I would like to start this article off with an apology. Longtime fans of the blog may know that, generally, if I’m writing a post-event retrospective (i.e. PAX East or MAGFest) I make it a point to not only cover the music but also the various games I played at the event – highlighting indie games is one of my favorite things to do, as it helps smaller devs get some much needed press. Unfortunately, due to my increased duties helping sling merch at Chipspace this year, I was unable to play any games at MAG, so this year’s review is limited to the chiptune showcases that I caught at both Chipspace & main stage. Which isn’t to say there’s not a lot to talk about, because holy balls, there were a lot of awesome showcases at both venues!
As we are now several weeks removed from Super MAGFest 2018 and our various bouts of norovirus and other con-plagues have passed, it’s time to sit down and do the yearly reflection on MAGFest’s chiptune and videogame offerings.
Yo, wassup, ChipWINners, and welcome back to Quick Shots: the monthly album review column where I take aim at the latest the scene has to offer and determine if it’s worth jamming out to or if you should just walk on past it. This month, I’ve got music from an exciting Swedish composer who imbues all his music with radiance and positivity, as well as introspective, complex arias from an artist who’s new to the scene. Both producers bring records to the table that are worth dissecting, so let’s not waste any more time. Sit back, relax, and join me as I pick apart new releases from veteran chip artist nanobii and neophyte Taylor Eruysal.
Another month has passed, good knights of the chiprealm, and that heralds the time in which another musical adventure is shared with you. I recently got wind of DataPort, a monthly chip show held in Portland, Oregon. This month I managed to scrounge enough free time to hop in my car and drive north to check it out. In short? Totally worth it. Everyone within carshot of ol’ stumptown ought to head on over and check it out.
DataPort is put together by the immensely talented Matt Hunter, co-organizer Sasha, and a select team of powerhouse aides. The show originally came into existence in mid 2011, with Matt giving 2 Player Productions (yes, THAT 2 Player Productions) a hand putting together the first shows in the Backspace. Their mission? To bring the love of Chipmusic to the fine citizenry of Portlandia. The stories told paint a beautiful picture, but alas, the Backspace had its own issues, forcing it to close. Left without a regular venue, the event floated in limbo until February of this year. It happened that Matt found himself opening for the band Stepdad, and they loved the chipsounds he was throwing down. They suggested that Matt ought to try reviving DataPort to share the awesome with the world, which brings us to roughly where we stand today.
This month’s show was held at the Hawthorne District‘s historic Alhambra Theater. I cannot stress enough just how welcoming this party was. Before the venue had even opened, Matt spotted my partner and I (thanks fresh ChipWIN merch!) wandering Hawthorne Street, and gave us a heads up on how things would be going down. Once we got inside, between the cozy quarters and the plush leather couch, it was hard not to simply feel right at home. It wasn’t long before the barkeep was serving up beers and the show was getting underway.
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!