Hello everyone. For this month, I decided instead of an album review or talking about a concert I thought that I might perhaps offer some help to the community at large by addressing one of the things I see as a major common weakness: poor brand management. “Wait what,” I hear you say, “why are you teaching me an Intro to Business course here? I just want some dank bleep bloops, bro!” And that’s fine, because at the end of the day is not a man entitled to the bleep from his bloops? But for those of you who are interested in getting senpai to notice you, and by senpai I mean potential fans and friends, then I have some broad and functional advice for you in terms of making sure that what music you have is available to the most people and you can start being that cool kid who wears pastel colored 80’s and 90’s era windbreaker jackets, clear Wayfarer glasses, a geeky Snapback and patterned leggings that all the convention-goers want to throw their parents’ money at. Or whatever it is YOU deem as commercial success, I guess.
Greetings and salutations friends! It’s that time once again for a massive postmortem on PAX East. This year, I’m joined by bory of geekbeatradio who was the head of the MAGFest Jamspace this year and also responsible for booking all of our amazing acts. As this article does traditionally cover both the music and gaming portions of PAX East, bory will be covering the music and I will be covering the games – and as per usual, you can navarkigate to each portion by searching #MUSIC or #GAMES. This time around we’ve got a big article for ya, so don’t hesitate to use those to jump around.
If you’re a twenty-something in America like myself, you’ve probably never been to a demoparty unless you’ve got the money to fly to Europe. (If you do have the money to fly to Europe for a demoparty, well…take me with you?) While I’d heard tales of these events where nerds huddle together around ancient computers and make music videos that fit on floppy disks, I never thought I’d get the chance to go to one myself – which is why when Inverse Phase asked if anyone wanted to go with him to Demosplash in Pittsburgh, PA, I jumped at the opportunity. What follows is a postmortem of my time at the event. Join me, won’t you?
Another year, another MAGFest. Ho-hum. Just a bunch of nerds together playing videogames in an overpriced hotel, I don’t get what’s so sp-
GUYS. I’M SO SORRY. Someone locked me in a basement and sent a robot clone to sabotage this article -all in an attempt to make you think that MAGFest SUCKS! DON’T LISTEN TO IT. MAGFEST IS BEST FEST! The person who is Adam Seats and is definitely probably not a robot clone is here once again to give you the rundown on all the great music you missed because you weren’t there/were there but were doing something else/were there but can’t remember because of REASONS.
If we’re really honest with ourselves, there are certain kinds of chiptune that are more visible than others. If I walked up to a random Joe at MAGFest and asked who their favorite chiptune musician was, I’ll bet dollars to donuts that they’d bring up an artist known for either Game Boy or NES music, or if they’re over the age of 30 they might mention some demoscene artists and their love of the Commodore 64. But unless you really go looking for it, it seems like it’s hard to find anyone making music on the venerable Sega Genesis, or at the very least made with the YM2612 soundchip. It seems that way – but nothing could be farther from the truth. I’d like to take a few minutes and bring to light some real gems out there of an under appreciated console and, if you’re inspired by the end of it, give you the tools you’ll need to make your own original content to take to the club.
[3/18/16 Edit: Thank you to the community for reaching out to help with a few missing points/bad links in the article – these have been amended/added.]
Hey there, ChipWINners! Inverse Phase is somewhat of a legend in the chiptune community. After the advent of his previous cover album, 2012’s ‘Pretty Eight Machine’, many of his fans have wondered what’s next for this chipmusic master. In mid-November, Inverse Phase answered that burning question with his latest cover album, ‘The Chipping of Isaac’; a faithful remake of Danny Baranowsky’s iconic soundtrack to ‘The Binding of Isaac’, an indie roguelike game which pulls inspiration from the original ‘The Legend of Zelda’. So, let’s dive right in!
‘In The Bitginning…’ serves as an introduction to the rest of the album. In the original ‘The Binding of Isaac’ game, a voiceover told the horrid, terrifying tale of Isaac’s escape to his own basement while fleeing from the murderous hands of his mother, who had deluded herself into feeling the need to sacrifice her own son to God. Inverse Phase’s faith to the original soundtrack is admirable; the melody, percussion, and bassline sound almost exactly like the original game’s soundtrack, converted into 8-bit tones.
The track segues flawlessly into the game’s unsettling main theme and the album’s namesake, ‘The Chipping of Isaac’. Varying vibrato speeds give the track its signature feel, and an absence of percussion compounds its creepy vibes. The tones from Inverse Phase’s chords in this track create an almost tremolo-like effect. ‘NESacrificial’ is Inverse Phase’s rendition of Isaac’s basement theme. Use of the noise channel in this track expertly captures the original game’s music; punchy, glitchy snares help to compound the feeling of nervousness that the melodies and fading chords convey.
‘Scanline’, the game’s boss theme, utilizes a very intense bass-intensive opening. Choppy percussion, noise changes, and a head-bobbing bassline combine with slightly off-kilter chords to create the same feeling of nervousness and excitement that the game itself created for so many players when it came out. You can almost feel the energy bursting through the seams of the track when the solo comes in, as the track itself is almost just a build-up to this climax before it resets itself and loops. After the victory jingle of ‘Strategy Guide’, the simple ‘Tetris Piece Be With You’ serves as a bit of a break. With an only four-note melody, it provides a sense of relaxation while still maintaining the overall creepy vibe of the original soundtrack.
The Caves remix, ‘Nintentant’, ups the intensity ante yet again. The melody switches between square voices and a triangle voice, with the two voices dueling for control until the break at 1:04. Throughout the whole track, a glitchy-sounding noise channel and numerous rolls maintain the track’s aggressive tone. ‘DreadfulNES’, the theme to The Depths, is slower and sounds like it could be straight out of an old-school horror game. Chords fade in and fade out at the beginning of the track, and they transition into a build-up spanning several octaves before slowing down and mellowing out. The track loops at just the right moment, right before the song slows down too much.
‘Sine Wrath’, the theme to Mom’s boss fight, delves into darker territory before reverting back to a buildup to its initial state. This track in particular really captures the essence of excitement that’s so vital to each playthrough of the game. ‘APU state’, the theme to The Womb, the fourth stage of the game, is by far one of the strangest tracks of the entire album. It fits perfectly, however, and it fits just as well in the game itself, considering Isaac has to fight his way through his own mother’s womb in order to kill one of the many final bosses of the game. The voices used for the arpeggios in this song sound almost indistinguishable from their original counterparts in the game, which is just another testament to Inverse Phase’s musical talent.
‘The Chipping of Isaac’ is available now on Bandcamp for just $5, an incredibly low price for the sheer quality contained within. Inverse Phase does a marvelous job of answering the question, “What would ‘The Binding of Isaac”s soundtrack sound like if the game came out for the NES?” and once again goes above and beyond expectations to create something truly wonderful.