Happy New Year ChipWINners! Welcome back to my column, So You Wanna Make A Chiptune! It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these. Normally, I’ve reserved SYWMAC for the review of hardware and software related to the production of chiptune to help you determine what would be best suited for you. However, with this being the first article of the new year, I thought I’d talk about something just as important: motivation.
I’m sure a great many of you have made resolutions to become more active, steadfast and prolific with your creative endeavors. Just like with any other resolution, I know you’re going to need help staying focused. It’s okay: concentrating on new goals, New Year’s resolutions or otherwise, can be a daunting task. Fortunately, there are plenty of resources within the scene to help you stay motivated! If you’re willing to work towards your larger goal by doing smaller goals, you’re guaranteed to make your dreams a reality in no time. Let’s not waste any more time. Come along with me as I guide you beautiful unicorns to pristine waters that I hope you will drink from!
Robot Unicorn Attack is TM and C of Adult Swim Games
If you’ve been involved with the East Coast chiptune scene for a while, you’ve probably heard about I/O, which is a recurring chiptune showcase in Brooklyn, New York. You might also know that I/O had been on a bit of a hiatus since last year, with the last proper show happening in June 2014. Well, the last proper show until March 19th of this year that is. Good Guy Tony Ness hit me up when the show was announced – and when he told me that Bit Shifter, glomag, minusbaby and Chipocrite were all playing together for the first I/O of the year, I knew what I had to do: I starved myself for a week to get the money for a bus ticket, packed my bag and took a 7 hour ride from Richmond, VA to the heart of New York City. (more…)
crashfaster. You know them as that rockin’ Bay Area quartet with unforgettable stage presence, and you know that pseudonym through association of high quality releases that do anything but disappoint. Every. Single. Time.
If you recall my last crashfaster album review, which you can read HERE, ‘further’ was an album that emerged from ‘the ashes of discarded technology’ in a thoughtfully composed narrative arc. As a whole, ‘further’ is a metaphor for the never-fleeting feelings of isolation, numbness, and emptiness that one may encounter throughout their life, and is largely an autobiographical commentary by Morgan Tucker, crashfaster, 8bitSF and monobomb records’ frontman. Envisioning an explorer, Tucker remarks that the entirety of ‘further’ is a metaphor of the contemplation of his life and eventual journey to find the truth by ‘casting aside his former life and shedding each layer of his humanity.’
Transpiring from the personal anecdote alluded to throughout the course of ‘further’ is ‘superchroma’, an EP whose energetic presence and masterful evolution from the album prior is one that can’t go far from unnoticed. Released fresh on Bandcamp on July 22, 2014, ‘superchroma’ pays homage to what crashfaster had been, but also sets the stage to what the band WILL become. Despite what such a busy man he is, Morgan was very gracious to answer a couple of questions that I had about the evolution of the band, the transition from ‘further’ to ‘superchroma’, influences, and the future of crashfaster—because I love all of you, read on for the interview with the man himself!
Professor Oakes: Hey Morgan! Thanks again for being able to do this!
Morgan Tucker: No, thank YOU! I really appreciate you interviewing me!
PO: Psh, I do all the easy lifting ;) But seriously, thanks again for taking the time. I know how busy you are with being a father, frontman of crashfaster, 8bitSF and co-founder of monobomb records! You certainly sound like you never take a breather.
Can you tell me a little bit about crashfaster and the significance in the pseudonym?
llustrations courtesy of Phylissa Li, 2014
MT: crashfaster is meant to infer to both technology (ephemerality) and physicality. I’m fascinated by how much we rely upon technology to feed our souls. I believe we must strip away distractions and excess in both the physical and spiritual realms in order to discover our true nature. crashfaster is a call to action – destroy both your digital and physical selves to reveal the truth that lurks beneath the surface.
PO: I’ve been a fan of yours for years, and I was very excited to see you evolve from a single-person band into a quartet. Can you tell me how the transition from a single act to a full-man band means to you? Are you happy with the sound now that you have extra hands (and friends) on the team? How did you meet one another, anyways?
MT: There are two aspects of working with a band that have had a significant impact on crashfaster. In the studio, songwriting possibilities multiply exponentially. Each one of us has distinct and disparate musical tastes and influences. This has made our sound more rich and varied. In a live setting, there’s a lot more energy on stage to play with and off of. It’s hard to be one guy behind a Gameboy and keep the crowd’s attention. There’s a lot more for people to connect with when there’s four of us thrashing away. crashfaster was always intended to be on the dancey side of things, but something interesting happened when we began writing as a band.
On “further” we each naturally fell into a rock mentality, and the music became more aggressive and a little less beat-oriented. On “superchroma” we’ve pulled the sound back towards something that will make you move. I think we’ve found the right balance in our new material.
As for how crashfaster formed into a four-person band, it happened by chance, mostly. A few years ago I wanted to start stepping up the impact of my live performance, and I thought the single best way to do that was to introduce live percussion. I met Devin through a mutual friend of ours (The Glowing Stars’ Lizzie Cuevas), and we had an instant bond. We both saw eye to eye on where the project could go and shared the determination and work ethic that could make it a reality. A little while later, we got a shot to open for Anamanaguchi, and I wanted the band to sound even bigger.
