group called Slagsmalsklubben, an all-male Swedish electronic music group that perform with analog synthesizers and drum machines. Listening to this group for the first time marked a major landmark in my musical life, and I fell head over heels in love with the sound and began delving into all sorts of electronic music genres(…) I came across a video of a Japanese man (who I later discovered is Maru) playing music on a Gameboy on a street for a small crowd; naturally interested in how this was possible, further research led me to 8bitcollective.org where I discovered the program Little Sound DJ. I ordered a cartridge as soon as I could, and “the rest is history” as they say.
For those of you who’ve kept up with this album, you should have taken notice of a very special, stellar track—‘Blvck Lvng’—that features Michigan’s own boaconstructor.
With heavy bass lines, blood-stirring drum kits, and a charming yet haunting melody, ‘Blvck Lving’ is a product of epic proportions. Interested in the conception of this dynamic, I asked Trey to explain his collaboration with boaconstructor and how they were able to create such a stellar track despite geographical differences. Trey responded:
I met Michael (boa) at BRKfest 2013 in Lexington, KY. During the festival, he and I discussed his plans for a new chip music record label that he wanted to call ‘Thebasebit Recordings.’ While I have always enjoyed his music, and felt he has something very unique to bring to the table, I agreed to be released on the label—little did I know at the time that he would become one of my best friends. I wrote the intro and main section of our track ‘Blvck Lvng’ on a whim one day while experimenting with sound synthesis, and after showing the preview to Michael, we both knew it would make an amazing collaborative song. We attempted to create the song from our two separate locations, but thankfully he and I traveled together to Philadelphia in October of 2013 for 8static Festival, and we literally wrote the latter half of the song in the hotel room the night before my performance. As co-founders of Thebasebit Recordings, I have no doubt that Michael and I will continue working on future music together again.
Constantly inspired by musicians both a part of the chipscene (Bit Shifter, Sabrepulse, Henry Homesweet, Anamanaguchi, Knife City, boaconstructor, IAYD, Radlib, and Ultrasyd) and outside of it (Slagsmalsklubben, Mord Fustang, Space Laces, Flying Lotus, Star Slinger, Slow Magic, Com Truise, Gold Panda, and Shigeto) Trey composed ‘Refresh’ using two original Gameboy DMGs synched together running LSDJ, and often performs live using 4 Gameboys linked to his Vestax VMC-004fx DJ mixer. Taking a look back on his debut album, ‘Trey Frey’, which was released in 2010, he remarked that his sound has become more refined since he began his journey in chip music.
I think growing up and maturing helps develop ones sense of musical ‘style’. In 2010, I was 18, and I am now 22. I was absolutely a whole different person four years ago. However, my advice for aspiring musicians? Practice and patience. I spent countless hours of creating music in 2012 that I destroyed—now, I am constantly working on new music (I have a new drum and bass song in the works) as well as a new electro house styled track. I will be playing live A LOT in 2014, and though I cannot make a lot of these appearances public yet, all I can say for sure is that things are going to be awesome!
The album is a non-stop HYPE TRAIN (caps for emphasis), and is truly a product of Trey’s ability to melt your brain over and over. With my favorite track being the title track ‘Refresh’, one can’t help but notice Daft Punk melodies that he has so perfectly intertwined throughout ‘Airglow’. ‘Daisy’, the darker track of the bunch, tickles my senses, and ‘Further’, a bouncy, rhythmic track very similar to early 2000’s Europop, is a perfect precursor into ‘Blvck Lvng’—a track whose towering deep beats and wobbly dubstep—sends you on a thrilling ride to non-stop dance. Heck, even Vratim Clothing used one of his tracks in their promo video here!
While this album can be purchased digitally for $7, I highly recommend dropping a Hamilton—or two!—to buy the CD. Graced beautifully with artwork created by Witchmoss and KeFF, ‘Refresh’ is an album that I have had stuck on repeat.
