We all know that ANAMANAGUCHI, despite their rebranding away from chiptunes, is still one of the most successful bands from the early 00’s era of chiptune still performing. I never give up a chance to see a good band live, so when I heard they were coming to Richmond again I hopped on it. They didn’t reveal their guest performers – Chipocrite with Rekcahdam, Gull and Lazerdisk – until right before the show. I’m sure by now you all know how I feel about Paul and Roger, but the other two bands I’d never heard of – and given the fact that this was the first show I was seeing at The Broadberry, one of Richmond’s newer venues, I was extremely hyped for what was to come. (more…)
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.
Happy almost MAGFest everyone! In order to get you prepped for the impending wall of chipmusic waiting for you in Maryland in but a few scant days, and as I am the longstanding president of the Paul Weinstein Fan Club/Bowling League (current membership: myself), it is my duty to report to you that there was a new Chipocrite release last month, and if you haven’t listened to it yet you done goofed. The good news is, we can fix that right now! Grab your fancy headphones, go to the comfiest place in your house/apartment/other domicile, and prepare to rock out to ‘Wordplay.’
Allow me, if you would, to tell you a short story to set this all up.
The players: Myself and Dan Davis. The scene: Richmond, Virginia. Nighttime. Dan’s CRV.
We’re on the way to Sheetz to buy some snacks, because nothing is more chiptune than poor life choices regarding food in the middle of the night. As we make our way down the road, Dan begins to talk about his time at 8staticfest this year, and how great Carl Peczynski’s Radlib set was.
“You know,” he tells me, “Carl just got up there and killed it as Radlib – but he had a new album for sale and he didn’t even TALK about it! It was just in the merch area. Carl is so dedicated to his Planet Zaxxon crew, he didn’t even bring up his Warez Waldo release.”
“Warez Waldo?” I said. “I thought I saw something about that release, but I hadn’t listened to it.”
Dan reached down and grabbed the CD, popped it in, skipped to ‘From Inside The Frequency Forest,’ and proceeded to watch my face melt.
As Dan mentioned, Carl dropped ‘Warez Waldo – The Arrival‘ in October with very little fanfare, and while we made a brief mention about it via ChipWIN, we didn’t give it the attention it so rightly deserves at the time. This is, of course, a travesty, because this album is beautiful. It’s like your favorite meal, delivered to you in bed on a golden platter by an angel. In a world full of Game Boys, hearing non-LSDJ music is already something out of the usual, but this release is all FM, in all the glory the Soundblaster 16 can muster. Honestly, given Carl’s whole outer space schtick — the story being that all artists on the Planet Zaxxon label are here from another world to rock the human race with their music — rocking the FM synthesis makes a lot of sense. It allows the music to sound intrinsically “spacey” and out of this world by virtue of the sounds you can create with it that are so unlike anything else.
There are so many things to praise about this album. The tracks go back and forth between being simple in terms of content but intense in terms of technical composition and being big, cinematic pieces. The sheer range of instrumental voices you can get out of going full FM as opposed to more limited chip-stylings lets these songs pair harsher, more machine-like sounds with more traditional instrument emulation.
Of note, ‘Circuit Circus‘ stands out because of how truly alien it sounds – which given the Planet Zaxxon mythos, is appropriate. As I had said, ‘From Inside The Frequency Forest’ is face-melting – it just keeps you guessing as it builds from some something seemingly simple into a multilayered titan of sick drums and a jaunty, almost carnival-like melody. As always seems to be the case, however, the eponymous track takes the cake for best overall – it is at once complex, unknowable, and yet familiar: a hearkening back to 90’s MS-DOS music most unseen in this day and age. I sincerely hope this album is the herald of the arrival of more people using the OPL-3, because the nostalgia kick I got off of hearing these tunes has got me more hype than a plate of Wild Berry Pop Tarts washed down with a can of Surge.
I, for one, welcome our Planet Zaxxon overlords, and wish to see what else lays ahead for us now that The Arrival is here.
As time goes on, I find myself being less and less hyped up on new albums. Perhaps it just comes with having too much to do as an adult, or being over-saturated with great music means it takes a lot more to “wow” me these days. Maybe I’ve gotten used to the familiar names and faces, and am waiting for something new. Or, it’s because nothing else has been Kartmaze’s ‘The Lighthouse.’ Some of you may recall my previous interview with Mads Aasvik, our Norwegian friend who put out ‘Seven Journeys to a New Home’ last year. Mads swore that a pre-Christmas release of his new album was extremely unlikely, but it looks like he secretly kicked his butt in gear and got this thing churned out.