The man, the myth… the Ryan Case. Photo by Lester Barrows
I asked Ryan (who was a coworker at the time) if he thought he could learn our songs in a week. He said yes, and he did! We met Keiko at the farewell show for our old singer. The rest is history.
PO: Wow! What a history and inspiring happenstance. While I certainly love the sound of old crashfaster, I love the direction you all have been going in now that there’s four of you. However, I especially LOVE the direction you went in this EP, and it has to be one of my favorite crashfaster releases. With that said, can you tell me a little about the transition from ‘further’ to ‘superchroma’ as a whole?
MT: “Superchroma” was meant to be more of an evolution than a departure. We wanted to both pay homage to what crashfaster had been, but at the same time set the stage for everything that we could become. Our musical influences are deep and varied, and I want the band to reflect that moving forward.
Working at Different Fur with Patrick Brown and Sean Paulson opened our eyes to new workflows and songwriting possibilities. As soon as we finished up “further”, I was ready to get back in there and do it all over again, but this time we’d be armed with new ideas that the studio experience had spurred. “Further” was very much a protracted labor of love…from concept to completion, the project was in development for more than two years. While this allowed us time to refine lyrics, hidden meanings and aesthetic synchronicity, it didn’t let us experiment much while recording. The album was more or less what we came into the studio with. It was only afterward that we realized how much this held us back.
On “superchroma”, we decided to come in sans preconceived notions. We had about 20 rough sketches of songs that Patrick immediately whittled down to 10. From there, we started messing around with each of them until we found the voice the track. We knew we had 10 days from start to finish, and the goal was to get as much done as possible, while reserving the right to chuck things out that just weren’t working. This process was incredibly freeing, and allowed for many happy accidents, serendipitous guest appearances and just more…fun. I think that really comes through in the recording.
PO: Now that we’re talking about production and the gift of group collaboration, what hardware and software do you use?
MT: crashfaster uses a Gameboy loaded with LSDJ, a Gameboy mGB (midi), a NES with midiNES, a SIDstation, sammichSID, a Commodore64 with MSSIAH, Plogue Chipsounds 707, 808, 909, VP330, a Juno 106 & Ableton Live.
PO: Such sweet, sweet tunes for my ears. This hard and software you use—do you have any formal training as a musician? The rest of the band?
MT: I don’t have any formal training as a musician. However, I went to art school for Audio Production. I worked on Foley/SFX/Sound design for several indie films before I started crashfaster. Devin is classically trained and the most experienced musician in the group. The rest of us are pretty much self-taught.
PO: If you could categorize crashfaster’s genre and place a finger on what the band sounds like, what would it be?
MT: Electronic/Industrial/Synth/Rock. Or something.
PO: I’d say that’s pretty accurate! No reason to have to straddle one genre! What would you say influences you all? Music? Movies?
crashfaster performing ‘GO!’ live at the DNA Lounge, 6/22/14. Photo courtesy of Lester Barrows
PO: Oh, definitely! I feel like “GO!” is straight out of an actual anime—IT’S PERFECT and incredibly energizing! Would you say you have a favorite track on ‘superchroma’?
MT: It’s hard for me to pinpoint a single favorite, because I’m really happy with how the entire thing came out. But if I had to pick, it’d probably be “lost”, because I think we were able to pull off the emotional intent of the lyrics in a way that hits me every time.
PO: I’m curious of the conception of the album name. Does it signify anything in particular?
MT: We were playing with these visual concepts that were heavily inspired by early 90’s rave/cyberpunk culture and anime, and we wanted the music to *feel* colorful. When we were coming up with names for the album, we tried to find something that felt as hyper-kinetic as what was in our heads. Thusly…superchroma!
PO: This colorful and kinetic mood… it’s totally off the spectrum than that of its precursor ‘further’. Would you say the birth of your child had any affect on this newest album and your artistic vision as a whole?
MT: Yes! The idea for “further” was something that preceded my child, and I had been suffering from a loss of purpose and feeling in my every day life, and no matter what I did, I couldn’t seem to find happiness. The construct allowed me to explore the concepts of duty, destiny, assimilation, isolation and self-destruction both lyrically and sonically. Once my daughter was born, I was overcome by a new feeling…not one of numbness, but a crushing awareness of time. I feel, now more than ever, that time escapes me at a pace that I find…unsettling. After all, my biggest fear in life is that I will have regrets (would’ve, should’ve, could’ve), and now I am extremely conscious of the fact that I don’t have forever to do all of the things I want to do while I’m here.
PO: Would you say there’s an overall theme of ‘superchroma’?
MT: Looseness. Ultimately, I wanted this album to act as a “mix cd that you’d have on in your car as you drove around at night in San Francisco.” This lighter construct allowed me to explore more varied types of music…things that I’ve been a fan of but never really found a way to make work within the context of crashfaster.
On this EP, we’ve got everything from a funky synth-pop tune to a faux anime theme song to an industrial club banger. Though the styles are seemingly unrelated, with the help of Patrick Brown, we were able to tie them together aurally in a way that works surprisingly well.
‘superchroma’ by crashfaster. Album artwork by Phylissa Li, 2014.
PO: Now that your album is wrapped and now live, what does the future hold for crashfaster? Tour? What does it mean to you since you were the founding vision?
