Greetings, readers! It’s about that time, eh chaps? While it has certainly felt like an eternity since I wrote my last album review (which you can read HERE), it’s good to be back! As I’m here to administer another dose of Chip Treatment the Professor Oakes way, it is with great pleasure to do so by reviewing ‘papillons’ by xyce—so sit tight and read up!
Released by CheapBeats, the label for the Tokyo-based chiptune and lo-fi event of the same name, ‘papillons’ continues to take the chiptune world by storm with Tom Offringa and Roel Heerspink’s release that hit Bandcamp on June 8, 2013. While the two musicians contribute to chip music as their solo acts xylo and cerror respectively, xyce is incredibly prolific as a duo. Hailing from Holland, the two met on a Dutch online forum (which you can read about all about in the interview with Kuma HERE) and joined forces around 2005/2006. Mustering inspiration that varies from France Gall, The Weepies, Children of Bodom, to other chiptune musicians and the demoscene itself (which Heerspink has been a member of since 2001), this bitpop duo’s album boasts 16 remarkable tracks using various hardware including the Amiga 500 and Atari 1040 STe. Coupled with album artwork by m7kenji—a Japanese game app developer who designed ‘Bugtronica’ and the Blip Festival Tokyo 2011 mobile schedule—xyce takes their listeners on a journey as they push the boundaries of the intersection between old school cracktro melodies and a bouncy Europop flare.
Receiving wide support from Bryan C (bryface), Mark Knight (TDK), and David Thorn (Dasid) on Bandcamp, as well as a listening party via 8 Bit Power Hour on 8bitx.com, ‘papillons’ opens up with ‘cloture de jardin’, which translates to ‘garden fence’. While it’s interesting to take note that the track titles, including the album name itself, are in French, such decision instills an incrediblely airy and flowy vibe that seems to take flight as the album progresses. ‘cloture de jardin’, a wonderful precursor to the latter tracks of the album, was composed using an Open ModPlug Tracker ran on Windows 7 (20 channel.xm at 148kb.) However, while I’m sure knowing each and every channel specifics mean a great deal to many musicians I know, xyce has put forth that by making music on different machines, their focus is always the same—melody—and melody is always key regardless of the channels used. Logistics aside, ‘cloture de jardin’ is a wonderful spring-like tune (which reminds me a lot of TQ-Jam) that is sure to have your body groovin’ in place and foot tapping within the first 30 seconds.
‘rainbow dash!’, xyce’s first collaboration on the album (the other being the ending title track with malmen), features RADix, Jakob Svanholm’s project that has earned him a respectable reputation through composing Amiga tunes in the 1990’s. With a hypnotizing key pattern, ‘rainbow dash!’ has an incredibly distinctive melody that changes form throughout the song. Most accurately compared to a melodic rollercoaster, ‘rainbow dash!’ throws its listeners into a whirlwind of adrenaline-pumping reactions that’s very reminiscent of accompanying a video game player in a side-scrolling running sequence. Notably, ‘rainbow dash!’ builds in tempo very early, levels off midway, and then spirals down the latter half of the track.
‘subsonique deux’, very appropriately mastered near the conclusion of ‘papillons’, is the longest track of the bunch and happens to be my personal favorite. Oozing at the seams with an unforgettable cyberpunk rhythm on the Amiga 500, ‘subsonique deux’ is a wonderful example of xyce’s ability to create melodies and key patterns that are undoubtedly polar opposites of the spring-like tracks such as ‘cloture de jardin’. Within the first 30 seconds, listeners are forced to strap in as they are catapulted into what feels like a high-speed jet race. The track, which formally translates to ‘subsonic two’ in English, breaks out in a fusion of Breakbeat and Drum and Bass kicks and breakdowns similar to that of artists such as Pendulum and The Prodigy around the 1 minute and 45 second mark.
While I have reviewed only three tracks that depict the eclectic style and tone of the album, keep in mind that there are 13 other wonderful ones! That being said, ‘papillons’ can be purchased through Bandcamp digitally for $5, or the hard copy for $10, which ships out to your door within three days. Either which way, this is an album I definitely recommend buying (if you haven’t already!) as I assure you it’ll make its way to your list of top favorites.
That’s all ChipWiners! Until next time on Chip Treatment—Professor Oakes signing off!
‘Sup, chipWINners! Its your boy Kuma back with another interview! This time around, I managed to get something super special with not one but two awesome chiptune legends who talk to me about their creative process, how they first met, and a few other unexpected topics! Without further ado, I present my first interview with a duo on Raw Cuts: xyce!
