Chiptunes4Autism has been going for 4 years strong now, and another spring season brought us what may be their most exciting compilation yet! 28 tracks showcase a varied, fun, and hard-working collective that will take anyone who wants to help. All proceeds go to charities proud of neurodiversity, supporting autistic self-advocacy, mental health resources, and networks for marginalized groups. It’s really great. Also, the music kicks ass, and the people involved will steal your hearts.
By ‘steal your hearts’, of course, I mean I’m going to try and cast them in a heist movie.
Heyo, ChipWINners! Welcome back to Quick Shots! This month, I’ll be reviewing work from three artists across the creative spectrum who have each brought something rather unique to the table. The first is a debut EP from a chiptuner with EDM leanings. The second is an artist I’ve featured in my interview column who has recently put out two new singles. The third is an offering that skews more towards Nerdcore than chiptune, but was too unique to pass up on sharing with all of you. So lets not waste any more time. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the works of Gigibyte, Thorazine Unicorn, and 8-Bit Mullet.
Sup ChipWINners? Welcome back to Quick Shots, the album review column where I take a gander at new releases and throw my fifty cents in on their overall quality. This time around, instead of reviewing albums from a few underdogs in the scene, I’ve taken the time to look over releases from three artists thatI first became familiar with because of Chiptunes = WIN! Each of these artists were all featured in ChipWIN Vol. 1 and not only have I loved them all since then, but I’ve seen them continue to grow and change in ways that have made me look at music differently. So without further ado, I’d like for you guys to join me as I take a gander at new music from Lukhash, Whitely, and +Let’s Disinfect!+!
‘Sup chipbros! Welcome back to RCwK! This time around, I took the time to sit and chat with a good friend in the scene. Hailing from Philadelphia, this dedicated musician turned DJ has had the good fortune to work with some great talent! After having the opportunity to further his reputation through working with them, he’s got a new project lined up that seeks to pay forward that good karma to aspiring artists in his hometown. But don’t just take my word for it: sit back, relax, and grab a bottle of Cherry Wheat, cause this time, we’re cuttin’ it up with Blake Colello, aka Pixel8ter!
Kuma: I’ve known you for a fairly long time, Blake. In fact, you’re one of the first people I met in the Philly chiptune scene and seem to be a staple of the community there. Tell me, how did you get started in all this? Where did your musical journey begin?
Pixel8ter: I wouldn’t say a staple as much as a fan. I showed up late to the chiptune party but should have been here since the beginning. It’s in my soul just like everyone else who grew up with classic gaming consoles.
My musical journey. Well…I’ve been reflecting on things like that recently and realizing how much music was always my natural tendency. For example: at a grade school party I would rather play with drum kits on their Casio than play spin the bottle both out of a social awkwardness, and [as] a preference.
Kuma: Ah yes, social anxiety is the cornerstone of chiptune! You were clearly well on your way even as a youngin’! That said, I take it that curiosity of playing with drum kits and old synths carried through with you throughout the years, yes?
Pixel8ter: I always wanted to play a keyboard, even if it was someone’s midi keyboard program through the computer keys. I always had Casios and cheap keyboards. Now that most stuff is faithfully emulated I can enjoy all the classic synths I never had the chance or funds to use. I would still rather play drum beats on a music keyboard, though.
The chiptune community attracts those with social issues because of its acceptance and common desires, namely to be recognized for who you are, even if that’s just someone who wants to stand in a corner alone and enjoy the party going on around them.
Kuma: Ah you said several things in that answer I’d like to address individually, so we’ll start from the top. I’ve only seen you perform once, but when you did, I noticed you did use a combination of keyboards in tandem with your laptop. Is that style of playing something you reserve solely for live performances or is it also your preferred method of composing, as well?
Pixel8ter: My current setup is simple and effective: a laptop and midi keyboard/controller. I can be easily distracted by endless gearlust so I want to limit myself to only what I need. That being said, I always want to find new ways to interact with the music. I’ve experimented with a Rock Band drumkit and plan on trying a DDR mat. I want to be as “live” as possible both in my performance and in the energy behind the track.