MT: More music, and more shows! Through crashfaster and 8bitSF, we’ve built up the community in the Bay Area to the point that I believe it’s one of the most vibrant and diverse scenes in the US. We recently joined forces with LA artists who formed 8bitLA, and we’re working together as sister organizations to bridge the physical divide in California chipmusic.
As far as crashfaster, we’re going on tour with Everything Goes Cold in late August, which will take us from San Francisco to Chicago. After that, we’re hitting the East Coast to play 8static Festival in Philly in October.
PO: I’m looking forward to your Los Angeles stop. You never disappoint! Just thinking about touring the country and doing what you love sounds so incredible. With that said, before we depart, do you have any advice for aspiring musicians?
MT: Oh, absolutely! Be humble. Be persistent. If you’re in it for the music, you’ve got to be prepared for the long haul. Destroy all excuses. Stop talking about why you can’t do things…make do with what you have.
PO: Excellent! Thank you so much for providing those nuggets of advice—I’m sure our readers can relate. Anyways, that just about wraps it up for our interview. Again, thank you, thank you, THANK YOU, and I’m sure I’ll be seeing you soon!
MT: Absolutely! Take care.
That’s all for this (special) edition of Chip Treatment with Professor Oakes! Don’t forget to check out crashfaster’s music, and follow 8bitSF on ALL THE THINGS SOCIAL MEDIA for future events. Also, if you have some time, be sure to check out the series of music videos for ‘GO!’, ‘goodbye‘, ‘hi‘, ‘lost‘, ‘photograph’, and ‘tonight‘ created by Gabriel Roland, 8bitSF’s resident visualist and mastermind behind Noukon Films.
Howdy, Carbon based life forms! Professor Oakes is back to administer another dose of Chip Treatment – so sit down, strap in, and hold on to your butts! No, super serious pro tip… you’re going to need it.
As I’m sure you’ve brushed up on your recent chip releases on account of my awesome colleagues’ (which include DjjD, PixelRecall, and Aydan Scott) write-ups, it’s quite likely that you’ve gotten all starry-eyed and forgot San Francisco’s up-and-coming electronic rock group crashfaster’s newest release ‘Further’, amirite? And if you didn’t, now is the perfect time to develop a little ear bug and listen to it SOME MOAR. ;)
Hitting Bandcamp with a stellar release on November 19, this bumping, 11-track album has been a two year work in progress for crashfaster’s frontman Morgan Tucker, who also heads 8bitSF and monobomb records (along with the help of Richard Alexander ‘minusbaby’ Caraballo). Interested in the coexistence of and how the quality of the production of music affects art, design, and technology, monobomb records is a multi-vocational ‘plastic arts collective’ based in San Francisco with a production annex in Brooklyn, New York, which, when boiled down, makes cool shiz.
Oozing with a bouncy, melodic rhythm, and dripping at the seams with 80s video game culture nostalgia through the use of analog drum machine core, ‘Further’ is a collection of tracks thoughtfully composed in a narrative arc that emerged from ‘the ashes of discarded technology’. As a whole, the never-fleeting feelings of isolation, numbness and emptiness despite tasks being accomplished served as a catalyst to ‘Further’ and helped to inspire Tucker to compose a beautifully written album. Envisioning an explorer, Tucker references the explorer ‘jettisoned into space’ and ‘forced to contemplate his own purpose while dealing with unending solitude, while casting aside his former life and shedding each layer of his humanity in order to find the truth.’ I don’t know about you all, but I know this feeling all too well.
With a wide range of styles and techniques and a wonderful blend of complimentary vocals, ‘Further’ is nothing quite like I’ve ever heard before. With a very suitable entrance for the album as a whole, ‘Launch’ is surely a track to take you on an intergalactic mission through the depths of space and time. While it’s a relatively short track (2:50), ‘Launch’ very perfectly intertwines mission control communication and a sense of countdown as the listener themselves feel like they’re ascending into space with each passing second. ‘Launch’, very appropriately, transitions into ‘Closer’, a track in which I feel to be reminiscent of the feeling when the shuttle finally breaks the thermosphere, reaches 0 G, and breaks off the shuttle boosters. ‘Apex’, which is one of my personal favorite tracks, is also ever so perfect—with incredibly memorable but haunting lyrics. I feel incredibly weightless as if I’m looking down at the sights before my eyes in absolute silence knowing no one can hurt me; however, I suddenly feel like my space travels are up ‘In Flames’ as my ashes are scattered across the universe by the end of ‘Further’.
Without the help of Different Fur Studios during the recording process, Patrick Bischoff-Brown’s production, collaboration with Unwoman, Eric Gottesman, Mr. Spastic on some of the tracks, John Greenham’s album mastering assistance over at Infrasonic Sound, and of course the rest of crashfaster (Devin Nixon, Ryan Case & Keiko Takamura), ‘Further’ would cease to exist. ‘Further’ can be digitally downloaded on crashfaster’s Bandcamp for $7, or you can opt to purchase the compact disc (yes, they still exist)! Hot and fresh from the press and ships out to your door within two days, the CD contains a 20-page booklet featuring artwork from Kristen Adam and gorgeous package design by Minusbaby all for $12.
If that isn’t enough to settle your ear buds, crashfaster is also performing at the DNA Lounge in SF December 6, at Frequency 3.0 in LA on January 17, and SJSU February 7, so JUMP ON THAT.