Hey Guys! Welcome back to RCwK! This time around, I got a hold of an artist I’ve been wanting to chat with for a long time! Sean Monistat is a man of many faces and immeasurable talent. While he’s not quite as prolific as Carl Peczynski, Sean is a similar character in that he does have an act to suit every style of his. So when I reached out to him for an interview, I wasn’t sure which act I was going to get. When he told me which one it was, though, I got super excited! Not only would it offer me a chance to speak with Sean, but also with his wife, Duchess Wendi, and their partner in crime, Rebekah Red. To top it off, it’s an act that is very appropriate for this time of year! Without further ado, I wish all you ChipWINners a Happy Halloween, and present you with a special (trick or) treat: Thorazine Unicorn!
Kuma: Thank you for taking the time to sit down with me for the interview!
Wendi: Thank you for having us!
Kuma: So, lets get this thing started with a question I haven’t asked in a while: who came up with the name for the band and why’d you choose it?
Wendi: Our Personal Astrologer, George Courtney, came up with the name. As soon as it came out of his mouth, we knew it was Magickal.
Kuma: Really? That’s an answer I wasn’t expecting. I was aware you guys were magick practitioners based on conversations you’ve had with mutual friends on Facebook, but wasn’t aware you had a personal astrologer. Does your spirituality play a big part in your music, or is it as playful as it seems on the surface? Tell me, what does your music mean to you guys?
Wendi: Our music is a combination of the spiritual aspects of our personal lives, intertwined with events and things in the universe which we find fascinating, and those things for which we feel passionate. Things from the past, present, and future. This may sound really romantic, but we found that with each other, we could finally express our inner voices.
Rebekah: We actually met because of our love of the unusual, and felt we were destined to make music together.
Kuma:Very nice. That seems to compliment your rather diverse sound. I have to say, my exposure to industrial and goth music, so to speak, is limited, but of what I’ve heard of acts like skinny puppy, bauhaus, etc, they seem to lack the sense of, dare I say funk, you three have. When you guys were crafting your sound, was this something you were planning on? Making goth music that was more approachable, or even danceable?
Sean: We make music that we personally enjoy, like the music that I grew up on. Depeche Mode, Gary Numan, Kraftwerk, combined with the technology that was around during that time. Analog synths and old game systems.
Rebekah: We make music that we like and it’s influenced by a lot of different styles, so when other people find something in it, particularly if it’s not the type of music they usually listen to, that’s very gratifying.
Wendi: I make them listen to the angriest music.
Sean: We don’t plan on sounding like any artist in particular, but i take note of the things that annoy me about certain songs that i love and do what i can to not do that.
Kuma: Hahahahaha! I’d love to find out more about that angriest music later, but for now, I want to go back a little bit to something you said before, about how you guys feel you can best express yourselves when you three are together. What I’d like to know is what it is each of you bring to the table that makes this collective work so well? I don’t just mean in terms of who performs what role on stage, but I mean, emotionally, creatively, what do you guys that the others may not that makes everything fit so well among you three?
Rebekah: I come to music making from more of a singer/songwriter perspective, and working with the tools which Sean and Wendi bring, we are able to make something none of us could make alone. It’s validating to have found people who share ownership and who will let you add to what they have written, and want lyrics about dystopian futures, and lonely space dogs.
Sean: I create songs that express a feeling I have or want to make the audience feel, but I find myself struggling with lyrics and melodies. I felt trapped and thematically obscure before.
Wendi: I’ve been writing poetry since I was very young, but I never showed it to anyone. It was so personal and so private but I have always wanted to share it, but I didn’t know how. I have, with Sean and Rebekah’s help, been able to give my words to other people in a way that doesn’t scare me.
Kuma: Wow, the diversity of that response really made me smile. Although I’m surprised to hear you guys say some of these things!
Wendi, in the couple times I’ve met you, you’ve never come across as anything other than quietly confident. The idea of you seeming scared to share your writing kind of baffles me!
Sean, with how prolific you are and all the musical acts you’re involved with, from +Let’s Disinfect+ to thelonglegs and even TheRaPists, the idea of you feeling thematically stuck when you’ve been so diverse is obscene!
