Hey everybody! Welcome back to Quick Shots, the album review column where I take aim at some new goodies at you and let you know if you’re getting some serious bang for your buck! This month, I’ve got two snappy EPs that together make a nice little tray of auditory tapas for your every growing aural palette! So please, sit back, relax, and allow me to play waiter as I offer you a few specials from Libla and Klutchmusic!
Hey guys! Welcome back to Quick Shots! I hope this New Year is treating you well and that you guys are pumped and prepped for the upcoming slew of events starting next week! Whether it’s MAGFest or PAXSouth, Frequency or Rockage, the next few weeks are looking fantastic! But if by some chance you aren’t feeling the power of upcoming events surging through your veins, perhaps these two albums up for review will help turn that around! Let’s get started!
Greetings, readers! It’s about that time, eh chaps? While it has certainly felt like an eternity since I wrote my last album review (which you can read HERE), it’s good to be back! As I’m here to administer another dose of Chip Treatment the Professor Oakes way, it is with great pleasure to do so by reviewing ‘papillons’ by xyce—so sit tight and read up!
Released by CheapBeats, the label for the Tokyo-based chiptune and lo-fi event of the same name, ‘papillons’ continues to take the chiptune world by storm with Tom Offringa and Roel Heerspink’s release that hit Bandcamp on June 8, 2013. While the two musicians contribute to chip music as their solo acts xylo and cerror respectively, xyce is incredibly prolific as a duo. Hailing from Holland, the two met on a Dutch online forum (which you can read about all about in the interview with Kuma HERE) and joined forces around 2005/2006. Mustering inspiration that varies from France Gall, The Weepies, Children of Bodom, to other chiptune musicians and the demoscene itself (which Heerspink has been a member of since 2001), this bitpop duo’s album boasts 16 remarkable tracks using various hardware including the Amiga 500 and Atari 1040 STe. Coupled with album artwork by m7kenji—a Japanese game app developer who designed ‘Bugtronica’ and the Blip Festival Tokyo 2011 mobile schedule—xyce takes their listeners on a journey as they push the boundaries of the intersection between old school cracktro melodies and a bouncy Europop flare.
Receiving wide support from Bryan C (bryface), Mark Knight (TDK), and David Thorn (Dasid) on Bandcamp, as well as a listening party via 8 Bit Power Hour on 8bitx.com, ‘papillons’ opens up with ‘cloture de jardin’, which translates to ‘garden fence’. While it’s interesting to take note that the track titles, including the album name itself, are in French, such decision instills an incrediblely airy and flowy vibe that seems to take flight as the album progresses. ‘cloture de jardin’, a wonderful precursor to the latter tracks of the album, was composed using an Open ModPlug Tracker ran on Windows 7 (20 channel.xm at 148kb.) However, while I’m sure knowing each and every channel specifics mean a great deal to many musicians I know, xyce has put forth that by making music on different machines, their focus is always the same—melody—and melody is always key regardless of the channels used. Logistics aside, ‘cloture de jardin’ is a wonderful spring-like tune (which reminds me a lot of TQ-Jam) that is sure to have your body groovin’ in place and foot tapping within the first 30 seconds.
‘rainbow dash!’, xyce’s first collaboration on the album (the other being the ending title track with malmen), features RADix, Jakob Svanholm’s project that has earned him a respectable reputation through composing Amiga tunes in the 1990’s. With a hypnotizing key pattern, ‘rainbow dash!’ has an incredibly distinctive melody that changes form throughout the song. Most accurately compared to a melodic rollercoaster, ‘rainbow dash!’ throws its listeners into a whirlwind of adrenaline-pumping reactions that’s very reminiscent of accompanying a video game player in a side-scrolling running sequence. Notably, ‘rainbow dash!’ builds in tempo very early, levels off midway, and then spirals down the latter half of the track.