-photo courtesy of Blake Colello
Kuma: That seems to be rather converse to the trend in the scene, but I appreciate your music more now because of that. That said, while awkwardness may be a cornerstone of chiptune, you certainly have had the opportunity and privilege to make well respected friends in the scene. Tell me, how did you first get involved with DJ CUTMAN and become a member of the GameGhops crew?
Pixel8ter: What part is converse? The live part?
Pixel8ter: Energy can be in many forms, and when someone programs their music, all that energy goes into that. [I have] ultimate respect for those that can handle tracking, but right now it’s not how I make stuff. Thinking about exploring it, though. I’m just used to playing traditional instruments like guitar and keyboards, but the energy that some can put out is not about “how” its done. It just comes from inside them and they throw it out there and we feel it.
The prevailing notion seems to be: good music is good music. Your journey is your own and the goal is the same: feels. Although social awkwardness may be common, I only went to a few 8statics before talking to folks like An0va and SKGB. It was pretty easy to start convos with folks.
Kuma: I can respect and agree with that. The idea that energy put into a project is more important than how its done, no doubt. That said, I take it the mutual goal of feels is how you connected with the people you’ve come to work with in your time in the scene, yes?
Pixel8ter: Yes. I played Too Many Games, a game convention in PA, a few years ago. The crowd was sparse. The room was dark. But there was a guy watching it and apparently digging the sounds. That guy was DJ CUTMAN. He liked my stuff and talked about a label he was starting. I was eager to put out some of my music and he was eager to master it. Now I’m doing a few remixes for projects on the label too. It’s a very talented group of people, but there are so many folks i’d love to work with.
Kuma: Yes it is. I’m glad you brought up the story of meeting CUTMAN, because while shows like that can seem unassuming, it’s often those little unexpected things that help us take the next step forward. With that in mind I’d like to move on to the real reason I asked for this interview. Tell me, Blake: what exactly is Electric Philly?
Pixel8ter: It’s an open mic for electronic music. Have you ever been to one?
Kuma:No, I can’t say I have!
Pixel8ter: Yeah, ’cause for some reason they don’t seem to exist. Until now.
You can go to a bar during the week and hear folks practice live performances on acoustic and such but can’t seem to find a place to plug in your laptop or drum machine and jam out. I want more opportunities to perform and experiment and wanted others to have the same chance, so I’m creating that myself.
It’s not specific to genre, just a focus on as much live performing as possible. We can spontaneously collab, improvise noise jams, or even fuck up completely! Most of us just sit in our rooms or dark basements and practice this stuff, but if you want to share it and have some fun with other fans of electronic music, now we can! At least if u can get to Philly…
Kuma: I respect that immensely, because for as welcoming as chiptune is, outside of shows, and a couple small cliques of friends in the community, it seems that due to conflicting schedules, money restraints and distance that often times we are alone as opposed to with one another. As such, I do applaud your initiative in this. Tell me, how does one sign up for Electric Philly? Do they just have to show up? Also, how often are you planning on holding these events?
Pixel8ter:We have a Facebook group page people can join and keep up to date/communicate with each other through. We also have an event page for the first one. There’s a signup sheet link in those that I made to make it easier to organize. I intend to make this a monthly event, but that largely depends on folks signing up, the community coming out to support and buy drinks at the bar. It’s a free event. I want to keep it that way which means the bar has to make some money. I’m not doing this for the fortune and glory. Think about how a comedian does shitty dive bars to work on their set before the pay per view special films. Electronic musicians deserve that chance, too.
Kuma: Yeah that makes sense. Offers a chance for exposure without it being about the money, just the experience.
Pixel8ter: Without it being about being “perfect” too, like the 8static open mic is good for someone to make a great impression and rock the crowd, this is more to have fun and jam some ideas or practice performing. Plus for this event you can get 10-15 mins to play so it can give you a chance to get into deep stuff if u want!
