Today, I finally got the chance to sit down with the man, the myth, the legend; Mr. Brandon L Hood aka “President Hoodie”, the founder of Chiptunes = WIN! Brandon has been helping us not only bring great chiptunes to the chipmusic community, but also moderating our community to be the best that it possibly can be.
Uh… Brandon L Hood, everyone.
I’ll skip the pleasantries and get right to the nitty gritty, and ask the hard hitting chiptune questions!
It’s hard to believe that it’s already been over two years since Kubbi (Vegard Kummen) released his last full-length album, ‘Circuithead’, and just over a year since his legendary late-night live performance at MAGFest 12. Time sure does fly, and so does Kubbi. During the interim, the dynamic dragon whisperer has descended upon the Norwegian landscape in order to drop his most dramatic album to date, ‘Ember’.
Hey what’s up, ya’ll! It’s your boy BronxKuma, and today I’ll be taking the reigns as we continue our coverage of Chiptunes = WIN: Volume 3, which is the ninth compilation album we’ve put out in the past three years! Crazy, ain’t it? Time flies when you’re having fun though, and today, we’re gonna continue our fantastic aural voyage as I guide you through tracks 27-31 of this immaculate collection of music! Let’s get to it!
Vince Kaichan — In The Stars
This song is Vince’s third contribution to Chiptunes = WIN (technically 4th if I include the fact that one of those songs inspired a tear-jerking postrock cover by Cory Johnson) and there is a damn good reason for this. From the first time I heard him perform live during Frostbyte’s album release party in 2012 to the various tracks he’s contributed to ChipWIN, Vince has proven himself to be a deftly skilled composer, and this song is further proof of said musical aptitude. Diverging from from the playful, pure chip melody of his last contribution, In The Stars is a thoughtful, urban, subdued track that made me swear I was listening to Joshua Morse album. Perfect for unwinding after a long day, if In The Stars doesn’t fill you with mellow, you and I can never be friends.
Proving that even the purest, simplest means of composing can produce high quality music, Shinoboy’s first contribution to ChipWIN lives up to it’s name in that it destroys everything! Starting out with a nostalgic arpeggio straight out of Link’s Awakening, the song opens up and becomes a fist throwing, shoulder thrusting, I’m-sorry-I-almost-gave-you-a-concussion-in-the-moshpit-at-8statifest-last-year-Auxcide head banger that feels like equal parts Unini and FearofDark. If you like your chiptune hard, dirty, and full of BRKs like it’s giving your day job the finger, blast this on repeat and revel in all the fucks you don’t have for anything.
Polygon Horizon’s offering to the compilation is another song whose title perfectly embodies what this song is in and of itself as well as what it is in relation to the tracks before and after it. Offering a brief reprieve after a few moments of pure idgaf, he has crafted a song that not only allows a moment of stillness, but slowly escalates into a song that inspires hope. In fact, the song does it so well that I had to ask during the listening party if this was the last track on the album, because the amount of nostalgia, tears and optimism it invokes is so striking it rivals even PROTODOME’s offerings for ending tracks on the previous annual compilations. Quite an accomplishment for an artist no matter who you are.
Another unfairly talented individual who is contributing a fourth time to ChipWIN, Auxcide’s track is the musical equivalent of a meeting between Yojimbo and Kozure Okami. On its own, it invokes the sense of desperation to cut down another, as well as the hatred two must have towards duel to clash so passionately. Combined with the songs before it, Fateful Encounter acts as the second slice of bread in a tasty, thoughtfully made sandwhich that allows one to enjoy the sharp tastes of the moshpitstravaganzas both this and Detruire have, but further accentuates itself and the subtle pallet cleanser that Breath was. This allows all three songs to stand on their own and truly seems unique, despite being part of a larger whole. If you were looking for another reason to throw elbows, let Auxcide take you to the promise land.
By the way, Auxcide, I’d like to apologize again for almost giving you a concussion last year at 8staticfest. Sorry.
Gracing us with his second appearance on a Chiptunes = WIN compilation, sleepytimejesse shows off his creativity with a song that combines a sense of humor, style and even a nod to a classic R&B hit all rolled into a nice lil morsel of a tune. From the pleasantly unexpected urban flair that strays from his normal compositional style to the use of everyone’s favorite musical canine–K.K. Slider– this low tempo chiptune is the kind of stuff I’d really love to hear more of in the scene. The kind of song that, despite some of its sillier flairs, resonates with fashionable goodness such as Vince Kaichan’s aforementioned “In The Stars” and Joshua Morse’s “Just Missed You” off of Chiptunes = WIN Vol. 2. If you haven’t listened to sleepytimejesse before now, I highly suggest changing that pronto. The man is not one to disappoint regardless of what genre he chooses to dabble in.
