The new year is in full swing – MAGFest has come and gone, Chipwrecked is preparing for another great lineup, and we’ve already got a few fun 2019chiptunereleases! But such an active community also makes for a lot you may have missed, and I’d like to give the last year a final sendoff before moving onto this one. I’m proud of the work I did in 2018, but there was a lot I didn’t get to talk about as well. This scene is bursting with music to enjoy and appreciate, so while I can only cover a small portion of it, I’d like to try and spotlight some tunes that deserve the attention.
Naturally, I will be doing this in the silliest way possible.
Hey there, ChipWINners! Joshua Morse, having produced chipmusic as early as 2007, has always been recognized as a pioneer of our ever-growing community. His music has been featured in several video games, such as ‘A Wizard’s Lizard’, ‘Onslaught!’, and ‘Lunch Bug’. Additionally, his long-running ‘Waveform’ releases are arguably some of the best chipjazz releases on the block, with each one showcasing Morse’s growth as a musician, not dissimilar to the ‘BLUE’ trilogy composed by chipfunk legend PROTODOME, or the progressively complex pieces written by Pieces of Eight. Just before the turn of the new year, Joshua Morse released ‘Waveform 5’, an EP of five chip-fusion-jazz tracks that’re sure to stick with you. Let’s get to it!
Hey, ChipWINners! UK-based chipmusic prodigy PROTODOME is one of the biggest names in the chipscene. His previous works include the ‘Blue’ trilogy and the closing tracks on ‘ChipWIN: Vol. 1’ and ‘ChipWIN: Vol. 2’. Despite his outwardly small music catalog, the depth of his musical talent, catchiness of his tunes, knowledge of musical structure, and his incredibly unique compositions have made him a true superstar. So let’s dive right on into his latest release, ‘CHIPFUNK’!
The first track of this release, ‘Let’s CHIPFUNK!’, could be considered the ‘title screen’ to the album; this catchy, short tune gives the listener an idea as to what the rest of the release is going to be like without spoiling too much. A number of voices that take center-stage throughout the rest of the songs are introduced, and this is the entire purpose to the track. PROTODOME’s punchy bass, gnarly guitar, stellar synths, staccato (quickly cut-off/choppy) percussion, and a brief vocal sample are all used in this 31-second long jam. And this is only the beginning.
The second song, ‘I Want You in my Bedroom.’ opens with a groovy bassline, leading into an earworm melody that you’ll be hearing for weeks after your first listen. PROTODOME’s use of chip ‘runs’ – series of notes played in rapid succession – are utilized in a harmonic, supportive sense rather than being the focus of the track. Bass and synths support each other throughout; chords played by the synths lead into the bass grooves, and the slap bass leads back into the chords in a bit of a delectable loop. Sexy vocals and, around the 1:40 mark, an even sexier guitar solo, bring the track to a head, and every single technique that PROTODOME employs throughout the track is phenomenal, from his wicked pitch slides and the marvelous cadence into the song’s key change.
‘WINGROOVIN.MID’, the third track, is fast-paced and sounds like the perfect jam session. The offbeat hihats are one of my favorite features of the track (syncopated rhythms are a wonderful thing!). An initial, three-note melody flourishes into the rest of this masterpiece of a track rather quickly. Slurs and quick rhythms played by the bass give way to an incredible dueling-synth solo near the end of the track. An Animal Crossing-esque arpeggio ends the song abruptly at the 1:52 mark, and just as quickly as this radical jam starts, it’s over.
‘Interstellar Good Times’ is a perfect fit as a title for this song, bringing synth-work to the front after a brief intro from all the instruments involved in the track aside from vocals. Eighth-note octave shifts from a 2A03 voice lead – the voice of the NES’s sound chip – into the gorgeous synth melody, and the subsequent alternation between chip arpeggios and synth chords is incredible. A choppy bass and snare are utilized at the 2:12 mark, and the keyboards follow the same choppy pattern at 2:49; innumerable small details similar to the two that I previously mentioned make this my personal favorite song on ‘CHIPFUNK’.
The final track, ‘Ham Jam’, is a heaven of sorts for glitchy-sounding music lovers such as myself. Notes hit hard, short, and sweet. Between its punchy percussion, a mellow and catchy bassline, cut-off keyboard chords, and frequent chip arpeggios and octaves, ‘Ham Jam’ maintains an odd sort of fluidity throughout its continuous starts and stops. A number of false endings and sudden cut-offs lead into one last fake-out at the end of the album, ending just a beat after the beginning of the last measure. This track is the perfect ending for a release like ‘CHIPFUNK’.
This EP-length release clocks in at just over 11 minutes worth of music. While 11 minutes is technically all that a listener needs to experience the album, attention to detail and many listens are both things that PROTODOME’s ‘CHIPFUNK’ truly rewards. Minute touches such as the incredibly human sounds of a perfectly constructed trumpet voice growls and all – or the bass guitar present throughout all of the tracks, phenomenal solo composition, and wonderful cadences are just a few of the things that a listener can get out of this album. These five short tracks are all perfect examples of the sheer amount of love and finesse that PROTODOME puts into his work. This pay-what-you-want release is – arguably – one of the absolute best releases of 2014, and definitely one of my favorite releases of all time.