And Rebekah, while I’ve not met you in person, between what I’ve heard of you through the music I’ve heard and what I’m hearing now, you come across as the most steadfast of the group in your vision and what you want to express! You guys really had trouble expressing yourselves without each other? I just…I find that incredibly hard to believe, that despite all this creativity, you guys are all revealing yourselves to be such private, and somewhat inhibited people.
Rebekah: It’s not really that we weren’t able to, I mean it’s not like I’m living under the stairs! But what it looks like when I express myself BY myself, it looks different than this. We’re each parts of the whole, that’s really what I’m saying.
Kuma: You know, I didn’t picture you that way, but now that you said it, I’m compelled to do a bad photoshop of your head super imposed on Harry Potter’s body in his under-the-stairs room.
Reb: That’s pretty great.
Sean: My artistic mission has always been to push things to the extreme, and oftentimes that marginalizes what I do. Good dance music is good dance music, and the songs we create together have a pop appeal that i can’t create on my own.
By the way, I love bad Photoshop.
Wendi: Well, a lot of my lyrics are from really painful, secret times in my life, where no one but my notebooks knew what I was thinking and feeling. I guess I had a shell to retreat to in my writing, and that was very comforting for those times. I definitely did come out of my shell by performing– as a Dominatrix for a time– and then as a puppeteer. I came to find my strength in being on stage. Like, I absolutely do not get stage fright anymore. I just get up there and I’m my True Self.
Kuma: That’s very cool to hear. And that response makes more sense to me, Sean, that in some ways, these lovely young ladies here help reel you in some so you can make a cohesive piece of music together. Wendi’s revelation of her blossoming into actualization through puppetry and Dominance is only more evidence of such.
That being said, lets talk about the album you’ve put so far: Metamortify.
How long did you guys work on that EP? Is there any song one on it that really speaks to you guys individually and as a group as something you’re proud of? has it, now that it’s out there, met your expectations of what you guys wanted from yourselves as musicians?
Sean: I am incredibly proud of it, considering we did it all ourselves. In working together on it so long, the hardest part was deciding when it was finished. We have grown so much in the time we have been together as both musicians and lyricists, that the songs we are currently working on have me indescribably excited for the next release.
Wendi: I’m proud of every song, for sure. They’ve all evolved in their own time and way. Some of them were very different when we first conceived them, but they grew like a chest-burster in Reb’s ribcage.
Rebekah: Picking one song would be like choosing a favorite child. If we wanted children. Which we don’t.
Kuma: But guys: if you have children, you could plump them up and give them to me as a gift, and then I can eat them and make each of you a lovely set of gloves out of their skin! Don’t you want children skin gloves? Don’t you want the cycle of mutual love to grow between us?
Wendi: I don’t know what to say…how thoughtful!!!
Sean: Winter is coming.
Kuma: Winter IS coming, and children skin is the best skin. A second skin, if you will. That being said, when can we expect a second album from you guys? And what is next for Thorazine Unicorn in general?
Kuma: Very nice! Is this your first time performing at this venue? Also, do you have any other shows or appearances lined up in the near future after this? Can we expect to see you three at MAGFest?
Sean: This is actually the first live music performance at Catland, which is a fantastic occult bookstore that we can’t recommend highly enough. The performance space in the large back room is very reminiscent of the underground basement dungeon goth clubs that our music sounds best in.
Rebekah:: After Friday’s show, we have some other irons in the fire, and you may very well see us at the Gaylord!
Kuma: NICE! That being said, Sean, Wendi, Rebekah, it’s a pleasure having you three here with me and getting to know you all better. Is there anything you’d like to say in closing before we wrap things up?
Wendi: Thanks for chatting with us! I’d just like to invite people to let us entertain you! I think we offer something for everyone who likes electronic music.
Rebekah: There are so many different things you can do with this technology, so many ways of shaping a musical landscape. Thank you letting us share some of our vision.
That’s it for this this issue of RCwK! Don’t forget to follow/like/subscribe to Thorazine Unicorn, and if you’re in NYC tomorrow night and need to burn off all that energy from your trick-or-treat induced sugar rush, check them out at Catland at 9pm! Til next time!