Well guys, it’s time for my leg of the tour through ChipWIN Vol 3 to come to an end. I hope you enjoyed your time with me and that I helped make this part of the album as memorable as the one’s before it. I now bid you adieu, and would like to remind you to check back with us tomorrow as my friend Aydan takes over as captain of our musical escapades, as he’ll be guiding us through tracks 32-26 with considerably more skill than me. I hope. >.>;
Keep on chippin’, and don’t forget: Kuma loves you.
You know, it’s not every day that the kindness of friends can take you on unforgettable journeys filled with laughter and memories to last a lifetime, but when those times come, you relish the moment and cherish all that’s given to you. This especially rings true to my latest adventure with my dear friend Bertrand Guérin-Williams (also known as their pseudonym Russellian) to BRKFest 2014, which took place from July 25-27 in Cincinnati, OH.
Starting as a casual idea thrown around our Facebook pages, Bertrand and I both expressed interest in attending this third annual chipmusic festival, an event conceived by Curtis Ware in 2012. Quickly striking the idea down as physically impossible (due to a number of monetary constraints and traveling distance), Bertrand and I took to the idea of a fundraiser as a way to raise funds to get one another to this up and coming Midwest event.With an equally silly fundraiser campaign over on Kickstarter to make potato salad being wildly successful (and still raising money), we swallowed our fears and crossed our fingers.
And it happened.
Bertrand and I received half of our funding goal within two days, and then two-thirds several days later. Within a week, we were fully funded.
Unable to comprehend the generosity of the donors, the tweeters, and the ‘likers’, our once casual and thrown-around interest became reality. Through the help of 18 people (YES! only 18!), our donations were ranging around $20, and the highest being $250 (which was donated by Ken Gould, Andrew Gould [event co-host]’s father). Through the help of some great friends, anonymous donors, and complete strangers, Bertrand and I began solidifying our travel plans and booked my flight.
Flash forward to July 24, 2014.
This was happening. I don’t think I’ve felt that much excitement for an event since MAGFest, because in 7 hours, I was going to be touching down in Lexington, KY with my good friends Curtis Ware and Alex Wimmer welcoming me at the gate. With the cost of the trip paid for through the fundraiser, and free lodging at their house (with Max Dolensky and Tri Angles also crashing there), I knew this was a weekend I would never forget.
Without any doubt, all three days of BRK had solid lineups. With the visualists bountiful, and talent strategically dispersed, each day of BRK paved the way for my chip dreams slowly becoming a reality. With performers new and old, and two days of open mics, BRKfest kicked off with Chris ‘Storm Blooper’ De Pew with accompanying visuals from ohhainaifu. With his performance packing a powerful punch, De Pew spent the entire night beforehand writing new songs and finishing up others. His set didn’t suffer, however—he opened up BRKFest with much needed energy and a sappy cover of ‘California Gurls’ by Katy Perry; his performance was surely a great way to start off an even better weekend. Other acts of notable mention that performed the first night include Radiograffiti’s Illinois Amigacore artist CCDM (who, after conversation with him, mentioned he participated in an Amiga battle with Stagediver during the Shadowtravel tour in Chicago), the rockin’ Virginia bitpop/punk duo Square Therapy, Solarbear (accompanied by crowd surfing in a red button up dress shirt), and Tri Angles, a ‘wandering artist, dreamer, and storyteller’ whose music is a soulful, galactic, and out of body experience. With the first night coming to a close, BRKFest day one concluded with an official after party about three miles out. With DJ sets by Diode Milliampere (who was on the bill for the third night) and Max Dolensky, and LSDJ sets from Defiant Systems (also playing day three) and my cohort in this fundraiser, Russellian, this was surely the icing on the cake to close out such an eventful first day.
SKGB performs live at BRKFest 2014 on Saturday, July 26.
Day two rolls around, and it’s even better than the first. Despite some technical set backs that presented themselves early in the evening, performers and the crowd pushed through. Day two was by far the most intense, gear-heavy nights, with set ups being noticeably more intricate. With a surprise back-to-back in tandem performance from Sean ‘Awesome Force’ Baker and Bryan ‘Auxcide’ Dobbins (who used a DMX ‘X Gon’ Give It To Ya’ vocal sample and covered ‘Where My Niggas At?’ by Cassidy during their sets respectively), a live read of a meditation guide for spiritual travels to the anti-material planets during SKGB’s performance, slamming Game Boy Advance jams from Detroit’s boaconstructor, and a Trey Frey reactive light installation, day two was by far my favorite night. Muscles sore and body dehydrated, Curtis, Alex and I headed back to Lexington to prep for the third evening.