‘subsonique deux’, very appropriately mastered near the conclusion of ‘papillons’, is the longest track of the bunch and happens to be my personal favorite. Oozing at the seams with an unforgettable cyberpunk rhythm on the Amiga 500, ‘subsonique deux’ is a wonderful example of xyce’s ability to create melodies and key patterns that are undoubtedly polar opposites of the spring-like tracks such as ‘cloture de jardin’. Within the first 30 seconds, listeners are forced to strap in as they are catapulted into what feels like a high-speed jet race. The track, which formally translates to ‘subsonic two’ in English, breaks out in a fusion of Breakbeat and Drum and Bass kicks and breakdowns similar to that of artists such as Pendulum and The Prodigy around the 1 minute and 45 second mark.
While I have reviewed only three tracks that depict the eclectic style and tone of the album, keep in mind that there are 13 other wonderful ones! That being said, ‘papillons’ can be purchased through Bandcamp digitally for $5, or the hard copy for $10, which ships out to your door within three days. Either which way, this is an album I definitely recommend buying (if you haven’t already!) as I assure you it’ll make its way to your list of top favorites.
That’s all ChipWiners! Until next time on Chip Treatment—Professor Oakes signing off!
Hi peeps, my name’s Morgan and I’m SUPER STOKED to join the bloggers for Chiptunes = WIN and help get more awesome tunes onto your radar. Pleasantries = DONE. Let’s get to the music!
Can chiptune be integrated with acoustic instrumentals for the betterment of ear-holes everywhere? For the answer, look no further than Breakbeat Heartbeat’s latest release HOLD ON.
Hold On has a chill, funky feel. There are no power ballads, no hard-core wub-wubs. What we have here is an album of 9 uplifting tracks melding together a unique blend of chip-funk with classical elements making for an intriguing release that is absolutely worth your time.
What impresses me the most about HOLD ON is how Breakbeat Heartbeat has delivered a musical bob-and-weave of acoustic with electric that ensures both sounds have their day in the sun, but never at the expense of the other. Make no mistake, the choice to combine chiptune bleepy-bloops with deep acoustic sounds is a risky proposition. Too much chip and the instrumentals sound forced. Too much instrumental and the chip comes off as a gimmicky afterthought. Chiptune has the tendency to sound harsh when forced to play nice with traditional instrumentals, but that’s simply not the case here. The result is a unique mix that is polished, elegant and deserves some serious name-your-price love.
HOLD ON shines in the center of a chip/acoustic venn diagram playing off the lighthearted nature of chiptune and a natural depth drawn from classical instruments that offers a lot of room for exploration. Some tracks do less to innovate than others with “The Time Is Right” and “On My Own” offering a consistent loop of chill beats without pushing the envelope. Tracks “Night”, “Roads” and “Flashback” act as the tentpoles of the album, taking the fusion to its peak with an intriguing use of classical violin, piano and bass guitar respectively for a classical/funk/chip mix that underscores Breakbeat Heartbeat’s ability to combine wheelhouses.
(I just Googled wheelhouse and discovered the term is in reference to the individual swinging range or sweet spot within a baseball player’s strike zone. THE MORE YOU KNOW.)
It’s worth mentioning that if you’re unfamiliar with Breakbeat Heartbeat, there are two previous releases that also explore the fusion of chip with acoustic styles available on Breakbeat’s Bandcamp titled 22:06 (which, interesting fact, was originally released on Andrew Kilpatrick’s blog/label The Waveform Generators) and DELTA. It’s fascinating to be able to listen to those two albums and hear the leaps and strides Breakbeat Heartbeat has made honing this unique style. With such growth apparent from these three releases, Breakbeat Heartbeat is definitely a rising talent.
I love the pay-what-you-want business model, by the way. I personally believe that there should not be a financial barrier between people and experiencing music. Supporting the artist if you have the means is absolutely vital and if you can afford it, you should pay them. But with the pay-what-you-want model, that payment is more than a transfer of funds for a product, it’s a “thank you”. I think that’s an important distinction. Music as “the gift given” instead of “the product sold” bridges the gap between artist and fan.
Breakbeat Heartbeat’s HOLD ON is a gift given. Take a listen below, then go say thank you.
Pixel Recall ~ (R. Morgan Slade) ~ Support the artists you love :)