That’s all folks! Until next time! Professor Oakes signing off!
Ahoy there, ChipWINners! Welcome back to the blog! Now as I’m sure many of you are aware, we’ve recently outdone ourselves again with the release of our second epic annual compilation! Having enjoyed continued success with it, we danced, drank Cherry Wheat and made merry with all of our friends!
Then, as with all great celebrations in life, we woke up the next morning in a state of panic as we realized our terrible predicament: we had 99 problems, and all of them were songs! (Well, 95 to be exact…but I wanted a Jay-Z joke.) Needing to do something with at least some of this residual music (which was mostly pretty damn good), we here at ChipWIN made a deal with the devil and agreed to allow our Editor-in-Chief to create a joint release with us to handle some select tunes from the surplus. In turn, the mighty Kilpatrick, in all his Satanic might, used his silver tongue (by which I mean he spoke plain English with an English accent) to bend the rules (which, technically, did not exist for side-releases!) to allow two additional songs of his choosing that weren’t part of the bundle to be included with album. We acquiesced, and soon thereafter, Devil Kilpatrick, along with his cohort Alex Kelly (who’s a pretty swell guy, actually) turned out what would be Chiptunes = WIN first joint release with another netlabel: PXL-WIN!
Now I know what you’re thinking: should I listen to this… bedeviled album? Is it worth risking my soul to listen to an… abomination these English demons have wrought upon chiptune?
The answer, quite simply, is yes. But don’t fear, for I, Kuma, the bear in a black man’s body, will lead the way through the 17 layers of WIN and prove to you this is a journey worth taking.
Track #1: Deeksha by AlexOgre
First up to the plate is Alex Ogre, a young man from Russia who busts out some incredible stuff on LSDJ. Taking full advantage of the program’s capabilities, Alex has become one of several artists whose work has progressed to the point that it has become exemplarychiptune, and that isn’t a bad thing at all.
A nice, steady bass line, strong use of snappy snares and arps, and a simple, dream like melody all combine to make a song that kicks off PXL-WIN in strong, confident fashion. Put bluntly, this song is a dancer’s dream. Its the kind of song that, when the chiptune community goes out to a venue like 8static, I/O chipmusic or Pulsewave, we expect to hear, and that’s exactly what Alex Ogre wants. He wants to keep you on your feet, and quite frankly, if you don’t want to get up while he’s playing this track, well keep listening to this album, because clearly you’re dead inside and you need chiptune to work its magic on you!
Track #2: C-Side (Tetanus In My Connector Pins) by AutoReMi-PK
Speaking of derpy chiptuners and dickbutts, this second track is one I’m especially fond of as it’s by my friend AutoReMi-PK. You might know Remy from his blog posts here on ChipWIN, or for his level headed attitude in the ChipWIN group, or, most likely, his derpy antics with Ryn and Hoodie in my interview with them about BRKFest! Regardless of where you know him from, or if you didn’t know him at all, one thing that you do know now thanks to PXL-WIN is that he’s also an adept chipmusician!
Specializing in Famitracker composition, Remy takes heavy influence from numerous genres, companies and franchises (most notably Megaman, Super Smash Bros, Kirby, and anything Motoi Sakuraba has touched), which he then uses to craft tunes that run the gamut to fun and quick to lengthy and full of emotion. With its broad pulsewaves, militaristic snares and arpeggios that compliment the melody perfectly, Remy’s “C-Side (Tetanus In My Connector Pins)” is a fine example of the perfectionist lurking inside this affable young man.
Confession time: I’m a sucker for fighting games. The button mashing action, visceral visuals and especially the adrenaline pumping music just make me excited in ways I can’t describe but can be seen at MAGFest for yourself. So when I first heard irq7’s “Twisted”, I couldn’t help but smile the biggest, shit eating grin the world has ever seen! From the moment the perfectly timed build up leading to the sinister words “I try to scream…GO!” drops into the hook, irq7 drags you into the ring and doesn’t let go until he’s knocked you out.
I’m especially fond of this song as it represents a nice compliment to cheapshot’s “Jambo“, a song I’m fond of as it, too, is evocative of a fighting game theme. But while “Jambo” is reminiscent of music heard in Tekken Tag Tournament, “Twisted” takes a more Street Fighter styled approach, reveling in its use of aggressive kickers, heavy, pulse pounding bass and rhythm, and a melody that begs to have a Chun-li style “Yatta!” thrown in over it for good measure!
Very few artists in the scene live up to their name, as most seem to be puns or names of things from yesteryear, and others are just Solarbear. Some, however, let you know from the get go what they’re all about, and no one does that quite as well as AciDnB. Having been inspired after seeing a bevy of Korg synths at an expo in 2010, AciDnB took his love of those sweet, artificial sounds and turned it into a serious passion. The result is music that combines the decadent sounds of KorgDS10 and the finishing touches of FLStudio to create lush tracks such as the song you’re listening to now.
Replete with perfectly timed snares, a fuzzy ass bass line, and some of the coolest and most refreshing non-wub drops I’ve heard in quite a while, “Alien Friendship” invokes stark imagery of flying saucers as disco lights at the most happening party in the galaxy! In a scene that is heavy with dance monsters, AciDnB takes his music a step further by embracing that he is part of a community that loves to boogie on down and runs with it, solidifying himself among artists such as LukHash and Whitely as one of the best beat makers to grace lofi music in the past five years.
