By the time you read this, everyone should be home and happy, well rested, without the MAGFlu and otherwise readjusted to real life. While I’m WRITING it, however, I’m drowning in posts from people in transit back to the dark corners of the world they crawled from so that they can go heal themselves. While this year’s MAGFest might have been the biggest one so far, it also seems to have taken the most from us in terms of bodily health, but only because everyone was incapable of having any degree of chill. Everyone basically just kept going until they were physically unable to go anymore, and even then they just kinda propped their bodies up in chairs so they could at least look like they were still going like some kind of knock-off ‘Weekend at Bernie’s.’ It was amazing. But enough talk – let’s have at this highlight reel!
The UK may have Superbyte, the Netherlands may have EINDBAAS, but here near the United States’ capital, we have a little thing called MAGFest, and we like to think it does alright. While many of you came out and attended MAGFest with us from all over the globe (attendance surpassed 17,000 people this year!), I know there are many of you who were not able to. And if I’m honest with you, even those of us who DID go couldn’t have gone to everything that there was to do there unless the Ministry of Magic had given out Time Turners to the lot of us. That’s where this post comes in – I’ve done my best to assemble all the links, videos and pictures of the most happening happenings to have happened. Those of you who remember my Post-PAX PAX Post should be familiar with how I’m going to format this: As this was the Music and Gaming Festival, we’re going to have a #Music and a #Gaming section as well as a #Closing Thoughts, tagged as such for easy navigation within the post.
Press play below to fall in love with this powerful foray into 80s electronica, ‘Distant Reality’ by Shirobon.
Released to the masses on Bandcamp February 4th, 2014, Shirobon’s ‘Distant Reality’ is a compact, delicious delve into cyberpunk that infuses you with flowing 80s-inspired synth, weighty bass lines and thoughtful lyrics.
The improvisational nature of the tracks in ‘Distant Reality’ do so much more than simply keep you guessing, they weave inspired transitions together with tell-tale 80s synth to set a mysterious cyberpunk mood that will make you wonder the results of your Voight-Kampff test.
‘Distant Reality’ is a set of 5 killer tracks that waste no time getting down into an 80s groove, embracing it with every single note. This is not a gimmick tacked onto a hacked-together string of ideas, the precision of execution and respect for the era come through loud and clear.
Impressive vocals across the album truly add to the atmosphere including Shirobon himself lending his own robotic vocals to “Regain Control”, “Perfect Machine” and “City Patrol (Stage B)”. “Immune”, however, introduces you to the world Shirobon has created with the unexpected and absolutely alluring vocals of Camden Cox. The weight of the lyrics equal the depth of the bass lines, and the result is beyond immersive.
‘Distant Reality’ tows melodies through inspired funk and synth elements with a directed, yet unpredictable approach to its composition: each change and volley into each new element during a given track on ‘Distant Reality’ feels like the most appropriate direction to shift into, but you simply don’t see it coming. Polished, experimental, and focused, ‘Distant Reality’ is a refreshing exploration of tone and theme in a sea of heartless electronica that deserves your £3 investment.
Shirobon was gracious enough to answer a few questions about his experiences building ‘Distant Reality’, and that interview continues below:
PixelRecall: Camden Cox’s vocals on “Immune” are gripping. How did the opportunity to work with her come about?
Shirobon: Thanks! I have actually known Camden Cox for quite some time. She also did vocals some time ago on my song “Running My Head“. She is a very talented vocalist! I have also produced a group of songs for her which will be released throughout the year!
PixelRecall: Where did you draw inspiration for your lyrics across the album?
Shirobon: These days I like to look up a lot of imagery before starting work on songs. I wanted to go for a Cyberpunk/Futuristic feel while keeping cool and introducing chiptune elements (More of the c64/Sega style) so naturally the lyrics reflect on that.
PixelRecall: The songs on ‘Distant Reality’, most notably with “Cyber Party”, have an engaging, almost improvisational feel to them. What is your creative process like when composing your music?
Shirobon: Well, when I work on a song I like to consider it jamming with myself (or in the case of “Cyber Party” with Radix!). So I would usually come up with some drums or a melody idea and then just jam over them. If it starts to sound good then I hit the record button and take it from there!
PixelRecall: Are you performing the vocals on “Regain Control”?
Shirobon: Yes, I’m a sucker for robotic vocals and love to use my voice when I can! (Also, it’s my voice on “Perfect Machine” and “City Patrol (Stage B)”.
PixelRecall: Did you have a “eureka” moment during the creation of the album you may not have expected to have?
Shirobon: I was having some trouble with “City Patrol (Stage B)” and couldn’t get it to feel good. It started off as a guitar/electro disco number. Before I gave up I thought I would make some changes and plugged in my modular synth and made some chip sounds, from there everything fell into place!