Kuma: And that’s probably even more important than anything else. That feeling of comfort in being able to screw up in front of others without it being mortifying. That’s something that’s absolutely priceless.
That being said, Blake, I wish you the best in all your ventures, and it was a pleasure conversing with you. Is there anything you’d like to say in closing to anyone who might be reading?
Pixel8ter: There’s not too much on my Soundcloud yet, but I will be working to put out some stuff this year. Also, thank you for taking the time to interview me. Folks like you keep the scene as awesome as it is.
Kuma: You’re much too kind, but the feeling is mutual, my friend. Peace.
That’s it for this edition of RWcK! Don’t forget to check out Pixel8ter’s music and keep up with Electric Philly on Facebook! And, of course, don’t forget to keep coming back to the blog for all your chip related interviews, reviews, previews, and recipes!
Greetings all! It’s Chip Mom’s turn to introduce your ears to five more delicious musical morsels cooked up for you by the artists of Chiptunes = WIN: Volume 2!
Track #32: NEStonic by Decktonic
With Decktonic’s entry your ears are immediately delighted with tribal beats melded with the bevy of futuristic sounds that are Decktonic’s signature sound. While these two textures may seem mutually exclusive, the artist blends them masterfully. If your booty isn’t moving by the 45 second mark, you’re doing it wrong! Now, as a chiptune newb I can’t regale you with an in-depth analysis of the techniques used to create this composition. What I can tell you, however, is this: If Ayla and Robo got together and had a dance party at the End of Time, it would sound – appropriately – like ‘NEStonic’.
Track #33: Take a Look by The Flight Away
Full disclosure: I am that girl at the bar that “squees” and then sings at the top of her lungs when she hears ‘Take on Me‘. ‘To Be With You‘ is also in my regular karaoke rotation.
With that in mind, if you think back longingly to a time when music was made up of sharp drums, synth-laced keys, reverbed vocals, and puppies, then this song is right up your alley… and mine! In this song, The Flight Away has managed to capture the spirit of the 80s with a chiptune twist. Keeping with skrunchie-laden tradition, ‘Take a Look’ melds melancholy content with upbeat music ultimately producing a track that is joyful, endearing, and sinfully sing-alongable.
Track #34: Reasons by Dire Hit
And now for something completely different: Dire Hit’s ‘Reasons’. From the first moment of the track, the layering and panning of different elements is engrossing. While the sexy grooves and dirty beats would beg anyone to get on the dance floor, for me it’s the hook. Something about that melodic hint crawls into your ears, down into your gut, and lands in your hips. Before you know it, you’ve grabbed yourself a partner and are riding the electric wave out into the universe.
Track #35: By the Bit by Ayoshutduff
Ayoshutduff’s entry to the compilation is a cool respite from some of the more blistering dance tracks of Volume 2. When I first heard ‘By the Bit’, I thought of an overnight trip I spent in a cave when I was young. The smooth, rhythmic patterns of this song, punctuated with the heartbeat like thump of the bass, carries with it the same sense of anxiety and wonder I felt while I was there. It is almost as if I’ve become lost in the depths of that deep cave, and, as the layers of the song change, I am discovering new mysteries around every corner. But will I ever find my way back?
Track #36: The Longest Distance by Talkboy Arcade
If ‘By the Bit’ conveys the depth of a cave, then Talkboy Arcade’s ‘The Longest Distance’ is the emergence from that cave into the bright light of victory. The high energy and bright sounds make you want to dance with wild abandon. Unlike some of the compilation’s dance-y tracks, this song is not sexy, but celebratory. The feeling it evokes is indicative of the carefree joy of a time when life was simple, the good guys beat the bad guys, the Cheerios were honey-nutty, and Mr. Rogers was your favorite neighbor. Listen to it whenever you need lift!
Thank you all for your kind attention. Each of these artists worked their butts off to give you their best, and they deserve it! Until next time…