Hey there, ChipWINners! Chances are you’ve probably heard Crunk Witch from one of their previous releases, most notably 2014’s ‘Heartbeats in Hyperspace’, their most recent album. When they’re not busy working on new material,Hannah and Brandon are known to tour around for a large portion of the year, playing shows all across the country at almost any given time. I had the chance to meet up with them at a show they played in Ithaca, NY, during theirrecently wrapped nation-wide tour, and asked them if they’d be willing to do an interview for your reading pleasure. They happily obliged! Without further ado, here’s our Chiptunes = WIN EXCLUSIVE interview with Crunk Witch!
Revengineers is a name familiar to numerous Northeastern chipmusic fans, and while the group may not be the most active, their music is extremely indicative of the state that chiprock is in at this point in time. Nick Maynard, a member of the Revengineers, has released an album under his solo alias ‘LITTLE PAW’ entitled ‘SPACE CORGI’, which blends indie rock and chipmusic to create a thing of beauty. A danceable fusion of indie rock and chipmusic, the album is a joyous adrenaline rush from start to finish. Let’s dive in and see what ‘SPACE CORGI’ has in store for us!
HEXAWE (which is brilliantly abbreviated from Hexadecimal Awesome!), is an international net label featuring artists and tracks created with LGPT, also known as Piggy Tracker (which is programmed by Marc Nostromo). Managed and run by several bosses who created a ‘low-level chaos wiki’ website, this label has released several compilation albums which include the HEXAWE catalog, casio relapse compo, and the very compilation this review will cover, ‘TURNTNES‘. This 17-track compilation — released on July 16, 2015 — features submissions from an eclectic mix of artists including Peter Swimm, PaK-Zer0, and overnrake (to name a few), and celebrates the 10-year birthday of this beloved program. The hitch? Submissions include a sample pack recorded by Doomcloud (an artist that boasts having traveled around the world 31 times by the ripe age of 14) straight out of his Nintendo Entertainment System with a MIDINES, and were only allocated up to 500k worth of the artists’ ‘own’ vocal samples.
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.
Howdy, fellow Carbon based life forms! Now that the cat has been away and the mice have played (wait, is that how the saying goes?), it’s time to administer another dose of Chip Treatment to all my wonderful readers! It’s certainly been some time since I’ve written an album review (apparently I’ve been too busy escaping to MAGFest 12, Frequency 3.0, and Rockage 3.0 these past couple of months), and this is UNACCEPTABLE. However, it is a great pleasure to write this edition on Trey Frey’s newest album, ‘Refresh’, which debuted on Bandcamp February 11, 2014.
Released by Thebasebit Recordings, the bulk of ‘Refresh’ was written between July 2013 and February 2014, and to my surprise, is a product of once countless hours of dissatisfaction in his work, a cessation in music creation altogether, to an eventual life altering experience. Through such experience, his perspective toward life was changed, and he was instilled with a remarkable sense of inspiration to create this very album. While ‘Refresh’ was titled as a reflection of his personal experiences, he also hoped to bring refreshment to chip and electronic music as a whole with this album, which I believe he has so masterfully done.
Playing the main stage chiptune showcase at MAGFest 12 alongside reputable acts such as Auxcide, Awesome Force, and Cheap Dinosaurs, Trey has far exceeded my expectations of what one can create using Gameboy sound chips. ‘Refresh’ is an inspiring collection of tracks; it continues to captivate me with every listen, and instills such excitement for his contributions to the future of chip music. Curious, I asked Trey when his musical journey began, what prompted him to take to composing and producing, and where his skills as a musician arose from. He responded:
I suppose my musical journey began when I was forced into piano lessons at age 8. I fought against it at first, but after a few lessons, I fell in love with learning about and playing music. Even at this young age, I could be found creating short little songs at my parent’s piano, and studied until I was 13, where I developed an interest in punk and hardcore music. During middle school, I took bass guitar lessons while also self-teaching myself guitar, and I joined my first band. Afterward, I continued studying bass and began studying jazz and classic music, where during high school, I played in several jazz groups, as well as in the local university’s orchestra.