Kuma: It is a pleasure to finally be able to get to sit down and talk with you guys!
How are you two doing?
Tom Offringa (xylo): Good!
Roel Heerspink (cerror): Great! You?
Kuma: Not bad, thanks! Let’s get started, shall we?
cerror: Yes sir!
Kuma: I’m especially excited as this will be my first interview with more than one person at a time, so this should be very exciting!
xylo: Haha it’ll work out!
cerror: Hope it’s not confusing!
Kuma: So, first question: you two both have solocareers as electronic artists, but you definitely seem to have been most prolific as a duo. How did you two meet in the first place?
xylo: I heard a keygen from X-Men and the name cerror came by. I was pretty active on a dutch forum those days and I saw cerror his name across there as well, so I asked him if he was actually the same guy. And he was!
cerror: Yup! So he contacted me and said he wanted to make tunes as well and I started to teach him some stuff.
cerror: And that way we started making music together. That was in 2006, I think?
xylo: Somewhere around 2005/2006 I guess yeah!
cerror: He lived in Groningen and I lived in Meppel (hour away by train) so it was via internet at first.
Kuma:Very cool. That being said, Roel, since you seem to have been doing this longer than Tom has, I’m curious as to just how long you’ve been doing this before, especially since, in your equipment lists on your albums, you seem to be one of the chiptuners that prefers the sounds made with consoles and computers made in the early and mid 80s, compared to a lot of other folk I’ve interviewed who stick to Game boys and such.
cerror: Wow, well I started like everybody else: with gaming. First thing I gamed on was a commodore 128 that belonged to my nephews. And later on I was a big Sega Megadrive (Genesis) fan and also old PCs, of course. That was around ’92 or so. I used to be a drummer and I saw a guy at school making music with Fasttracker II. I got that one online and started to look for music to learn from. I saw this site named traxinspace and it had like breakbeat and trance stuff but also chiptunes made by Zalza! This was around 97.
Thus, I started to learn and remembered the good old days. I also started research and learn and also purchase machines while learning the trackers. I lost 1 hard disk with 800 bad tunes, but I just kept on doing it until today. Only got pretty decent at chiptunes in 2003/2004 I think.
xylo: Our choice of old computers like the Amiga and Atari instead of the Game boy is pretty much based on the sound it makes. The trackers work great, we’re used to them and the chips in both those computers sound awesome.
cerror: Exactly! Of course, I’m heavily influenced by the demoscene (I’ve been a member since 2001) and crackteams I’ve been in.
Kuma: Oh man, that’s awful about that hard drive you lost! I’m sorry about that, but at least those tunes helped you become the artist you are today! I’m glad you mentioned Zalza, as I’m listening to Mosaik right now!
Now Tom, I’m sure it was already exciting for you to work with Roel as it was, but I couldn’t imagine how you must have felt when you got a chance to work with Zalza and RADIx, as well! Does it ever hit you out of the blue that in the…8 or so years you’ve been in chiptune that you’ve come so far and have had a chance to work with so many awesome artists?
xylo: Working with Roel became very smooth. As he taught me pretty much all the basics of Modplug and I was inspired heavily by the same kind of artists Roel was our styles mixed in pretty flawlessly.
cerror: Yeah I have to quickly come in between and I must say that that was an incredibly coincidence . Our styles were pretty much the same. Love for the same type of tunes. Now I shall shut up.
xylo: As cerror was already a pretty known name by those kind of artists and we visited some demoparties it was easy to connect. We talked to Zalza when he was planning on doing a Chipdisk with artists from back then. So because of he mainly knowing cerror and we were working a lot together, he (Zalza) asked xyce to do a track with him. We met him on Revision where the Chipdisk was released!
Working with RADIx was a true blessing, as well. With social media coming up it was suddenly a lot easier to quickly get in touch with someone (asides from irc and stuff). So we talked a bit about chiptunes and the idea came up to do a track together.
cerror: I came in my pants when I got the news from Tom that RADIx wanted to work with us. And not only once, but TWICE! [RADIx has a] New album, too.
Kuma: You have no idea how hard that made me laugh!
cerror: Hehehehehe, it’s true though! I mean, I’ve started making tunes since 2000 or so, RADIx since 92! I am a 3rd gen chiptune guy.