It’s difficult to find words to describe this album without sounding trite and cliche. I’m one of those people who, when someone comes to me about something and says “OH my G~~~O~~~D, THIS ____ISTHEGREEEEAAAAAAAATEST,” I immediately lose all desire to partake of whatever this thing is and it is forever dead to me. So what I have to say about The Lighthouse is simply the measured truth:
This album is a wild ride from start to finish.
If you think you’re prepared for this album, you are wrong. I’m going to go ahead and call this the sleeper hit of 2014, because I don’t think ANYONE (except, perhaps, Mads himself) had any inkling as to how good this album is.
Weighing in with 9 tracks and just under an hour’s worth of music, this album is simply impressive.The first track starts, and the only thing I could think was “This is what Danny Elfman would sound like if he did chipmusic.” You’re immediately hit with a slow, sweeping, cinematic introduction, without any hint of “chippyness” to it, and already you know you’re miles away from anything you could have guessed.
By the way, I hope you packed a lunch, because this is going to be one hell of a trip.
‘The Waves’ opens up with the more familiar synth sounds one might expect. It’s start is still incredibly calm and peaceful, as though easing us into something more exciting. As the pace starts picking up, it still sounds like you’re in some sort of fantasy story – until the drum breakdown, and then you realize you’ve been led into a prog-rock ballad, only to crash back into calm, slow jams. The album is playing with you. You are a ship on the waves, catching bare glimpses of light (or in this case, pulsing rock) as the sea rolls you ever forwards.
Sweeping you into the third track, appropriately named ‘Storm’. Between driving leads and speedy, urgent drums, you can tell that the game has changed and you’re getting somewhere. This is the Kartmaze we know and love, and he is fully aware of it. The ‘Storm’ passes, and we’re left with a brief piano interlude before realizing what lays before us.
As we get into ‘The Reef’, the mood changes. Everything is mysterious. There are big space synth sounds and echo effects. The melody sounds hopeful, but the clashing chords it is up against instill a sense of worry. Being the longest track on the album (which is saying something, given that they’re all quite lengthy), you really get taken on an emotional rollercoaster as the track goes from curious, to hopeful and upbeat, to urgently driving forward, only to lull you into a false sense of security hits with the slow portion because the last movement of the track is higher energy than anything else we’ve seen. This is my favorite track, and for good reason.
As we fade into the next track, all becomes calm again. ‘The Sunrise’ has come, and whatever urgency that the night may have pressed upon us has passed.While this song is calm, it also has an air of desolateness. It invokes the feeling of being the sole survivor of a rough night at sea; the only one left to see the sun come up.
Then, something crests the horizon, and we have cool violin parts and an angelic choir – have ‘The Ships’ come to save our stranded listener? This track goes back and forth between the tight “real” instrumentation we heard in the opening track with violins and slick percussion and woodwinds into the dirty prog rock we all know and love.
As the album continues, and we go into ‘The Light’ and the listener knows that here we are – this is what we’ve been waiting for. This is the behemoth of a track we knew was inevitable, the epic prog ballad the likes of which would make C-Jeff proud. This track, as the kids say, “goes hard, y’all.” It’s rough, it’s punchy, it’s like a shot of espresso driven right into your eye. As it goes, there is a building fervor that happens not only within the track but within the listener as well, and Kartmaze plays around with that, slowing down the track at key points to tease you, to slow down the process and to hold off the inevitable climax…of the album, I mean. What did YOU think I meant?
Finally, the end comes with’The Sunset’. With this sad little refrain and the sound of rushing waves, we know that the journey has come to an end.
I said it above, and I’ll say it here in summation: This album is what would happen if Danny Elfman and C-Jeff collaborated on an album. I don’t think I can pay it any higher compliment. If by some stretch of the imagination you haven’t gotten this album yet, you done goofed – but while the consequences may never be the same, you can fix your error by following the links below. I can’t wait to see what Mads has in store for us next year. You might say that I expect his work to rock progressively harder?
Alright, I’ll take the sound of the angry mob forming outside as my cue to leave.