Hi everyone — I hope you’re all enjoying 2020, because we’re actually about to take a little trip back to December 2019, a time wheneveryone decided to drop their albums in a bizarre, chaotic rush to beat the clock on the new decade. Or was that just me? Projection aside, there’s a lot of great tunes to unpack from the climactic finale of the 2010s, so we’re gonna linger here a bit for me to shine the spotlight on a lovely, experimental EP from the equally lovely Joe Swensen!
Formerly known as Turtle Beats, Joe’s been a formidable presence in the scene for a while, but they have recently launched into the forefront by their flawless execution of the “ChipWIN roster debut to new album to Chipspace showcase” true-combo we’ve seen play out plenty of times over the years! ‘Lachrymose Dreams of the Alchemist’ is a compact concept album packed to the brim with novel techniques in Joe’s lively, minimalist style. It’s certainly a must-listen for anyone brainstorming new directions for their next LSDJ project.
What’s up, gamers. If this isn’t the first article of mine you’ve scrolled through, you know I’m a sucker for living examples of collaboration in action. I love seeing different creative directions come together to present a totally new musical idea or experience, and, like many of you, I fucking adore LSDJ chiptune and Famitracker-based synthwave. Basically, it should come as no surprise to anyone that I’m about to unleash a whole article about ‘PWRNEON,’ an absolute banger of a single and cover of toasterpastries’ ‘PWRMEOW’ by Techno Mage, a Seattle-based duo comprised of famitracker musician Dan Butler and guitarist Austin Schuyler. The track premiered last night on Nightride.fm alongside a playlist of recent LSDJ tracks curated by Dan himself. There’s more to be said about Nightride, but first I’d like to kick things off with my own review of ‘PWRNEON.’
Hey folks! It’s ya boi rhyphte here with some more great summer tunes to talk about. In the midst of V8 submission prep, a very special member of our community was working hard on his first feature length release with his new label! I meant to put this out sooner (closer to the album release and farther from V8), but moving sucks (Editor-in-chief’s note: 100% AGREED), traveling sucks, and doing both in the same week is a gigantic pain in the ass.
I like Catskull Records because of its position as the nucleus of the Midwestern scene. There’s a lot of action on the coasts but the great interior of the states is certainly nothing to sneeze at. Toasterpastries, aka Jack Danial Young, has officially been inducted into the same cabal as the likes of Immortan and ChronoWolf, and I’m glad to see it because he’s definitely been on the come-up for a hot-ass minute now.
I also want to point out the awesome fucking album art. Jack took a picture of the solar eclipse (you know the one) with a GAMEBOY CAMERA. What a badass power move, am I right? The font chosen is very recognizable to the LSDJ goonsquad, of which I am a card-carrying member.
Normally I’d say it’s a little late in the game to be bringing out a “Game Boy/LSDJ-themed” album (it’s INSERT_YEAR_HERE, after all), but Jack has a strong argument for reminding us what these tiny old computers are really capable of. Not that any of us here at Chiptunes = WIN have ever actually forgotten. (ﾉ◕ヮ◕)ﾉ*:･ﾟ✧
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.
Hey there, chipbros and sistas! Welcome to the first edition of Raw Cuts with Kuma! What is Raw Cuts, you ask? Well, Raw Cuts are unedited, candid interviews with some of the coolest, hippest minds in the chiptune scene! From big stars to up-and-comers, Raw Cuts was made to allow for a very in depth look at the thought processes of some of the artists, visualists, designers, and promotersin the scene, and maybe even a couple lols on occasion.
This first interview is one I did a while back with an artist who contributed to ChipWin’s very first compilation album, our 51 track beast of an LP. I went into it wanting to get to know and understand this artist more, but I ended up also getting some advice from him on my road to becoming a fellow chiptuner. Best known for his unique manipulation of noise, laid back demeanor, and dat luscious freakin hair, here’s my interview with Aleister M. Williams, the artist known as SKGB!
Kuma: So, lets start with something basic. Your stage name, SKGB. What was the inspiration for that? What does that stand for, anyway?
SKGB: Well… I basically needed to change my name from SOMETHING WHICH WILL NEVER BE MENTIONED AGAIN! And I wanted it to sound “cool” I guess, so I took some words that meant something to me and I turned em into an acronym. I’m sorry, but at this time my agent, Aleister Williams, will not permit me to reveal what SKGB stands for.
Kuma: Hahahaha fair enough, good sir. That being said, what first got you into chiptune? Had music production always been something that was a part of your life or did it come later in life?