PixelRecall: Do you have a favourite memory from your experiences performing live?
Shirobon: I have had a lot of really fun times performing live and the crowds are always pretty intense, but i think one that stands out the most is when I had a large wall of death and saw this massive dude drop kick a girl in the face! But thankfully she was fine!
PixelRecall: Do you have any shows coming up?
Shirobon: I have a few! Playing at Nintendoom in Belgium which will be a lot of fun. I have quite a few coming up around Europe but i have yet to announce those…
PixelRecall: Any advice for aspiring chiptune artists?
Shirobon: Do it because you love it, not because you wanna make it (big). Popularity in the scene comes and goes but the artists that people love are the ones who have always loved to make (music) and not felt to give it up.
PixelRecall: What was your main goal when you set out to create Distant Reality, and do you feel like you accomplished it?
Shirobon: I just wanted to make something a little different from the generic releases that are out there at the moment, and not to try and jump on a trend and make some kind of bass music! I reckon I did a good job!
PixelRecall: Any final thoughts or news you’d like to share with the Chiptunes = WIN community?
Shirobon: Back Tracking and Distant Reality I consider to be warm up releases to show people what my sounds is like now. With them released I’m going to start work on an album! Still planning what sort of songs I want on it but it’s gonna be a journey that crosses over the sounds of chiptune and synthesizers!
Big thanks to Shirobon for taking time out for the interview!
Now go grab your copy of ‘Distant Reality’ on Bandcamp right now before the next time you hang with your friends so that when they’re like, “Have you heard of Shirobon?” you can be like, “Know him? I have Distant Reality on repeat!”
Pixel Recall ~ (R. Morgan Slade) ~ Support the artists you love
Juxtaposed in the eye of the storm between high-energy and ambience, LUST by Meishi Smile charges peaceful melodies with energetic electronic pop to create an engaging, contemporary album. Meishi Smile recently performed live at this year’s Frequency 3.0, lending his track “Honey” to the Frequency 3.0 Artist Sampler compilation album embedded below.
I highly suggest you press play.
“Honey” showcases Meishi Smile’s J-Pop influences and ability to weave emotion into contemporary electronic music. Whispers of cryptic lyrics may catch your attention throughout LUST; subtle windows into Meishi Smile’s state of mind during the creation of the album.
LUST flows from track to track with an ever-evolving stream of synth-laced electronica. The marriage of energetic melodies and cool, breezy ambience in this latest offering from Meishi Smiles makes for an alluring album of tracks that nuzzle into your brain-space and will stay with you for days.
LUST by Meishi Smile is set to release Jan. 28th, and pre-orders (in both physical and digital forms) are available here. [Edit: Album is RELEASED!! Stream below! =D ]
I was able to steal a few precious minutes from Meishi Smile for a few questions, and that interview continues below:
Pixel Recall: Hoodie tells me you rocked Frequency this year. What was it like performing at Frequency? Are you a fan of performing live? Do you have any upcoming live events we should know about?
Meishi Smile: I went to Frequency last year primarily due to see my pal Pedro in Slime Girls perform. It was the first time I met him, as well as Jami from Space Boyfriend and Thymine/Grace, who illustrates under the names Tochiimint and Mahoushoughost. I had a really great time with them, and I guess I’m mentioning such an encounter because it’s made Frequency this really symbolic thing of friendship to me, that looking back at meeting these people one year ago and being extremely close to them now, it’s reinforced a lot of what I believe in with my life and what I do creatively.
Frequency itself though is amazing. I haven’t been involved with those creating chiptune music for that long, but I’ve quickly discovered all the amazing underground artists in the scene who definitely deserve a lot more attention. Being amongst those people was a great feeling this year. It’s still a very small thing, but it’s definitely growing by the year and I think a lot of chiptune music is really in the spirit of punk rock. Just the general idea of chiptune to me has always seemed like that, and sort of rebellious in a way. A generation of kids growing up with video games and gadgets, a lot of them being told that it’s a waste of time by their peers, yet turning around and utilizing those things to do something that’s very creative.
My performance at Frequency was the first time I sang live and performed all original stuff. Usually I put a lot of remixes into my sets and have been in situations where I’ve felt the need to play only music that people can dance to, but I felt like this was a good opportunity to finally explore something much more in tune with my emotions. It’s definitely been the most meaningful set I’ve done so far, and I hope to continue to perform more shows like this in a similar vein.
I’ll be doing an online release party with my friends at SPF420, and DJing for this event set to celebrate the release of a zine dedicated to Yasutaka Nakata (producer of capsule, Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, Perfume). Aside from that, I have some out of state gigs coming soon and some surprises I can’t announce yet. I’m always looking to play more shows! Pixel Recall: Tell me about ZOOM LENS! How you got involved with them, how it has affected your music making/reaching out to fans/getting your music out there?