As we say goodbye to the stylish and funky “Alien Friendship”, we shift our attention to a song that, admittedly, I wasn’t sure I liked at first. Most of the songs on this album stick out right away and you can tell you’re gonna just be into them the moment they open up. However, when it came to Gab Pearson’s “alcaline pizza”, I wasn’t so sure what to make of it.
It certainly wasn’t a bad song by any means, I just didn’t have any compelling inclination towards it. Over time, however, I found that the song’s strength came from its ability grow on you. Further more, I found that Gab Pearson’s execution in crafting such a song is one of the most deliberate decisions I’ve encountered recently in music, as he’s a musician who switches up his style as often as he eats poutine. Considering that he’s 1) Canadian and 2) he has a song named after the stuff, that means he changes it up a lot.
Making music that ranges from hip hop to chillout to the kind of funky, lofi new jack swing you’d hear in the genesis Sonic games, Gab may be one of the most versatile and understated artists I’ve ever encountered.
Track #6: The Mysterious Shapeshifting Dog by Jay Tholen
What’s this? A slowed down tempo? A dream like rhythm? All accompanied by a masterfully composed lead that could easily be replaced in a live performance by a trumpet or saxophone? Oh yeah, we’re definitely back in Jay Tholen territory. One of a handful of artists to return to ChipWIN on this joint compilation, I don’t think much needs to be said about Mr. Tholen that I haven’t already covered previously in my interview with him. A talented and prolific renaissance man who excels at both visual and musical art, Jay seems to have done everything from dream like music videos to crafting his own video game.
This time around, Mr. Tholen seems to have channeled his love of the Mother series once again to make “The Mysterious Shapeshifting Dog”: a track that sounds like what would have happened to Boney had he eaten the hallucination mushrooms along with Lucas and the rest of the crew in Mother 3. The distorted synth noise, steady, droning snare hits and a rhythm that create an atmosphere that simultaneously mimics a bad trip and an endless walk through a desert, Jay Tholen succeeds once again in leading his audience through another bizarre adventure.
Often times, when art is created, its intended message gets lost, changed, or misconstrued because while its creator may have had one intended message, the observer perceives something very different altogether.
This isn’t possible with monotron’s “Far From Home”. From the moment the pulsewave builds up like a foreign sunrise on a strange horizon, this song makes it very clear that you’re not where you belong. More importantly, it reminds you to make haste finding your way back to familiar ground. In short, “Far From Home” invokes a feeling of fear.
Sure, its got a phat beat and bass line you can boogie too, but if you really listen to your song, it’s very clear monotron is making a statement: that the light of day can only bring comfort for so long, but as soon as the sun sets, a universal fear fills us all. That fear is the fear of the unknown, and of the dark things in our hearts that we subconsciously fill the void with.
Maybe I’m wrong, though. Maybe I’ve mistaken monotron’s message and am just talking out my ass. Why don’t you take a listen and decide for yourself?
Following up monotron in masterful form is a chiptune artist from France named DJ-PIE. A musician who describes himself on his Soundcloud as a “MASTER PEANUS ZDEDEDEDE” (a reference to a ridiculous song he named P E N I S, as well as its various remixes), DJ-PIE busts out with some of the sickest synth play I’ve heard in quite a while!
Having crafted what I deem to be the greatest holiday song ever made for something that isn’t Christmas (even if it wasn’t his direct intent), “K1NG 0V TEH #D4RK” is the perfect Halloween anthem for the chiptune lover in you! Combining almost warlike drum rolls with yowling square waves and a lead that invokes images of a pixelated interpretation of “This is Halloween” from The Nightmare Before Christmas, the song instills a playful sense of devilishness in anyone who happens to be caught in its spell.
Much like when I first started listening to Gab Pearson’s “alcaline pizza” I wasn’t sure what to make of Orbital Strike’s “The M Word” at first. However, unlike Gab Pearson’s jawn, which took a few consecutive listens for me to feel, Orbital Strike grabbed me by the collar, and reminded me just who the hell we were talking about here as soon as they dropped the bass. I was sold.
A song with a dizzying, almost alien, sounding lead, drum complimenting noise effects, and a club worthy bass line, “The M Word” is a seizure inducing dance hit that’s sure to energize and remind everyone listening that Nate and Nick are the frenetic, dubstepping George and Jonathan of the Seattle chiptune scene! The wubs are something I have to compliment, in particular, because while wubs are certainly plentiful in chiptune, I don’t think I’ve heard anyone outside of Auxcide, DireHit, and Ultrasyd drop them with this much skill.
Following up on the awesomeness that was Orbital Strike is a young man who’s taken the west coast by storm. Having found a strong niche for himself in Seattle and Portland is Graz: a versatile EDM artist who may have put forth one of the coolest fakebit songs I’ve heard since I last saw Misfit Chris live over a year ago!
An artist I first encountered after winning a copy of RAVECORE MASTERS Vol 1 from Initial P of Diskowarp, Graz takes a little bit of everything, from chiptune to gabber, to bonk to electro, and crafts music that is, quite frankly, a raver’s wetdream, and Thunderlizard is definitely proof of his skill!
