As many of you probably know, Yoann Turpin is an artist that I happen to follow quite closely. I’ve always got my eye on him, as he releases high-quality tunes frequently, and he’s often one of the first artists who comes to mind when I’m deciding what album I’d like to review each month. On March 27th, he released ‘Rhythm’n’Bits 2’, a direct sequel to the first album he had written and released nearly seven years prior, and the album is filled with the intricately beautiful compositions I’ve come to know and love from Turpin. I’m elated to have the opportunity to review this piece of work.
I saw a comment on the Chiptunes = WIN Facebook group this week that really got me thinking; it was a thread discussing people “ditching” chiptune and moving on to other ways of making music. Somebody noted that lately, LSDj seems to be a contest of technical skill and worried that pushing the software’s limits was taking priority over writing great music. This week, I’ve been listening to an artist who very deliberately keeps a ‘less is more’ attitude towards her music. Released on July 20th, ‘Zenzoo Pop’ is a 5-track EP that fuses cutesy pop melodies with a hint of punk and even industrial flavours.
Hey, ChipWINners! Aydan here, ready to do some more appreciating on the newly rehosted blog!
4mat is a long-time resident of the chipmusic community, and many fans of chipmusic have either heard of him or his work before; he’s been producing music since the year 2000, if not earlier. In late May, 4mat released an album that has been composed piece by piece for about a year and a half. Titled ‘Nadir’, which literally translates to “the lowest possible point”, 4mat explores the themes of “…legacy, memory, and…self doubt” and takes his listeners along with him for a truly memorable ride.
The album opens with ‘Vampires (A through Z)’, a track with abundant polyrhythms, a catchy melody, and plenty of intricate touches to keep the song sounding fresh with each new listen. 4mat doesn’t quite stick to one particular tone or set of tones throughout his tracks, and as a result is able to create truly beautiful soundscapes for his listeners with each new song; this is certainly no exception. Dynamic changes, occasional use of octaves and arpeggiated chords, and stuttered, “sloppy” drum loops, as he calls them, make for a unique track.
Stuttered instrumentation, delay, and the usage of off-sync voices and polyrhythmic techniques are prevalent in a number of the tracks on ‘Nadir’. For example, the album’s namesake track features a melody in the beginning with an intentionally off-sync piano loop coming in not long after the main melody is established. A higher pitched, delayed version of the melody is layered over not long after this, and it creates for a gorgeous, artistic effect. The ending of the track catches the listener by surprise the first time around; the “poppier” sound to the last minute of the track works to provide a stark and well-composed contrast to the slightly less energetic tones of the earlier part of the track.
The eighth track, ‘Daisies’, is another excellent example of 4mat’s use of delay and polyrhythmic techniques. During a majority of the track, a quieter, panning voice with its own unwavering rhythm takes a comfortable spot behind the lead voices, which play out and are greatly strengthened by this particular technique. In his liner notes for the album, 4mat states that ‘Daisies’ arose “almost by accident” when he was stuck on the ending for ‘Vampires’. However, nothing in the track sounds accidental. Everything is calculated and perfect, from the dual rhythms of the melodies to the stuttered hi-hat. 4mat also states in his liner notes that he feels this track is his greatest personal success on the album.
Many of ‘Nadir’’s tracks give off a distinctly French vibe in terms of their composition. One of the tracks, ‘Oil on canvas’, calls to mind the work of legendary French electronic artist Jean-Michel Jarre, one of the pioneers of the early worldwide electronic music movement. ‘Oil on canvas’ in particular also takes on a bit of a neo-classical tone close to the end, with a solitary piano bringing the song to a close with a number of descending notes, leading into a slow, ascendent decrescendo. Ambient, avant-garde tones can also be heard in ‘Waves rush to shore’ and the last track, ‘Solitude’. Permutations on simple chord sequences played on the piano are used to great effect, and are later combined with sawtooth waves and an instrumentation meant to imitate the sound of a choir in order create a simply beautiful tone.
‘Solitude’ is essentially a solo piano piece with an orchestral backing; no ‘chip’ is present in this track, but it’s the perfect ending to ‘Nadir’. Calm, soothing notes are played, with a minimal amount of chord usage in order to give the song a quiet, calm, and reflective nature. The entire album resolves on a major chord, and as one of the moods explored by 4mat throughout ‘Nadir’ is self-doubt, this could symbolize a positive resolution – reflecting on oneself and having a new outlook on life and affirmations about oneself.
‘Nadir’ is available as a free download on Bandcamp, and, as usual, I highly recommend a donation should you have the ability to do so. Memories are explored throughout the album, both in mood and through the riffs and samples used throughout the album. With a solid mixture between energetic, danceable hits and powerful, moving compositions, this album is further proof that 4mat is truly a talented musician, and this album was well worth the wait between his previous release, ‘Sans Titre’, and itself.
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!