Always witty and to the point, this month’s The Overworld guest once said about hardware limitations “Challenge is the fuel that turns the cogs of creativity”.
Born in Buenos Aires in the year 1981, Uctumi is an Argentinian musician that began composing tracker music in 1996. Very active in the current local demoscene, he shares his views of Chiptune music and innovation in general in this interview.
Ciro Mendoza is, in his everyday life, a 37 year old Information Technology professor, Software Developer and a Student of Multimedia and Sound and image careers. From the bowels of the west of Buenos Aires, Merlo, he can never stay still: he has also worked as a columnist for the video games section at a local culture mag known as ‘Los Inrockuptibles’ (a branch that previously existed in Argentina, that stemmed from the french magazine ‘Les Inrockuptibles‘) and participated in a project (that never came to fruition) trying to develop a game based in the popular argentinian comic book “El Eternauta” (The Eternaut).
With his chiptune project, going by the name of Cinematronic, all of this geeky exterior explodes into a punkish rage of noise, as I realized when witnessing his live shows. He is everything but meek. He sometimes makes me wonder what would have happened if The Stooges had incorporated chiptune music created to go alongside to the beats of Iggy’s frenetic and contorsionated stage moves from the 70’s.
Sup, ChipWINners! Welcome back to Quick Shots: the album review column in which I break down the finer aspects of an album, then give a quick and dirtyTL;DR at the end to help you decide if a new record is worth your time. This month, I’ve got two albums up on the chopping block. One of them is from an artist I’ve reviewed previously whose work has taken a very drastic shift, the other is from a well respected name in the scene who’s decided to do something a little different from their usual fair. Let’s not waste anymore time. Sit back, relax, and turn up the volume as I take the time to review the latest from Slothfella and Ovenrake’s side project: Boys Club!
Hey wassup ChipWINners! Welcome back to Quick Shots: the album review column in which I break down the highs and lows of new releases, then give you a numerical TL;DR to help you decide which new releases give you the most bang for your buck! This week, I’ve got two albums that are very much skirting the fringes of what can be considered chiptune. But, they’reboth incredibly bodacious records from two rad artists thatyou guys should be paying attention to. So if you’re in the mood for something new, straps yourselves in and take a ride with a black guy as we check out new music from Hyperultra and Slothfella!
Sup y’all! It’s your homeboy Kuma comin’ at ya with something a little different this time around! Quick Shots is my new review column that focuses primarily on lesser-known and up & coming talent, a handful at a time! Here’s how it works: each album listed is given a paragraph or two of breakdown, emphasizing their strengths and weaknesses. These paragraphs are then followed up with a couple stats, such as cost, replay value, and an overall grade that reflects the thoughts expressed in the breakdown. All that info is designed to help you determine if an album is worth your time and your money, because while all the artists I’ll review deserve some recognition, I know damn well that #thestruggleisreal and #timeismoney! So let’s not waste any more time! Come join me as I review work by Tommy TSW, Toni Leys, Jonocade, MissingN0 and Yerzmyey!
Tommy TSW’s ‘TSW’
TSW’s self-titled debut album is a surprisingly enjoyable ride. An LP composed of 17 songs, most of which are 2 minutes long, the album comes across as Tommy’s attempts to catch fireflies in a mason jar and share the nostalgia-inducing luminescence with everyone, and he succeeds in doing so! Many of the songs on the album mimic that special magic lightning bugs have: their glow enchanting those who witness them briefly, only to fade away, leaving you in awe. Similarly, each melody triggers its intended emotional response successfully, but all these moments pass quickly, so as not to be overwhelming. This allows TSW to use the album as a sort of portfolio, allowing him to showcase his various talents so that he can pursue his dream of making a game soundtrack. From the playful opening track ‘Back Again’ to the very Adult Swim sounding ‘Pop Pop Game Start!’, TSW is an astoundingly diverse producer who’s definitely worth a listen, even if he himself feels that he has a lot more hurdles to overcome.
Fave song/s: Pop Pop Game Start!, Xvenus, Moving on
Price: $2 AU ($1.85 USA)
Bang for Buck: 5/5
Replay Factor: 4/5
Overall Grade: 4/5
What’s presented as a concept album about an ancient and powerful ship via a dramatic intro track is actually a deceptive cover for Toni and his numerous friends featured on the album (a solid two thirds of the album feature guest artists!) to have fun making the kind of chiptune I’m a sucker for: chiptune you can fucking party to! The album does this by blending traditional fare many of us grew up with in our vgm, such as r&b and new jack swing, with more modern offerings such as trap, electro and trance. The result is an EP that’s highly reminiscent of releases like Joshua Morse’s Lunch Bug and Ben Briggs’ Mystery Gift. You can just as easily groove to this awesome album on the dancefloor as you can just chill and bob your head to it on the train ride back home from work! That said, this album purposefully (to my chagrin) suffers the shortcoming of brevity, mirroring the tragic, mysterious fate of The Thunder Launcher! It’s a shame too, because there’s clearly an awesome world looking to be more fleshed out via Toni’s music, but you won’t be getting any more of it from the last remaining artifact of that legendary ship: the mysterious AI known as Thiele.