With the weekend coming to a close, the dawn of day three began. My cohort Bertrand (who again was staying closer to Cincinnati) enjoyed all that the city had to offer Sunday morning—with a group of chip musicians and friends (including ChipWIN’s own Hoodie and Chip Mom, Awesome Force and Auxcide), the group of them went to the Cincinnati Museum Center where they explored a fake cave system (and reenacted the Matrix Reloaded’s Zion dance scene), learned about evolution, extinction, and optical and microwave telescopes and the stars and galaxies of which astronomers have found. While I did not partake in this adventure, I’m going to make a wild guess that those folks had a wonderful time based on the information passed down to me. As for me, I make it to the venue, and the sadness started to set in. I could already feel it—I’ve come down with the BRKFest depression bug WELL BEFORE BRK was even over. It is always the hardest feeling having to cope with spending an incredible weekend making memories with friends, and then having to jump on a plane to go back to real life the day after. However, mopiness aside, I made every minute count. Hugs exchanged, laughs reciprocated, and outside patio relax sessions imminent, I spent most of the evening taking it all in (where as I raged the first two days).
Defiant Systems performs live at BRKFest 2014 on July 27. Visuals by Formidable Witch
Popping inside for Shitbird’s chipthrash set, Defiant System‘s lo-fi, dark FM jive (with INCREDIBLE visuals by Formidable Witch using NES hardware), and glomag, who emerged in the community at the dawn of the 21st century, day three concluded on an incredibly high note, an ending that any music festival could ask for.
All in all, this festival was surely unforgettable, and it was quite an adventure to experience this as an event attendee rather than behind the scenes (like I did for Frequency 3.0 with my cohorts in 8bitLA). Artists, albeit visualists or performers, put their heart and soul into their work, making for an incredibly exciting weekend getaway. The vibe was great—the friends magnificent. Thanks for a stellar time, all, and thank you from the bottom of Bertrand and I’s heart, for donating/sharing the fundraiser around.
Set the mood with the ‘Ben Rear Introduction‘ below; a breathtaking forty-second orchestral introduction to whet your palette.
Despite two distinct approaches to the genre, the influence _ensnare_ and Inspector Vector have on each other throughout ‘Defend Your Ramp‘ successfully weaves a coherence through the album that eliminates any fear of disjointed musical tangents or fragmented direction. ‘Defend Your Ramp‘ is a blending of minds that will blow yours.
_ensnare_’s skill in building and supporting melodies that hook fast and hold firm are showcased off the top of the album with ‘There Is Always Love‘. Heavy beats and bass set the foundation for a fantastic and organic melody. Love it.
Inspector Vector kicks into gear immediately with ヽ༼ຈل͜ຈ༽ﾉ (Raise Your Dongers), a rousing anthem with a contemporary chip-house fusion and a hint of “jungle” flare. Imagine if Disney’s Tarzan opened an electro dance club inside Wreck-It Ralph’s arcade machine. Sweeping. Epic. Dem jungle beatz make you raise your dongers ヽ༼ຈل͜ຈ༽ﾉ
Tracks alternate between artists throughout the album, but you wouldn’t notice without triple-checking the album liner. Each track flows into the next like it was planned from the beginning, a notion that _ensnare_ assures is “purely accidental”. ‘Defend Your Ramp‘ evolves with a weight that betrays coincidence, giving credence to the efforts of a true collaboration. Despite plans to do “what we felt like doing” says _ensnare_, noting that he and Inspector Vector made no attempt to interfere with each other’s approach, an influence and incorporation of style bleeds in regardless. Both Inspector Vector and _ensnare_ would be wise to take note of their musical affinity, as this collaboration works.
Both _ensnare_ and Inspector Vector were gracious enough to answer a few questions about their experience constructing ‘Defend Your Ramp‘, and that interview continues below:
How did the decision to collaborate with Inspector Vector come about?
_ensnare_: Alex is a long-term friend of mine and he’s fantastically talented. He started doing Fakebit and, as my collab with .moegasus (my previous album Binary Opposition) had gone so well I decided to team up with him.