A song that — very similarly to irq7’s “Twisted” — works equally well on the dance floor as it does in a fighting game, Graz has made a track that continues his proud tradition of making pure party music. From remixes of Crazytown’s “Butterfly” to bass heavy eurobeat, Graz has joined the ranks of heavy hitting DJs in the Northwest such as Initial P/Kid Whatever, Jimni Cricket, and J-Mi & Midi-Dto keep the raver scene alive and well, constantly infusing it with anything from chipstep to happy hardcore.
Track #11: We Screw Up At The End by Mr Wimmer & Solarbear
Sometimes, when you least expect, life throws you a curveball. While that odd pitch is normally perceived as a bad thing, this time around it’s absolutely wonderful. You see, we all know Solarbear sucks. That phrase is as axiomatic on this planet as gravity. Or at least, that’s what I thought until I heard this song. I’d like to think it was Mr Wimmer, with his deep, mournful, distorted crooning, skillful guitar strumming, and beautiful face, is the only person that made this song as wonderful as it is. In all honesty, though, and I can’t believe I’m going to say this: I think Solarbear actually has talent.
I know, it’s a difficult pill to swallow, but listen to this track! Listen to it’s sinister noise, sad lead, and pulsing rhythm that seemingly rains down misery on these two poor saps! It’s almost as if Solarbear is acutely aware of how to craft atmosphere in a piece of music that sounds like someone’s spiral down the drain towards personal oblivion! These two bastards actually managed to not only enhance each other, but they managed to make a song that’s the embodiment of a strung out heroin junkie coming down from his fourth fix on a hot summer day in what used to be The Prodigy’s apartment complex in their video for “Breathe”! It’s…It’s…oh wow, they really did screw up at the end.
In the time I’ve been in this scene, I’ve heard chiptune be many things. I’ve heard it be dance music, I’ve heard it be rock; I’ve heard it take the form of folk and I’ve heard it take the form of haunting industrial. Indeed, I’ve heard chiptune used in many a genre and have heard it described it in many ways, but never before have I described chiptune with the adjective I’m about to use right now.
Sexy. KOOL SKULL’s “Lickwid Lazer” is sexy.
Not only is it the first song I’ve ever heard in chiptune that I can straight up consider sexy, but it’s one of the most lustful songs I’ve ever heard, period. Get past the noise, the snares, the static that fills background with dissonant chaos. Listen to that bass line and kicker. Listen to what KOOL SKULL did. Do you hear that? The man made a thrash song over a reggaeton beat, then sang a carnal, domineering lead over it a la Trent Reznor or Ogre of Skinny Puppy! You can just as easily mosh to this song as you can grind up against someone or tie them up to the bedposts and — *cough* I’m sorry I… I got carried away there.
The point I’m trying to make, though, is that surprises such as this are what make me fall in love with chiptune over and over again! Musicians like KOOL SKULL are the guys that make the work we do here at ChipWIN exciting! Between his visceral illustrations and guttural, raw music, KOOL SKULL is a talent that continually pleases and surprises.
Continuing the visceral noise trend that Kool Skull set is unini with his song “shortcut”. A track that lives up to its name, as it’s only rivaled in brevity by AutoRemi’s “C-Side”, “shortcut” may be short, but it certainly isn’t sweet. Striking hard and fast with a violent assault on the senses that deftly combines noise, off pitch pulsewaves, and frantic drum and bass, this song is an excellent example of unini’s style.
Interestingly enough, however, despite the fact that unini crafts music that’s a slam dancers dream, the man himself is incredibly quiet and elusive! In fact, unini is so mysterious that outside of this contribution to ChipWIN, he can only be found on Bandcamp and noisechannel, where he’s only posted on the forums twice!
If this enigmatic newcomer’s style is up your alley, I definitely suggest checking out his debut album on Bandcamp, and, if you’d like to learn more about him, I’d recommend trying to hit him up noisechannel. Just don’t expect him to say anything back. Bandcamp | noisechan
Track #14: That’s Fer Sure! by + Let’s Disinfect! +
My mp3 player has a tendency of putting tracks in alphabetical order as opposed to track listed order, so while the album actually starts off with the aforementioned “Deeksha”, my Sansa clipzip decided that + Let’s Disinfect’s! + “That’s Fer Sure!” was the first track on PXL-WIN, and as far as I’m concerned it made an excellent choice!
I say this because while a large part of what ended up becoming ChipWIN Vol 2 had to do with flow from one song to another, PXL-WIN seems to have done the opposite and gone back to ChipWIN’s roots by putting out a release that’s much more dynamic. That’s not to say PXL-WIN doesn’t have synergy, but when it comes to energy you don’t get much more dynamic than this!
Deftly combining his punk sensibilities and skills as a singer and multi instrumentalist, the prolific talent that is Sean Monistat (who has contributed to ChipWIN as + Let’s Disinfect! +, Sean Monistat, as well as with his bandmates in Thorazine Unicorn!) proves he is a force to be reckoned with in a song that’s not only full of life but catchy as hell! Between his clever use of the pulsewave being used as a rhythm guitar, his frenetic guitar solo, and mosh pit inducing lyrics, I dare you not to sing the lyrics along with him whenever you hear this jawn!