Fave song/s: Seventh Town
Bang for Buck: 4/5
Replay Factor: 4.5/5
Overall Grade: 4/5
Jonocade is an artist who, by his own admission, has only been producing chiptune for about a year. While I don’t know if he has any prior musical experience, what is apparent is that Jonocade has talent. Building on his first EP of the same name, this LP features strong melodies that are complimented by very solid, basic bass lines, subdued rhythms and stunningly restrained drums. The result is an album that shows off Jonocade’s versatility, but also reveals that his talents lend themselves to crafting pop rock chiptune that’s reminiscent of Square Therapy’s work: a truly pleasant revelation that helps separate the album from other recent offerings the scene has produced! That said, with the exception of the final track on the album (a remix of Eagle Flyer), production value isn’t very high on this release. The sound is grainy, and while not disturbingly so, it is noticeable enough that it may turn some people away. Despite that complaint, this album is a very fun ride, and I would encourage fans of Square Therapy to give ‘Our Last Trip’ a listen. Jonocade has clearly put a lot of sweat into making it, and I look forward to hearing more from him.
Fave song/s: Let’s Find a World, Punch It
Bang for Buck: 4/5
Replay factor: 3.5/5
Overall Grade: 3.8/5
I first heard of MissingN0 after a member of the band named Bailley responded enthusiastically to an encouragement thread I started in the ChipWIN facebook group. Having been inspired and surprised by Bailley’s energy and some solo work he shared, I sought out more from him, eager to see what his band had put out thus far. Unfortunately, I was disappointed with what I heard. ‘Fallen DMG’ shows that MissingN0 has potential, and it’s obvious throughout the course of the EP how much they’ve grown. However, while there are some tasty offerings, the songs of note are too brief to truly enjoy. This is primarily because, conversely to TSW’s short ditties, these brief tunes suffer from a lack of refinement, variety and polish. Furthermore, while TSW feels like it’s meant to be a musical smorgasbord, ‘Fallen DMG’ feels like it is trying to be a solid, definitive statement about what the band is and what they’re about, but it can’t be what it wants to be as it was released prematurely. MissingN0 has a great deal of spunk, and it makes me happy to see such young upstarts helping the scene thrive, but they need to be patient and nurture their babies more before letting them into the wild if they want to make a mark in the scene. If they can do that, I’m almost certain they’ll be able to be part of a large scale chip festival within the next year or two. Keep your chin up, MissingN0, Kuma believes in you.
Fave Song/s: Pluto Frost, Echo Off, Unfinished Date
Price: £4 ($6.75)
Bang for Buck: 2/5
Replay factor: 3/5
Overall Grade: 2.5/5
Admittedly, I wasn’t familiar with Yerzmyey prior to hearing this album, but when I saw Vince Kaichan say he’s been waiting for this album for a long time, I knew I had to check it out, and God am I glad I did, ’cause jeebus freaking dickbutts made out of ice cream cones is it amazing! Combining foot work, heavy bass, cheesy fun synths, and orchestra hits (OMG SO MANY ORCHESTRA HITS!), over a constant theme of simple piano chords reminiscent of stage 1-1 of Streets of Rage 2, this snappy EP is an example of brevity done right! Each song flows into one another seamlessly allowing for all 20 minutes of the release to be full of party! I’m honestly kicking myself for not being familiar with Yerzmyey sooner, because if this EP is any indication, he alone is worth a trip to see Europe’s chiptune/demoscene crews in action on stage. I just hope he cranks out something more like this soon, because I am in dire need of this 90s style goodness, which honestly may be the album’s only shortcoming: it’s so classically 90s and early 00s in its approach to music that it may alienate some younger audiences who aren’t familiar or comfortable with the EDM scene of yesteryear. But even if you are a youngin who’s used to wubs and electro over heavy DnB, breakbeat, and chillout, I implore you to give this album a listen. It’s just that amazing and refreshing. (note: Yerzmyey has only put a sample song–the one listed above– of the album on soundcloud. If you wanna listen to the full thing, you can download the zip at the link listed in his soundcloud).
Fave Song/s: I honestly can’t pick
Bang for Buck: 5/5
Replay Factor. 4.5/5
Overall grade: Misfit Chris/5
And just like that, Quick Shots is done as quickly as it started! If you liked what you read and are looking forward to more, check back next month as I review several other albums! I also encourage you to read my other column, Raw Cuts, in which I interview artists in the scene and get inside their heads and comfort zones! Or you can just as easily follow my colleagues here on the blog! Prof. Oakes, Viridian Forge, Pixel Recall, bAby f@ce, and all the others are pretty awesome too, and if you not showing them love, you’re doing it wrong!
Thanks again for tuning in to Quick Shots, and remember: Kuma Loves You!