Inspector Vector: Well, Ensnare is a very close friend, but also has mentored me to a degree over the years in regard to production. He has this amazing ‘no nonsense’ attitude to music production. He doesn’t get hung up on anything people say you ‘should’ be doing, and has a lazer focus on what sounds good and what doesn’t, something that I still find so helpful. Also, I’ve been a fan of his music for well over a decade, so on the one hand it felt a natural thing to do as we’re friends, but on the other it was something I was quite humbled to be able to do as an admirer of his various music. As far as a decision to do it, we just talked briefly now and then for a while about doing a four track EP together, and it kind of just grew quite ridiculously into the final product at over four times that size. I’m a fan of the ‘album’ format so I was happy about this. I am not sure he was quite as happy at my repeated demands for more content…
Do you have a personal favourite among each other’s D.Y.R. tracks?
_ensnare_: Got to be ‘Raise Your Dongers‘ – it’s a ridiculous hit and I’m supremely jealous of the melody.
Inspector Vector: Hrm. Hard!… [His tracks] are exactly the type of music I enjoy; hook based and sound amazing. I often gravitate towards these tracks out of the whole _ensnare_ back catalogue, so I’m really pleased they’re on our album. One part that sticks out for me is about 1:41 into ‘I Need U‘ where this dual lead comes in. I remember hearing this for the first time and being amazed. A lot of focus in production these days is big crushing drops, which is absolutely fine and is an impressive production trick, but it is rarely ‘musically’ astounding. I love melodies in music, and I think that quite simple bit just shows what a great musician _ensnare_ is.
I’ve got to say that the tracks across Defend Your Ramp gel together very well. With two minds contributing to the album, what was the process of working with each other like to maintain such a solid coherence from start to finish?
_ensnare_: Any coherence is purely accidental! Basically, we’d send stuff to each other occasionally but there were no real attempts to change each other’s style – we just did what we felt like doing.
Inspector Vector: Thanks, I’m really pleased this is the perception! We were kind of in contact all the time regarding it, so as we’d write the tracks, the other would be aware of them one by one, rather than just doing all of them independently then presenting them to each other as a set. I think this may have influenced coherence. It certainly made me consider how I mixed the tracks to not be too far away from the sound _ensnare_ was going for, and at points helped me decide what to do next as to what I felt the album needed. There are parts where it doesn’t gel so well to my ear, but I think that’s just symptomatic of each of us doing some tracks that are stripped down/lo-fi and some that are more complex modern style productions. Overall I’m very happy with how it works as an album.
Do you have a soft spot for an effect or piece of tech that you employed during the creation of the album?
_ensnare_: Plogue Chipsounds is still absolutely vital to the _ensnare_ sound – it’s an incredible thing.
Inspector Vector: _ensnare_ and I talked quite a bit informally about the tools of the album in a rambling text file that comes with the deluxe edition, so I’ll try say something else. Obviously chipsounds and FL studio are vital to me. I really respect people who write with the genuine gear, LSDJ and whatnot. Some of them make my favourite chip music out there (monodeer, bitshifter, chipzel), but equally there’s a lot of people like BigGiantCircles (who _ensnare_ remixed on the album, and is a huge inspiration to me) who are using software emulations and are making a different kind of chiptune/fakebit, and I think that the scene embraces it all is a great reason why chiptune is so vibrant and diverse at the moment. As for a soft spot: While doing my half of the mastering, I was using http://www.tokyodawn.net/tdr-vos-slickeq/ on most things. It’s a relatively new (and free!) plugin which I think was developed by varietyofsound, and it is just an amazing easy to use EQ. I write production tutorials and product reviews by day, and this EQ is as good as a lot of the pricey stuff. Functionally, I couldn’t be without the fabfilter stuff, particularly Pro-C, Pro-Q and Saturn.
Was there a “eureka” moment during the production of Defend Your Ramp in which you learned something new or overcame a particularly difficult creative hurdle?
_ensnare_: The Score Attack was a demo I had sitting around for ages that people really liked on Soundcloud, but I couldn’t get finished. Then one weekend I was able to blast through it pretty quickly!
Inspector Vector: Definitely. One was very close to when the album launched. Ben rear with the gear went through so many iterative stages…I was trying a lot of things which just didn’t work, and I was sticking to the ‘formula’ despite the fact it didn’t sound very good. I wanted every element at the fore, which is something I know full well you cant do in production. Sound selection and mixing are very important. I’d totally ignored this, as I wanted every element to be this enormous, frequency filling sound, and thus when it didn’t work I hit a total brick wall. It nearly didn’t make the cut for that reason (I had to jettison another track called blockmania, probably my favourite, as I just didn’t have the time), but I eventually gave in and tried Ben Rear a different way, putting the lead to the fore and making a more simple, triangle-wavey bass. So yeah, it can be easy to get stuck in a rut, and sometimes you just have to go back to the drawing board!
