I feel like x Critical Strike x has been criminally underrated for far too long. His 2016 release ‘Never let go of your dreams’ is one of the most quintessentially “Chiptune” albums you’ll find, from the overall message of doing what you love with a smile to the combination of chirpy, harmonic melodies and happy hardcore bass. In the 5-year gap between this and his last release ‘Starfighter’ in 2011, x Critical Strike x must have been busy as this is a 19-track monster! I’ve been lucky enough to see him perform live, as well as an absolutely stellar ChipBattles showing, and I want everyone else to check him out.
So now that finals are finally over and I have way more free time on my hands, I decided it would be the perfect time to dive into another segment of What Should I Use!
For those new to the blog, WSIU is a series in which I take a chip-musician’s perspective on chiptune software and give it a review. Its meant to help those just starting out or those looking for something new to start up know what they’re getting into (rather than flailing around like, “ZOMG WTF DO I DO WHAT ARE THESE BUTTONS AAAAAAAA” etc, etc…)
Happy May, folks! I hope everyone is well. This month’s review is one of the coolest ideas I’ve come across so far within this community. While it does contain some pretty catchy elements to listen to, what really drew me to this particular release was the idea of two artists remixing eachother’s work. Projects like this can be inspiring and educational and,if done right, can open a lot of doors for the listener, and maybeeven potentially get someone out of writer’s block!
That said, I present to you: ‘Trainwreck’ by tiasu & bignic.
The UK may have Superbyte, the Netherlands may have EINDBAAS, but here near the United States’ capital, we have a little thing called MAGFest, and we like to think it does alright. While many of you came out and attended MAGFest with us from all over the globe (attendance surpassed 17,000 people this year!), I know there are many of you who were not able to. And if I’m honest with you, even those of us who DID go couldn’t have gone to everything that there was to do there unless the Ministry of Magic had given out Time Turners to the lot of us. That’s where this post comes in – I’ve done my best to assemble all the links, videos and pictures of the most happening happenings to have happened. Those of you who remember my Post-PAX PAX Post should be familiar with how I’m going to format this: As this was the Music and Gaming Festival, we’re going to have a #Music and a #Gaming section as well as a #Closing Thoughts, tagged as such for easy navigation within the post.
Hit play on ‘Macro’ below and prepare to dance. Welcome to ‘Monochrome’ by tiasu.
‘Monochrome’ by tiasu is an eight track chip-dance album that knows itself inside and out, expressing high-powered, strikingly danceable beats with a confidence that demands the attention it deserves. Labyrinthine amalgamations of familiar chip sounds and welcoming dance rhythms work in tandem to ensnare your attention immediately, with the above track ‘Macro’ being a remarkable example of tiasu’s artistic execution of electronic music.
‘Monochrome’ is a solid chip-dance album of eight tightly cohesive tracks ordered to deliver a satisfying night on the dance floor, which this album provides in spades.
Savvy employment of familiar chip sounds fused together with welcoming dance beats blur the lines between traditional electronica and classic chiptune, allowing fans of each genre a dynamic album everyone can embrace, exposing listeners to the highlights of both music categories. Breakdowns within ‘Spectrum’, for example, delve into a dub-step vibe that benefits greatly from the particular chip sounds tiasu has chosen, creating a unique “lighter” dub-step riff that melds fantastically with the album’s established tone.
The final ‘Monochrome’ track ‘Focus’ takes the furthest departure from the album’s dancebeat themes with the integration of a grunge bass through line, experimenting with a dark and gripping electronica sound moulded around a melody more akin to the rest of the album.
With a presentation as strong as ‘Monochrome’, insight into tiasu’s creative process is invaluable. Fortunately, tiasu was kind enough to spend some time sharing his experience constructing ‘Monochrome’, and that interview continues below:
Pixel Recall: How close is Monochrome to your initial conception for the album in terms of composition, theme and tone?
tiasu: Monochrome developed very organically – I didn’t start out with any specific preconceived ideas of what I wanted the album to sound like, but after I debuted two tracks at a gig and saw the reaction they got, I knew I had a direction & sound I wanted to keep!
Pixel Recall: What’s your live set-up like? Do you have a favourite piece of hardware?
tiasu: My live setup is very minimal – I use a gameboy for one or two tracks, and the rest is all in Ableton, controlled with a launchpad and korg nanokontrol. Oh and there’s also a – quite frankly, ridiculous – bat onesie, which is critical to the whole setup!
Pixel Recall: It’s been less than a year since your release of “mission control”. What do you personally feel has been your largest growth piece artistically between last December’s “mission control”, and this year’s “Monochrome”?
tiasu: With every release (Monochrome is number 7!) I’m getting better at creating something more cohesive, for lack of a better word. Mission control is 9 cobbled together tracks, and the album’s track order is the same order that I wrote them. With Monochrome, there were a whole bunch of rejected tracks (some of which I’ve released elsewhere), that I didn’t include because they simply didn’t fit with the sound of the album. Technically, the mixing, mastering & overall production is getting better too – which is always nice, it can sometimes be hard to listen to the old tracks, the production value… Some of it is shocking!
Pixel Recall: Do you have a specific plan of attack when it comes to composing a new track, or do you find each track comes to you in its own way?
tiasu: Each track comes about very differently – sometimes you can sit there banging your head against the wall hoping to get some workable idea, other times you might start humming a tune and suddenly there’s a 5 minute track sitting there!
Pixel Recall: Do you have any tips or tricks for aspiring artists looking to perform live electronic music like yourself?
tiasu: Tips and tricks? Honestly, just keep doing it – have fun, enjoy the process of writing it, enjoy performing it. One of the best things I’ve ever done has to be a challenge called ‘Weekly Beats’, writing a track every week for a year. Not every track is good, in fact the majority of mine are done in a very short space of time and complete rubbish, but that’s half of the fun!
Pixel Recall: Open mic: Any last thoughts, shout-outs, advice, or tour dates you’d like to make sure to share with your fans?
tiasu: I’ve gotta thank Derris ‘Nine-finger’ Kharlan, GZom, Biko, Loubanging & Sean ‘Birdball’ O’Dowd for putting up with me, Cody Hargreaves, Chris De Cinque, cTrix, aday, Pselodux & Claire Plunkett for being awesome, Belinda Haas for all the good times, the amazing SoundBytes/SquareSounds crew for putting on awesome shows (and being such rad people), and of course Chiptunes=WIN! I’m 100% sure I’ve forgotten about a million people I should thank, sorry!
I’m playing at the SquareSounds ExpansionPAX gig on the 2nd November at Forgotten Worlds in Melbourne, and I may or may not have a sneaky new track to play too…
‘Monochrome’ is cheerful, industrious, self-assured, and frankly music to groove to.
‘Monochrome’ by tiasu is available for download right now on Bandcamp, with pay-what-you-want pricing. ‘Monochrome is a must-listen, and if you can afford it, remember to support the artists you love so they can keep creating more of the music you love.
Pixel Recall (R. Morgan Slade) ~ Support the artists you love ~