Honest. Derpy. An astute awareness of being both. These are things I appreciate in a person. Fortunately, Sam Mulligan is all these things and more, as he’s not only a talented musician and a vibrant DJ, but he’s charismatic enough to tell his seemingly never ending stories of failure as well!
Seriously, how can you not love a man who openly admits how damn stupid he can be! “I’m An Idiot!” is another in a long line of songs that is just quintessentially Mulligan. Fun, energetic, quick, and laughter inducing, this particular song earns extra points with me for sounding like “punk” groups I used to listen to in the 90s, like early Green Day a la Dookie and Insomniac, Blink182, and Sum41.
Chiptune gets accused of being a cheap trick that cashes in on nostalgia, and because there are people and companies that do take advantage of this I think there’s a sort of uneasiness about nostalgia being used as an adjective in the scene. While that’s an unfortunate truth we have to live with, nostalgia isn’t something to be ashamed of. In fact, if done properly, thoughts and experiences that invoke memories of yesteryear can be reveled in, and this does so in hilarious fashion. Breaking the mold that chiptune only conjures recollection of the late 80s and early 90s era of gaming, Sam’s tale of whimsical dumb fuckery and unfortunate events causes me to recall my asinine teenage years when I used to rip my favorite cds onto mini discs and get into arguments with friends about how they were the future of music.
As a writer and music reviewer, I strive to put out quality material for you guys to read, because even if not a lot of you read it, for those that do, you know that I put a lot of effort of into what I’ve produced and that means a lot to both of us in the long run. But sometimes, there’s not much to say about a song, and such is the case is shakaboyd’s “Morning Breeze”.
Now why is that, you may ask? Well, sometimes a song isn’t a deep metaphor for darkness in the hearts of man or a moan of carnal pleasure among basement party moshpit. Sometimes a song is just good and fun because its, well, good and fun. Filled with a playful melody, cheerful rhythm, wave hits that sound like a steel drum and a beat you can dance or work out to, shakaboyd has made a song that falls into that simply delightful category, along with song’s like chipzel’s “Can’t Stop Us“, Snesei’s “Button Mash” or Brick Breaker’s “Dusk Runner“.
In the end, for all the fancy adjectives I could try to use to describe this song, no amount of words can compare to the fact that, quite simply, it makes me smile.
I remember the first time I saw Corset Lore. She got up on stage to perform a song she was working on during an I/O open mic session and I was thoroughly impressed by what I heard and saw. I walked up to her and asked her if she’d be interested in submitting to ChipWIN. Little did I know, being very new to chiptune at the time, just how long she had been rocking the scene. I would later find out to great surprise and moderate hilarity that not only had she been kicking ass in the community for years, but that she’s one of the great vets of the East Coast chip scene!
Having performed at venues along side other heavy hitters such as minusbaby, Bitshifter, Kris Keyser, Bubblyfish and Glomag, I’m sure you can imagine my embarrassment at this situation! I like to think childlike enthusiasm must have worked (although I know it was really the work of Devil Kilpatrick) because she submitted the incredible track you’re listening to now!
Wrapping up PXL-WIN with elegance and style, “The Cloma” is a continuation of Tamara Yadao’s proud tradition of crafting music that’s both intricately melodic and easily enjoyable in way that’s accessible to the masses. With its fun beat, energetic lead and sweeping rhythm that combine in a way that make you want to listen to this song all day, Corset Lore manages to make a song that feels comfortable in any setting, regardless of tastes.
That’s a feat that’s certainly rare in a scene many already consider too obscure to be mainstream. I just hope that if I ever get to hear her play this live, that she plays a guitar over this incredibly lofi melody, because it’s just begging for some sweet riffs to be layered in with it a la Square Therapy’s “Miracle Max & The Cliffs Of Insanity“! If Ms Yadao’s music is your cup of tea (and I don’t see why it wouldn’t be) I recommend checking out her home page so you can keep up with and learn about not only what she does as Corset Lore, but the various other audio/visual projects she’s invovled with, including foci + loci, frogwell and tu.
That wraps up this album review. I hope you enjoyed taking this journey with me through PXL-WIN and that you’ll continue to stick with both Chiptunes = WIN and PXL-BOT. PXL-WIN is the 6th album we here at ChipWIN have helped release since 2012, and while we’ve certainly gained quite a bit of momentum over the past year, we don’t expect to stop doing what we do, and neither should you! So stick around and don’t forget to keep up with us and and all your favorite artists on Facebook, Twitter or Tumblr. I promise you, you guys ain’t seen nothing yet.
Hey toys and joys! It’s your boy Kuma back from his hiatus fighting gorillas and asking people to tell me their secrets! And in turn, I’ve learned so many things. So, so many dark and terrible things about all of you.
But that’s not what this is about! This article is about us pushing to get these ChipWIN Volume 1 write-ups written & released so we can make way for the upcoming Vol. 2!
So with that being said, let’s get started!
Founder of the BitMasters netlabel — which has produced work by artists such SMILETRON, Whitely, StarPilot and Kedromelon — the Canadian who calls himself Jake Deadbeat is incredibly skilled at what he does. Whether you’re into jungle dnb, ambient breakbeat or thematically epic chiptune, if you enjoy music that both inspires intense moods and visuals as well as makes you want to get up and bust-a-move, this is an artist you should definitely pay attention to. You can check out deadbeatblast’s other work (including my favorite song by him, Hyperspace V. 1.2) on Soundcloud, or follow what he and several other artists are up to through his netlabel.