Any last thoughts, advice, or news you’d like to share with your listeners?
_ensnare_: I’ve had some health problems for the last year or so which have meant that I haven’t been able to play any gigs – I’m doing a lot better now and I’ll be returning to playing live with a gig at Games Britannia in Sheffield next month.
I massively appreciate all the support as well – ‘Defend Your Ramp‘ is the most popular _ensnare_ project yet so I will try to do more stuff for my fans – both gigs and new tracks – as soon as I can.
Inspector Vector: I’d like to say thanks so much to the people who’ve supported this album. I am hugely grateful to every single person, and _ensnare_ feels exactly the same. Comments have been very kind, and it really makes me happy that people out there, in different areas of the world, enjoy the music we’ve made. Also thanks to my amazing girlfriend Ali for doing the album art, which I’m really pleased with.
Advice? Well, if you’re making chiptune, don’t be afraid to do what you want. As I mentioned, the chip scene is inclusive and interesting, and I think it suffers less than other genres do from silly and arbitrary constraints. As long as it’s got some retro sounds, pushing the envelope in any direction is usually welcome, and that’s what I love about it.
As far as news, I’ll be giving away a remix of a track from Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon via my twitter/soundcloud hopefully within a couple of weeks, so follow me on one of them if that’s something you’d like (on top of my inane ramblings). Also, I’m undecided right now but I am thinking of making a track to submit for the new Chiptunes = WIN compilation, so I’ll have to see! _ensnare_ is honeymooning at the moment, but he is always working on exciting things (not least Frozen Endzone, an ace robot based strategy game), so definitely follow him on twitter too. Thanks so much!
‘Defend Your Ramp‘ by _ensnare_ and Inspector Vector is available on Bandcamp in both Standard and Deluxe Versions.
The Deluxe version includes “a continuous mix of every track on the album, an _ensnare_ remix of a Big Giant Circles track, 3 ridiculous lo-fi comics by Inspector Vector, a drum ‘n chip thing called Crabs on the Rampage by Inspector Vector, 1 4K wallpaper, ultra-HD cover art and an EXCLUSIVE txt chat between our heroes _ensnare_ and Inspector Vector which covers everything from the ethos of fakebit to a cake called Herman” for $19USD or more. The Standard edition is available for $13USD.
Big things come in small packages, and that’s exactly what you get with ‘Jelly’ by Roboctopus.
Lighthearted, explorative and accessible, ‘Jelly’ by Roboctopus does more with four tracks than others often can with eleven. Roboctopus redefines the meaning of “full album” with ‘Jelly’, a 4 track EP that will leave you full, and craving seconds.
Thoughtful harmonies employed by Roboctopus throughout the album keep transitions fresh, with title track “Midnight at the Ice Palace” showcasing Roboctopus’ ability to flow into new and unique transitions, ensuring intrigue with each purposeful deviation.
‘Jelly’ does a lot with a little. Roboctopus infuses excitement into this latest EP, employing clever tweaks and variations on its own established melodies with an efficiency that inspires. “Evening for the Rest of Your Life (Remix)” even goes so far as to pull the rug out from its own melody during a midway transition to spotlight its bassline undercurrent with refreshing abandon.
While strong ties imbue ‘Jelly’ with a certain uniformity throughout its four ambitious tracks, “Memory Erasers Local” is the strongest departure from the rest of the album with deep explorations into echo, pans and distance, creating hypnotic hooks alongside an upbeat anthem.
‘Jelly’ has a trademark effervescence that culminates with “Can’t Have the Fish if you Ain’t Got the Jelly” which, simply put, is a quirky experiment that WORKS. It’s lighthearted and fun, infusing an unexpected drop into explorative basslines underneath an unapologetic grab-bag of chip pop-blips and synth that dares to redefine the term “melody”.
‘Jelly’ by Roboctopus is available on Bandcamp right now for “pay-what-you-want” at a minimum of $2(USD). For the LSDJ curious, the .wav files of all 4 tracks are included with your purchase of the album.
“Jelly” is a must listen that plays out as its own mini-odessey, weaving through each of its four distinct tracks with a finesse that evades expectation.
Pixel Recall (R. Morgan Slade) ~ Support the artists you love