Meishi Smile: I actually founded ZOOM LENS and I’ve been doing it since around 2009, although there are some gaps where I took a year or two off since I had some moments where I lost heart in the project.
I originally created it in intention to primarily release noise music (I had a project back then called Yuko Imada that did harsh noise and ambient music), but then I met my friend Kyle, who was currently performing as Class of 1923 (his latest project is called Uio Loi). It opened me up to the idea of working with other people, and soon I met more people online and began to create a little network of like-minded people whose music I enjoyed and personalities and drive I respected and it started to blossom from there.
I use the term “digital punk rock spirit” in correlation with ZOOM LENS a lot. I guess to me that sort of means this community of people I’ve met online who are operating on a sort of level of subversive interests and ideals and that I want others outside of the music to identify with who we are as well.
For instance, with what I do with MEISHI there is a large degree of me being influenced by J-Pop and Anime culture, and I want to make that sort of thing approachable to others and something that one can be proud of liking. I think Tumblr and some other social media venues have made such things as this sort of ironic meme-worthy kind of thing. Even though that sort of culture has become more acceptable it’s still this kind of weird, uncool thing in a way. Ultimately I’m happy though that my music seems to fit underneath a wide variety of contexts and people who don’t even like that sort of stuff can at least be introduced to it on the musical/emotional level that I present it as, and possibly understand how that sort of thing has more substance than it’s taken for.
Not all of ZOOM LENS is even into stuff like that though, but I guess I use that as an example as ZOOM LENS trying to be something that represents a wide variety of interests, yet sort of comes together as this identifiable and unified whole due to this community of friends who just simply believe in what they believe in and do it.
Pixel Recall:During the production of LUST, did you discover a new favorite way of building/creating your music?
Meishi Smile: LUST is still a really weird record to me because it’s not what I intended to initially make MEISHI SMILE into. Like I mentioned, I used to record a lot of noise and ambient music and I really wanted to completely move away from that.
My initial goal was simply to create electronic pop music, and I was listening to a lot of production by Yasutaka Nakata at the time and the first Ravex album- that’s sort of what I wanted to do.
But as I went through different emotional experiences, I found myself making the album that would end up being LUST and I ended up channeling different influences and ended up making something that musically, I feel takes my influence from Shoegaze, J-Pop, Noise, as well as elements of music such as Happy Hardcore.
So I guess my discovery was that things can always change from your set intentions, and you should be open to that. What ultimately matters is that you successfully create something that channels who you and what you feel, and with LUST I think I really captured the feelings I had in those particular moments.
Pixel Recall:During the production of LUST, were there any unique challenges that you found yourself having to overcome? How were you able to overcome that challenge, and how did it help to shape the final release?
Meishi Smile: I initially released a low-key cassette version of it on Orchid Tapes, and since then I’ve grown more comfortable with who I am and what I do and how I record music, both on an emotional and a technical level. I suppose my challenge that came after I made that initial version was that I wanted to make it sound more like what I wanted on the level of finding more appropriate sounds and mixing the record better. The structure was there, but I felt sort of unsatisfied with what it was a few months later after its release. All that sort of grew with time, and after I released my EP with Maltine Records I had a lot more confidence to start doing things again and LUST slowly became the product it is now, which I’m much more proud of and finally happy to say I can close this chapter of my life.
Pixel Recall: Do you have a favourite technique or specific way/program you prefer to employ when making music? It could be a program, a way of organizing your thoughts, the way you create a given track, etc?
Meishi Smile: My approach to creating music isn’t really based on that much technical skill. I’ve played guitar since I was like 12, but I never learned any theory or how to read music and I’ve only fiddled with the piano since I started making music for MEISHI. I guess in saying that, most of how I make music simply comes from personal experiences that I try best to put into musical form. I find sounds by reflecting upon those experiences and thinking of the texture that brings out that particular mood.
A lot of those sounds are reflective of a lot of 90’s Nintendo video games, stuff I’d heard as a kid. I think I say that on a very general level because I like video games, but I’m not completely knowledgeable either now at my age. I would hole myself up and had little friends when I was young, so I would no doubt enjoy the textures in games like Bomberman 64 or Mystical Ninja Goemon, very “Japanese” sort of melodies, but that’s all I have. I think that sense of separation reflecting on something that I am so contrastingly close to and also removed from helps create a sound that some people have told me is kind of “nostalgic.”
Pixel Recall:Your style embraces a light, energetic, positive ambience. What draws you to this style? Do you have any specific influences? What is your favourite way to explore this particular style when you’re making music?