Founder of 8bitSF and co-counder of monobomb records along with minusbaby, Morgan Tucker may arguably be the most prominent and passionate promoter and producer of lo-fi electronic music and chiptune on the west coast, and his love for both is evident in everything he does. Having rocked a of wide array of abandoned tech from modded Gameboys and C64s to Vocoders and 808s, crashfaster has crafted some of the catchiest chiptune as an artform that the genre has to offer. Creating songs with incredibly dancey rhythms and drum lines to reflective lyrics like those of the song “time” to instrumental grooves such as “ascension”, Morgan knows how to get a crowd moving (even if it is to lyrics that are sometimes heartbreaking as hell).
Perhaps the most notable aspect of crashfaster is its transformation from being a formidable solo act to being a 4 person hivemind with the inclusion of Ryan Case on guitar, Devin Nixon on drums, and Amy English with her incredibly sultry vocals. The result has been an act that has gone on to rock some of the coolest venues across the country, including the DNA Lounge in San Fran, I/O Chip Music showcase in NYC, PAX East Jamspace 2013, and, most importantly, MAGFest 11 this past January. If crashfaster is your thing, you should definitely keep up with them on Facebook, and check their homepage for upcoming events.
Surprisingly young for someone in the chiptune scene, Frostbyte — the artist formerly known as Iamcloud — is a classically trained guitarist whose tutelage has provided a strong musical foundation for an artist who has gone on to rock the monthly Ustream concert series Clipstream by producing electrical, vivid, colorful music that invokes as much passion aurally as it does visually. The result is a synesthetic experience that can only be described as awesome. So awesome, in fact, that even more prominent musicians such as Br1ght Pr1mate have taken the time to personally express their amazement at how deftly skilled Frostbyte is, as he and other young contemporaries such as Vince Kaichan and Dire Hit (other young upstarts who are also still in high school) have come to represent the full promise and potential of the next generation of chipmusic. But don’t let Harmonix be the only evidence of his awesomeness: head on over to his Bandcamp and let albums such as SHUT IT AND DANCE 2012 EP speak for themselves.
Patrick Phillips aka Fraktal Face is a regular attendee/participant of events like Pulsewave, I/O Chip Music and Control Flow in NYC as well as an artist on the Jellyfish Frequency netlabel and a staple of the New York City chipscene. Whether he’s performing or composing, Pat brings a combination of videogame nostalgia and love of DnB, trance, 80s house, and techno to the chipscene and does it incredibly well. The result, while sometimes lengthy (Patrick has become notorious for being the guy who needs more than 5 minutes at open mic) is always worth it. Fraktal Face is one of the few musicians I’ve found in the chip scene that know how to not only build up to an awesome experience with each song, but know how to wind it down and end it just right, as well. While “Did You?” is definitely a strong example of the amazing skill set he has as an electronic musician, “Battle Face” is a noisier, more frenetic example of this same skill that’s highly reminiscent of music from games of the 32Bit era of gaming, particularly games such as Zero Divide. Its unusually pleasing pitched noise frequencies, heavy bass and glitchy rhythms just make you wanna get down. If you wanna keep up with Fraktal Face, Soundcloud is the way to go. He doesn’t post frequently, but when he does, it’s always worth it.
A skilled musician who’s been honing his craft for 12+ years and has produced soundtrack work for various computer games, Sean combines his classical sensibilities with the passion of his inner gamer to create music that appeals to a wider audience than expected. Whether it’s a foray into darker tones with industrial pieces such Trant Raznor, more traditionally sounding chip/vgm work he’s done for games such as Laser Bombs 2.Bro, or vocal tunes such as Lost the Deposit–a song that reflects on a relationship gone awry– NickelPUNK is an musician that consistently delivers powerful, thought provoking music with each release he puts out.
For those of you who are digging Stardrive, or for those of you who enjoy vocals with their chiptunes, I do highly recommend downloading I Miss Boston or his surprise release EP, All I Could Do (which features a track with vocals from our very own Ryn!). I also recommend checking out his work on Soundcloud, as you can also listen to music he’s contributed to video games such as Bosses Forever 2.Bro, as well as a preview track off his soon to be released EP, The Image of Cool.
Taking their name from the signature puzzle game of yesteryear, this young trio of upstarts from Rochester who have helped define the upstate New York chiptune scene deftly combine their skills to make aural awesomeness. The fusion of Karl von Steuben’s hard hitting drums and joyful synths and chips coupled with the rhythmic chords of Zach Sigmund’s guitar and groovaliciousness and topped off by the syncopated licks of Ben Wheeler’s bass result in instrumental mayhem that would make lovers of Rush’s YYZ turn their heads and say “Woah”. From tracks such as “One More Step“, which is reminiscent of post rock legend Maybeshewill’s “I’m in awe, Amadeus!”, to their signature self proclamation song “We are Chip’s Challenge”, this mathematical trifecta has crafted a formula that consistently results in infectious, face melting music to party hard to! Don’t take my word for it: hit up their Soundcloud or better yet, their Bandcamp and download their live album Chip’s Challenge Live(s)!, and marvel at the fact that this is one band that’s just as amazing in person as they are in studio.