Kuma: I can only imagine! It definitely sounds like the way i would react if someone like 4mat ever said he wanted to make music with me! I’d just….spaghettis everywhere!
xylo: Working with guys as RADIx, Zalza, Malmen, alk and more feels incredible. It’s amazing to work with those that inspire us daily musically and them taking the time to work with us and enjoy making music makes us very happy!
cerror: Whahahaha, I would too if 4mat would ask us! He’s also a demoscener, btw!
Totally! Although I’ve made tunes for a while, I am not as famous as 4mat, RADIx or Zalza. So it’s a super honor for me.
Kuma: Damn! It certainly sounds like you guys have been afforded a lot of opportunities in the scene and that, in particular for you Tom, that most of your career musically since having met Roel seems to have just naturally unfurled for you! It’s pretty amazing! Is there anything either of you wish you would have done that maybe you haven’t had the chance to do or something you wish to do differently artistically? Such as maybe take up more on the visual side in the demoscene or experiment more with your sound? I’m really curious.
xylo: Well, experimenting is something we generally do. cerror’s got his VST music which is pretty different. But when we make music together and try a different approach (for example some doskpop, italo or drum n bass) the happy chords and vibes seem to come magically back in to our songs, which makes them instantly recognizable for most.
cerror: Yeah, I really want to make tunes on more different types of machines. Like the ZX Speccy, Atari XL, Sega, Nintendo (NES, SNES and Gameboy, in particular) and so on. But it’s really hard to learn new trackers. Don’t have the patience/time for it. And I can’t step off the melodies. It’s just hard coded in my brain
xylo: Concerning machines I agree with Roel. Expanding our horizon with more machines would be great.
cerror: I have a lot of machines. Just no time or sd cartridges/transfer thingies. I’ve got a list here of machines I have.
Kuma: Yeah I really have to agree there, Tom: I can spot a xyce tune out of a Coachella sized event on a single mp3 player, but there’s nothing wrong with those happy chords. I think it just adds to what makes your music–and chiptune as an instrumentation and/or genre–unique. Hell, that’s why I fell in love with it in the first place when I went to Blipfest last year.
That being said, one thing i have noticed with your music is the Sega sound and influence in what you produce. It’s almost funny to hear you say you want to expand your horizons more but that sound, or sounds akin to it, are already there.
cerror: Well style-wise it is yes. But the real sound though is missing. That’s what I want in the next album.
Kuma: Is that intentional or do you think that just comes out subconsciously and you haven’t fully realized that its there yet?
cerror: Not really recognize it although now that you say, I can see what you mean. The basslines and chord hits definitely stand out.
xylo: It’s the experience making music on those machines that is really important, as well. Our Amiga Mods and Atari snd’s have a very distinctive sound. Our Fasttracker II tracks (XM) have a bit of clash sound with different kind of sounds, samples and stuff.
Kuma: Since you bought it up, lets talk about your future projects, both together and individually. What do you guys have up your sleeves for the next album? What sorta hardware and software did you use this time around? Did you stick to your guns or did you expand a little more?
cerror: Didn’t really talked about it to be honest.
xylo: Although it sounds like some other machines, making music on the machines alone makes it that songs have the very distinctive sound the machines produces, as the Atari and Amiga do, as well. That’s the main difference between FastTracker II tracks ‘sounding’ like Sega tracks, and tracks actually made on the machine.
cerror: Yup. Sound is important. The feel, etc. That’s why I dislike commodore style VST. And stuff like that. We do it hardcore
xylo: No expending this album with other machines than the usual, but the album has a lot of variety in styles (some easier, some loud etc).
Kuma: I can tell. I don’t even think Radlib/oxygenstar/what’sCarlsnamenow? does it quite as hard as that.
xylo: We used the Atari 1040ST, Amiga 500 and PC just as the other 4 albums.
cerror: We want to do more types of machines, but as I said: it’s hard to learn new trackers. I can make a tune on an Atari blindfolded. But a Sega tune? Hard hard work!
I am 29 now so when I was 17 I had the time.
Kuma: That’s very true. I’m nowhere near even half the guys on cm.o, but I can at least make a little melody or drum beat on piggy tracker or sunvox in a couple minutes. I couldn’t figure out FamiTracker or Schism Tracker for the life of me, though. Also, I have to agree: it does seem–outwardly, at least–like Sega tunes are hard work. Sega guys definitely seem to make up one of–if not the–lowest common denominator of what you see in chip. Hell, outside The Duchess, the only other person I know that does Sega stuff is The Flight Away, and he does samples through his laptop as opposed to working with the hardware directly.
cerror: Coda, for example, is what I want to achieve on the Sega. Unfortunately it will take years and years to get there sound wise.
xylo: Experiencing is always a good thing, but as some other trackers feel way more comfortable and known it’s easy to gripe back to those when you want to push out some inspiration in to notes.
cerror: I’ve already made some patterns with a Sonic 2 drums and bass sound but now we need to make an entire tune. And what Tom says is true: we can still make compelling music on the platforms we know, so why quit? It’s just the wish to make on other machines, but that will come gradually I think. Takes time.
