As you may recall, we got a little busy last month, what with those two compos we dropped. Because of that, our actual chiptune journalism powers were stretched a little thin, and so a few things slipped by without our comment. Today, I aim to correct at least one of those errors by talking about the latest Men of Mega release, “Porter“!
The promo art for the album, and what you saw if you’re one of the lucky few who got their hands on the actual beer!
Howdy folks! You know the deal – we’re running down all the songs from the latest release (as if you hadn’t already downloaded it and put it on repeat for the last week), giving credit where credit is due to the amazing folks who dedicated their free time to make something fantastic. I must say, I truly appreciate all the people who freely give their time to this group – people who just made music for the love of making music and to keep the scene hyped up. It’s refreshing, lemme tell you. So let’s jump in!
Happy Saturday friends! I have something very special for you today: tidbits ofknowledge about xyce’s new album, which releases tomorrow. (And now that it has, this article is properly embedded!) Now, I’m just gonna go ahead and get this out of the way (and set your internal bar extremely high): this album is ridiculous. It’s great. It’s greater than great – it’s a level of great that Tony the Tiger couldn’t express. It makes Alexander the Great seem like Alexander the Just Kinda Okay. I’m telling you this now so that you’ll have a day to prepare yourselves before this album (and your jaws) drop.
Greetings and salutations chiptunes compatriots. What are you up to this weekend? Are you on your way to Otakon, maybe to check out some anime as well as the Benjamin Briggs‘ set yesterday? Or maybe you’re heading down to Orlando Nerd Fest, where you can listen to…Jesus, almost literally everyone you’d ever want to listen to as a videogame nerd? Or MAYBE you’re in Indiana for Little Sound Assembly? Or MAY- you know what, it doesn’t matter. Maybe you’re traveling around, maybe you’re not. But you know what you definitely are? In need of some new tunes to make you swoon, and some tunes to melt your face, and BOY HOWDY do I have some news for you: Inverse Phase and Rainbowdragoneyes have BOTH put out albums this week, so I hope you’ve prepared yourself, because whether you need a cruisin’ playlist or just one to jam out at home, you’re covered. Let’s get down to it, shall we?
For those unaware, LGBTune was founded by Amber Marnell in late 2013 on the idea that the chiptune and VGM communities have a very high concentration of LGBT+ people. Warranting support from individuals over at the Chiptunes = WIN Facebook group (the idea was in fact birthed in a thread there! #TheMoreYouKnow), Amber began receiving an overwhelming response of comments from individuals that identify within the LGBT+ umbrella. Soon after that, she sought social media accounts to build a community, which now has the support of Bertrand Guérin-Williams (LGBTune Mid-Atlantic Director), Maddie Ryan (Merch Pixie), Ren Prince (Staff Artist), and Kevin Martinez/Wizwars (LGBTune West Coast Director of Artist Relations). It was Wizwars who coordinated the show at The Smell – Amber said in a quick interview that “Kevin has always been a strong supportive friend to me, and a few days [after I mentioned wanting to make the group] I had a show with my name on it and Virt as the headliner. Kevin works wonders.”
This past weekend in Los Angeles, California, the very first LGBTune Live show happened at The Smell. It just so happens that ChipWIN’s very own Professor Oakes lives but a stone’s throw from The Smell, and in the strangest of coincidences, the ChipWIN-tern had been in Arizona for their dad’s graduation, so they popped on over to California for the occasion! By their powers combined, here’s the lowdown on the first of what will hopefully be a continuing series of concerts celebrating super rad LGBT+ musicians.
The night of the concert felt like stepping backwards in time to some 80’s indie punk show. The Smell itself looks like it’s seen a lifetime of them – most of the seats had their actual sitting-bits ripped out, and counted among the sit-able places were a recliner, a sofa, and a chair that looked like it was straight out of a psych ward, one you might strap someone to to get them to a lobotomy.
The Smell in downtown Los Angeles
Past the foyer with the strange seats, the venue opened up: there was a demo of Rhythm Core Alpha 2, which Tina Belmont had brought with her. A tiny stage was brought out and set in front of the big stage so that the large screen in front of the stage could be used for visuals. Aside from those two pieces of furniture, The Smell’s concert area was completely open. Wizwars donated the use of his laptop to use to broadcast the show on Clipstream, and after a quick soundcheck to make sure everything was going to record correctly, the show was afoot.
Rockin’ his newly bleached blonde hair and his sexy new Fender Jaguar guitar, Wizwars kicked off the show, and was sure to inform everyone that the motto of the show was “No Fucks Given.” Performing tracks such as ‘Blue Line’, ‘Trash City’, and ‘Sputnik’, which Wizwars comments as not having been performed since April 2011, Wizwars’ classic, rhythmic vibe went far from unnoticed – mix some hardcore chipthrash, his reminiscing about his old punk rock days, and healthy interaction with the crowd and you’ve got a classic Wizwars set. As a closer, he whipped out a cover of ‘My Name is Jonas’ by Weezer in honor of the album’s 20th birthday the day prior, which was not only a hell of a way to end a set, it was proof that the show was in full swing.