SKGB: Well, when I was five I decided I wanted to be an artist ’cause I liked cutting the little stick people out all pretty-like. For a while I wanted to be a visual artist of some sort, then I got into the art of play in middle school and designed shitty little indie games with some Swedish software. Finally, I found my way into chiptunes, listened to everything I could on 8bitpeoples, started checking out tons of circuit bending stuffs, and smoked too much weed. Why paint one painting, when i can paint a billion diff paintings in every different person’s ears?
Kuma: Very true! Your music certainly has reached a wide audience, but I do have to admit you have a style all your own on stage. It seems to me you definitely haven’t completely abandoned your need to express yourself as a visual artist, particularly when the art is you, such as during your recent show at 8static. Care to elaborate more on the inspiration for that show?
SKGB: Well, Christmas is all corporate evil now, so I just figured i’d inject some electro-pagan-witch-funk into the mix of consumerist bullshit and see what happens. Also, I jokingly put “An SKGB Christmas Special” onto the official 8static bookings a while back and Emily Feder (EMFEDEX, Chipmusic Chronicle) made me follow through.
Kuma: Hahahaha! Oh dude you’re killing me! That being said, lets talk a bit more about your music. While there are a lot of chip artists who seem to find their groove after a while and seem to fit neatly into one sub genre, your music is just everywhere! Hell that Xmas set alone had the dance floor alternating between grinding and thrashing to pop and locking faster than Saturday at Blipfest! If you had to define you as an artist, what would you call yourself?
SKGB: Well I guess basstripnoisechipthrash or something like that. My brain is constantly getting bored so I have to constantly keep doing new things to keep it occupied.
Kuma: Would you say that boredom, or a fear of it, is ultimately the driving force behind what you do?
SKGB: Not really. To be honest I don’t know what boredom is anymore. I wish I had time to know it, though. Then maybe I could have more time for a good book and pipe and some pets or something.
Kuma: That’s honestly refreshing to hear, as boredom seems so pervasive in modern culture. I regress, though. Lets back track a bit though to your personal style of music. Are there any artists in particular that inspire you to do what you do,chip or otherwise?
SKGB: Yeah. A whole lot. No but really, I guess, as a kid I listened to a lot of jazz (bebop, avant guard, swing) my mom had. I grew up listening to stuff like Nirvana and Soundgarden and Alice in Chains and 1st wave ska, then a whole bunch of techno, then chiptunes, then dubstep (like 2008ish stuff). Now I just listen to a whole buncha shit.
The artists who inspire me the most now are the ones i’m in close proximity with. Dino Lionetti (and all of Cheap Dinos). The fellas on the Madwaves collective i chill with lots,
and stray chipthrashlings who make it up to Philly: Kool Skull, The Ghost Servant, S.P.R.Y.
Kuma: Very nice. Kool Skull is one noise artist in particular I’ve come to enjoy greatly, in particular for something he said to me at his last show in NYC before moving out west. He said “the one thing you always gotta remember about chip is that chiptune is about making music easy.” Would you find in your experience that sentiment to be true? That making chiptune does make the music production process easier than if you had done it by more traditional means?
SKGB: It all depends. Me and Kool Skull tend to have the complete opposite workflow when it comes to music. He likes to work on tracks real fast like, and I like to spend hours tweaking and tweaking (a song, you silly). My advice would be, don’t let anyone else tell you how to make music. I mean, personally, i’ll find any way i can to make any sort of music i can, because anything else would make me feel real sad ;_; traditional recording or tedious tracking, s’all good.
Kuma: Hey, its all good. Like you said, this is about you doing what you love and what makes you happy. You do that however you want my friend. That being said, one last question for you. You’ve been in the chipscene longer than I have. Seen its ups and downs, and have earned the respect and admiration of your peers and fans. Over the course of the year, the chip scene has seen some incredible changes, from the rise of Chiptunes=Win to the farewell of Blipfest. In your personal opinion as both a fan and an artist, what do you see yourself doing over the course of 2k13 and what do you think will come of the scene, as well?
SKGB: Well… I see myself making a whole bunch of music that doesn’t sound like “traditional” chipmusic, calling it chipmusic and pissing a whole bunch of people off (lol).
As for the “scene” as a whole, I don’t see an end to chipmusic in sight at all,
though i do believe the locus of chip hocus pocus has and will continue to stray farther from the east coast. Going to BRKfest last year blew my mind wide open to the fact that yes: chipmusic is just as big, if not a whole fuckton bigger, than it ever was. In fact, the entire midwest corridor is on hot fiyah, Piko Piko Detroit, Cartrage, BRKfest, and all the travelling artists in between are fucking shit up real proper over there. But mark my words: the 8static crew still have a few surprises on their .sav roms.