Here we are in a post Leonard Nimoy world, and all I (or anyone else it seems) can think about is space. People are constantly talking about Mars and what new things they find on it. Or there’s the dwarf planet Ceres, or this Earthlike planet Kepler 186-f. Hell, even ‘The X-Files’ is coming back to TV – so how fitting that Space Town Savior’s new (and final!) release ‘Nebulae’ is hot space-on-space, atmospheric trancey electronic goodness. You may, remember Space Town Savior from Volume 1 of our compilations – how wonderful it is now to get to talk about a full album instead of a single track!
I’m willing to bet a large majority of our reader base is familiar with Alex Mauer. but if not, let me direct you to the interview that our very own Kuma did with him last year. In the intervening time, in addition to a slew of other projects Alex did what might be the first of its kind – a chiptune score for a movie called Motivational Growth.
Released in October 2014, it’s the story of a depressed man who tries to end it all, only to find that the very filth he has cultivated in his apartment from his depression has come alive to try to get his life back on track (or has it?). It’s a very intense film – it’s got some blood and gore, and obviously the theme of suicidal depression isn’t exactly fun for the whole family, but it’s a hell of a film and something that really got to me personally.
I met Alex this year at MAGFest when we ended up sitting next to each other by chance at a large chiptune family dinner down at the Irish pub in National Harbor. One thing led to another while we were inhaling our food and suddenly Alex was willing to do an interview with the blog about Motivational Growth and the upcoming game Starr Mazer. I got in touch with him once both our schedules calmed down, and managed the following. Enjoy! (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.
Hit play on ‘Macro’ below and prepare to dance. Welcome to ‘Monochrome’ by tiasu.
‘Monochrome’ by tiasu is an eight track chip-dance album that knows itself inside and out, expressing high-powered, strikingly danceable beats with a confidence that demands the attention it deserves. Labyrinthine amalgamations of familiar chip sounds and welcoming dance rhythms work in tandem to ensnare your attention immediately, with the above track ‘Macro’ being a remarkable example of tiasu’s artistic execution of electronic music.
‘Monochrome’ is a solid chip-dance album of eight tightly cohesive tracks ordered to deliver a satisfying night on the dance floor, which this album provides in spades.
Savvy employment of familiar chip sounds fused together with welcoming dance beats blur the lines between traditional electronica and classic chiptune, allowing fans of each genre a dynamic album everyone can embrace, exposing listeners to the highlights of both music categories. Breakdowns within ‘Spectrum’, for example, delve into a dub-step vibe that benefits greatly from the particular chip sounds tiasu has chosen, creating a unique “lighter” dub-step riff that melds fantastically with the album’s established tone.
The final ‘Monochrome’ track ‘Focus’ takes the furthest departure from the album’s dancebeat themes with the integration of a grunge bass through line, experimenting with a dark and gripping electronica sound moulded around a melody more akin to the rest of the album.
With a presentation as strong as ‘Monochrome’, insight into tiasu’s creative process is invaluable. Fortunately, tiasu was kind enough to spend some time sharing his experience constructing ‘Monochrome’, and that interview continues below:
Pixel Recall: How close is Monochrome to your initial conception for the album in terms of composition, theme and tone?
tiasu: Monochrome developed very organically – I didn’t start out with any specific preconceived ideas of what I wanted the album to sound like, but after I debuted two tracks at a gig and saw the reaction they got, I knew I had a direction & sound I wanted to keep!
Pixel Recall: What’s your live set-up like? Do you have a favourite piece of hardware?
tiasu: My live setup is very minimal – I use a gameboy for one or two tracks, and the rest is all in Ableton, controlled with a launchpad and korg nanokontrol. Oh and there’s also a – quite frankly, ridiculous – bat onesie, which is critical to the whole setup!
Pixel Recall: It’s been less than a year since your release of “mission control”. What do you personally feel has been your largest growth piece artistically between last December’s “mission control”, and this year’s “Monochrome”?
tiasu: With every release (Monochrome is number 7!) I’m getting better at creating something more cohesive, for lack of a better word. Mission control is 9 cobbled together tracks, and the album’s track order is the same order that I wrote them. With Monochrome, there were a whole bunch of rejected tracks (some of which I’ve released elsewhere), that I didn’t include because they simply didn’t fit with the sound of the album. Technically, the mixing, mastering & overall production is getting better too – which is always nice, it can sometimes be hard to listen to the old tracks, the production value… Some of it is shocking!
Pixel Recall: Do you have a specific plan of attack when it comes to composing a new track, or do you find each track comes to you in its own way?
tiasu: Each track comes about very differently – sometimes you can sit there banging your head against the wall hoping to get some workable idea, other times you might start humming a tune and suddenly there’s a 5 minute track sitting there!
Pixel Recall: Do you have any tips or tricks for aspiring artists looking to perform live electronic music like yourself?
tiasu: Tips and tricks? Honestly, just keep doing it – have fun, enjoy the process of writing it, enjoy performing it. One of the best things I’ve ever done has to be a challenge called ‘Weekly Beats’, writing a track every week for a year. Not every track is good, in fact the majority of mine are done in a very short space of time and complete rubbish, but that’s half of the fun!
Pixel Recall: Open mic: Any last thoughts, shout-outs, advice, or tour dates you’d like to make sure to share with your fans?
tiasu: I’ve gotta thank Derris ‘Nine-finger’ Kharlan, GZom, Biko, Loubanging & Sean ‘Birdball’ O’Dowd for putting up with me, Cody Hargreaves, Chris De Cinque, cTrix, aday, Pselodux & Claire Plunkett for being awesome, Belinda Haas for all the good times, the amazing SoundBytes/SquareSounds crew for putting on awesome shows (and being such rad people), and of course Chiptunes=WIN! I’m 100% sure I’ve forgotten about a million people I should thank, sorry!
I’m playing at the SquareSounds ExpansionPAX gig on the 2nd November at Forgotten Worlds in Melbourne, and I may or may not have a sneaky new track to play too…
‘Monochrome’ is cheerful, industrious, self-assured, and frankly music to groove to.
‘Monochrome’ by tiasu is available for download right now on Bandcamp, with pay-what-you-want pricing. ‘Monochrome is a must-listen, and if you can afford it, remember to support the artists you love so they can keep creating more of the music you love.
Pixel Recall (R. Morgan Slade) ~ Support the artists you love ~