Tina Belmont, donning a white baby doll dress and Nintendo 3DS in hand, kicked off her performance with ‘Very Becoming’, a track she finished at 3 a.m. about a good friend of hers who “decided to change a letter on their driver’s license.” Accompanied by retro visuals by VJ Osamu Suzuki (who filled-in for 8BitLA’s Tim Abad), Belmont’s synthy performance, accompanied by a 1980’s new wave set list, sets her sound apart from any other Los Angeles-based chiptune performer. Tina’s music was definitely a cool changeup from the punky thrashyness of Wizwars – in fact, every band brought something vastly different to the table, which is much to the credit of the performers and the show itself.
Cats On Mars
Cats on Mars’ setlist came completely out of nowhere, leading off with a cover of Kyary’s ‘PONPONPON’ and jamming on the hypetrain from there on out. Cats on Mars is like the chiptune equivalent of Slipknot – not because of ridiculous costumes (though their bassist was dressed as Cammy, from Street Fighter, which was less ridiculous and more amazing), but because of the sheer number of bodies and instruments on stage. For reference, 3/4 of the acts at the show were one-man (or lady)- bands, but Cats on Mars shows up with two synths, two keytars, a bass, a drum kit, and another guitar – plus a person per instrument, give or take. Tommy Pedrini, the singer, took the cake for the snappiest dressed, sporting a sparkly silver American Apparel jacket. These cats (no pun intended) know how to rock, let me tell you, and their performance was out of this world.
Virt closed out the show, and boy did he close it out. That set had everything you could want – stripping, extreme remixes from upcoming games that Virt’s been doing music for (Shovel Knight’s remixed theme was particularly great), and past soundtracks including tracks from Mighty Switch Force. The thing that makes Virt so great in live performances aside from his music – which is, by the way, great, duh – is the fact that he’s a hell of a keyboard player. While he’d have some of the song running in the background, he’d solo on top of it so hard his hands actually started to disappear in some songs. Add in the fact that he quick-changed into rainbow shorts mid-set (he did warn us “Be careful what you ask for!” when he started changing onstage), his set was the best high-energy closer a show could ask for.
All in all, this show rocked. Everyone who went up there brought their A-game, and didn’t let anything stop them from trying to melt everyone’s faces. Which they did, as it happens – we didn’t take any pictures, but the crowd’s faces were rocked so hard we all had to go get reconstructive surgery afterwards, so thanks for that. The thing about the show was, despite only one person actually sounding punk, the show was a punk show in spirit. You had a handful of people come out to listen to a niche style of music in a hole-in-the-wall venue (albeit a venue that has succeeded for 16 years as being a hole-in-the-wall), rock hard and then leave almost as quickly as the show began. What we’re saying is, the vibe was great, the people were great, the acts were great. No fucks given.
We’re all busy people. Whether it’s flying across the country to go to shows (like I am this weekend), trying to get to work or just walking your dog, sometimes you want to listen to some chiptunes, but don’t have the time to dedicate to a full length album. You’re in luck though – the end of April and beginning of May have been just dumping EP after EP on us, and they’ve all been top notch. For one that truly stands out as unique, though, I’d like to take a look at Jakim‘s ‘Overflow.’
Clocking in at around 11 minutes, ‘Overflow‘ is a series of songs that truly keeps you guessing. The first few seconds trick you into thinking this is going to be a pretty normal, kinda dancey, demoscene kind of deal. Which makes sense, right? Jakim is well known for his demoscene work with eXtrait. But as the music progresses, you get sort of a jerky, glitchy feeling. This isn’t music to dance to – this is music you feel.
The music is piecemeal – there will often be short riffs layered on top of the bassline that feel detached from the piece itself. It is, quite literally, a musical representation of the idea of overflow – there’s so much going on, and you know the shape of the thing, what it’s supposed to be, but sometimes it’s obscured by other stuff from inside of it pouring out. I find it entirely appropriate that the final track is titled ‘Payoff’ – because it is, basically: after four tracks full of starts and stops which get proceedingly more dissonant both musically and rhythm-wise, you finally get a piece that 100% stays within “normal” compositional parameters.
I think what I like most about this EP is that it’s clearly an exercise in screwing around with what might be considered “normal” music by most people. As Frankensteiny as certain parts may sound – you know, cobbled together, maybe not moving exactly as they ought to, awkward starts and stops – the thing is that the songs are always compositionally tight: there are never any extra beats, never any unplanned key signature variations. Jakim knows what he’s doing – he’s screwing with your head because he can, and I love it. And that’s why ‘Payoff’ is so important too – without it, people who don’t know his music might think something like “Man, this kid was drunk when he wrote this, he has no idea what’s going on,” but at this point, even those folks have to go “Wait, no, this guy knows exactly what he’s doing!” It’s sneaky. I like it. Not to mention, if you’ve listened carefully, you’ll notice that there’s hints of themes from all four previous tracks in ‘Payoff’.
“But that’s only 11 minutes of music!” I hear you cry. Well fear not, friend, because Jakim is terribly prolific, so between his Bandcamp as well as his website, you should have hours and hours of entertainment to choose from, so go for it!