When I was in a junior in high school, a friend of mine introduced me to a group called Slagsmalsklubben, an all-male Swedish electronic music group that perform with analog synthesizers and drum machines. Listening to this group for the first time marked a major landmark in my musical life, and I fell head over heels in love with the sound and began delving into all sorts of electronic music genres(…) I came across a video of a Japanese man (who I later discovered is Maru) playing music on a Gameboy on a street for a small crowd; naturally interested in how this was possible, further research led me to 8bitcollective.org where I discovered the program Little Sound DJ. I ordered a cartridge as soon as I could, and “the rest is history” as they say.
For those of you who’ve kept up with this album, you should have taken notice of a very special, stellar track—‘Blvck Lvng’—that features Michigan’s own boaconstructor.
With heavy bass lines, blood-stirring drum kits, and a charming yet haunting melody, ‘Blvck Lving’ is a product of epic proportions. Interested in the conception of this dynamic, I asked Trey to explain his collaboration with boaconstructor and how they were able to create such a stellar track despite geographical differences. Trey responded:
I met Michael (boa) at BRKfest 2013 in Lexington, KY. During the festival, he and I discussed his plans for a new chip music record label that he wanted to call ‘Thebasebit Recordings.’ While I have always enjoyed his music, and felt he has something very unique to bring to the table, I agreed to be released on the label—little did I know at the time that he would become one of my best friends. I wrote the intro and main section of our track ‘Blvck Lvng’ on a whim one day while experimenting with sound synthesis, and after showing the preview to Michael, we both knew it would make an amazing collaborative song. We attempted to create the song from our two separate locations, but thankfully he and I traveled together to Philadelphia in October of 2013 for 8static Festival, and we literally wrote the latter half of the song in the hotel room the night before my performance. As co-founders of Thebasebit Recordings, I have no doubt that Michael and I will continue working on future music together again.
Constantly inspired by musicians both a part of the chipscene (Bit Shifter, Sabrepulse, Henry Homesweet, Anamanaguchi, Knife City, boaconstructor, IAYD, Radlib, and Ultrasyd) and outside of it (Slagsmalsklubben, Mord Fustang, Space Laces, Flying Lotus, Star Slinger, Slow Magic, Com Truise, Gold Panda, and Shigeto) Trey composed ‘Refresh’ using two original Gameboy DMGs synched together running LSDJ, and often performs live using 4 Gameboys linked to his Vestax VMC-004fx DJ mixer. Taking a look back on his debut album, ‘Trey Frey’, which was released in 2010, he remarked that his sound has become more refined since he began his journey in chip music.
I think growing up and maturing helps develop ones sense of musical ‘style’. In 2010, I was 18, and I am now 22. I was absolutely a whole different person four years ago. However, my advice for aspiring musicians? Practice and patience. I spent countless hours of creating music in 2012 that I destroyed—now, I am constantly working on new music (I have a new drum and bass song in the works) as well as a new electro house styled track. I will be playing live A LOT in 2014, and though I cannot make a lot of these appearances public yet, all I can say for sure is that things are going to be awesome!
The album is a non-stop HYPE TRAIN (caps for emphasis), and is truly a product of Trey’s ability to melt your brain over and over. With my favorite track being the title track ‘Refresh’, one can’t help but notice Daft Punk melodies that he has so perfectly intertwined throughout ‘Airglow’. ‘Daisy’, the darker track of the bunch, tickles my senses, and ‘Further’, a bouncy, rhythmic track very similar to early 2000’s Europop, is a perfect precursor into ‘Blvck Lvng’—a track whose towering deep beats and wobbly dubstep—sends you on a thrilling ride to non-stop dance. Heck, even Vratim Clothing used one of his tracks in their promo video here!
While this album can be purchased digitally for $7, I highly recommend dropping a Hamilton—or two!—to buy the CD. Graced beautifully with artwork created by Witchmoss and KeFF, ‘Refresh’ is an album that I have had stuck on repeat.