Kuma: Exactly. Thank you for reminding me of Coda, by the way. I came across his work briefly when I was first getting into chip about a year ago. I forgot that this man was just a music making machine.
Cerror: He is marvelous, I adore his stuff. Also a good coder!
Kuma: I’d imagine so! You spend as much time making tracker music as he does or you guys do, and picking up coding seems to become second hand, as well. That being said, when can the public expect your new album, and will you be doing anything to promote it? Go on tour? Radio show listening party? Anything like that?
xylo: We’ll try to get it released somewhere in the next few weeks. Hopefully sooner than later. Promoting not really. We’re discussing a listening party and, of course, yell some around on gigs.
cerror: And, of course, Facebook and gig whore-ing.
xylo: Besides Social Media spamming we don’t do a lot of promoting. The previous albums seemed to go around the internet without a lot of effort (thanks for doing so people/listeners/fans!!!!!!!) so hopefully it’ll work out this time as well!
cerror: And this album is a little bit more high profile, so we hope more people pick it up.
We have help now. From the awesome people at cheapbeats.
xylo: We’re releasing it under the Cheapbeats label, so hopefully a little bigger audience than the last album will pick it up as well.
[Edit: An online listening party has since been squared away on June 8th for xyce’s upcoming album via 8 Bit Power Hour on 8bitx.com. Click HERE for details on that!]
Kuma: I’m glad to hear it! I know your devoted fans, as well as new ones, will definitely be excited to hear what you two have produced! Although it is interesting that you two are relatively quiet about what you make but have found such success in doing so. Were you two always that way or was their a time you pushed harder to be recognized? Or does the recognition simply not matter? Do you guys just not give a damn?
Cerror: Well it’s nice, of course, to get recognition, but it’s not our first priority. We make the music because we like doing it.
xylo: Well I guess recognition is always fun, and to hear people liking the music we make but it is definitely not a priority.
cerror: And live gigs are the awesomest because we get to know new people, get drunk and party while showing our prides and joy!
xylo: That is definitely true! And I don’t really know how to get more known. Talking on social media seems to work. I guess it’s still a niche market and people liking our style will probably come across it some time.
cerror: I have no idea how we got so pretty well known. [It’s a] Mystery to me!
xylo: It’s very fun and actually makes me very happy to see people opening threads about our new works on reddit, for example, without any effort from our side.
cerror: Plus youtube videos and the occasional Facebook ad. It’s good for my fragile ego, but I still don’t see why people like us. Well, we are pretty cool dudes.
Kuma: Yes, that you certainly are! That being said, I thank you both for your time, gentlemen! This was truly a pleasure getting to interact with both of you! Do any of you have anything you’d like to say before we wrap this up? Advice you’d like to give? Promotional, ego stroking goodness? Drunkfest stories you guys wanna share before this all ends?
Kuma: Nice! What about you, Tom? Do you have anything you’d like to say?
xylo: Well, there was one time where we went to Belgium to play with Men of Mega and RoccoW where some girl walked around being extremely drunk. She was on a Facebook picture a few days after and if I recall correctly Roel called her a name on that post. It came to be she was tagged and she didn’t really liked being called that! Hahaha! Awesome keyboard-hero goodness!
cerror: Almost forgot about that! Whahahaha! It wasn’t nice of me but she was acting like a bit of a whore. And we have a lot of good anecdote’s about men of mega guys almost falling offstage and falling on slippery road and drinking too much! Stories like that. Typical gig stories. Hehehehe! Thank you Adam for this interview! Such an honor.
xylo: But to wrap it up! Visit a gig if you’re nearby to experience those in real life! Keep our Facebook and Twitter in mind the next couple of days/weeks for updates on our new album and upcoming gigs and releases! And thank you for having us! Great opportunity!
Kuma: Thank you for being with me!
Hope you guys enjoyed that article! Don’t forget to follow Xyce on Facebook and Twitter so you can keep up with updates about their soon to be released album! Join us next time as I take the time to talk to sleepytimejesse, a chiptuner and music composer who’s making quite a name for himself as a solo artist as well as with an increasingly popular indie rock band called The Zou!