Meishi Smile: I think it all goes back to being influenced by a lot of Japanese music. There’s a particular moment in time that really influenced me in the way that I write, and it was when a friend of mine passed away in High School. During that time I had seen the movie Bright Future, and I really enjoyed the closing song “Mirai” which was by The Back Horn. I always felt a sort of message with that song. A sort of walking into the unknown, never retracing the steps of the past and simply saying goodbye to those moments with a sense of both heaviness and optimism. When I read the lyrics, they were very similar to what I had felt, it really hit me in a profound way. It was sort of the confirmation I needed when listening to foreign music that much of it is in the emotion, and from that emotion you can sometimes even sense something much more literal (such as the lyrics, in this case).
So with MEISHI SMILE I try my best to convey what I can in the abstract. Although I include lyrics to my songs, they’re not what I said when I recorded them. Most of the melodies and lyrics I make are simply me hitting record and singing stream of conscious. I don’t know what I said then, and the lyrics I use later are simply a placeholder that vaguely capture the emotion of what I felt. I hope that something can be felt despite what is read or heard. I think I want to just make something that is transcendent of the standard conventions of how you’re supposed to listen to music. I don’t meant that all in a pretentious way, but when I was listening to Japanese music as a kid, people would insultingly ask me “why?” That “if you can’t understand what they say, why bother listening?” To me, it’s because something can be felt. And I’m not sure why that isn’t a good enough reason for listening to music sometimes.
Pixel Recall: Do you have any advice for aspiring musicians?
Meishi Smile: Interpret your influences through your own state of mind and allow that to inspire what you truly want to create as an individual.
Pixel Recall: Is there anything else you’d like to leave our readers with?
Meishi Smile: Thanks for reading my rants all the time.
Huge thanks to Meishi Smile for taking the time to so eloquently answer those questions.
Get in on the ground floor and snag your pre-order for LUST here!
Pixel Recall ~ (R. Morgan Slade) ~ Support the artists you love
Sup y’all? Hoodie here. Looks like it’s my turn to take a spin at the multi-track Volume 1 write-ups. Woohoo! =D My five are a little further in on the album, but by no means suffer in quality and/or badassery because of such. In fact, they may be some of the best tracks on the entire release!
Track #35: Algoorithm (Chris Algoo) – While We Can, Party
Chris’ groovetastic entry to volume 1 is three minutes & fifteen seconds of various bleeps and bloops, hard hitting bass, & tasty drum samples, all geared towards making the body move. The perfectly named track comes from his debut album “Robotropolis”, which was directly inspired by his personal experiences at Blipfest 2011. Having made it to that fantastic party myself, I can completely understand the desire to create something awesome after coming home from it. It’s largely how this entire project came to be after all. ;)
Track #36: Cartoon Bomb – Earthworm Facts
Cartoon Bomb’s contribution to this compilation is FAR dirtier than anything worms could ever be found wriggling in; there’s a dark, sexy vibe to this track, no doubt about it. If you listen closely youcan totes hear the “worms” moving around in this track via the interplay of the various interweaving melodies. Such a fun track! Seriously, this is an artist I’d really like to hear a good album’s worth of music from (only sporadic single track releases on his Soundcloud & such thus far). Although if I know Will he’s busy with a million different other projects as well. Maybe one of these days.
Track #37: Da Pantz – Real In The Field
And then we have this wild ass entry by Da Pantz! Seriously folks, his submission is hands down the craziest collection of noises, samples, bleeps, & bloops on this compilation. Although wrapped tightly around a driving bassbeat the way they are, it all sums up to become quite the head nodding, toe tapping jam! Another artist I’m looking forward to hearing more from, even if it’ll have to be from his current alias Ricky Brugal, as Da Pantz is currently in stasis.
Track #38: Sam Mulligan – Secret
I remember quite vividly how I felt after listening to this track for the first time right after Sam submitted it. It was basically “WTF was that?!?” with the huuuuugest grin on my face. There’s no secret about it, Sam Mulligan is 100% guilty of writing some of the most delightful, wholly enjoyable, absolutely FUN music in all of chiptune, and this 1 minute & 21 second track is about as perfect of an example of that as it gets. Not to mention that Sam might very well be the nicest human being in the entire chipscene (deal with it, Sam! ♥).
Track #39: Stenobot – Shark Flower
Until I received this track, I wasn’t even aware that the chippy heart of Supercommuter had a solo project. In other words, I’m very glad Stenobot submitted this track!! This wonderful joytastic jam is easily one of my favorite tracks on Volume 1, & dare I say one of the most excellently composed tracks on it, period. Fun facts: the track is named after Stenobot’s young son, Julian’s, imaginary friend’s sister. Julian is also the one responsible for shouting out the track title with gusto in the midst of the song. Doesn’t get much more totes adorbs than this, folks.