Howdy-ho Chipperinos! No need to waste any time here – you and I both know you’re here to get the hottest takes on these V6 tracks, so let’s not keep you waiting!
Howdy-ho Chipperinos! No need to waste any time here – you and I both know you’re here to get the hottest takes on these V6 tracks, so let’s not keep you waiting!
Keyboardist, composer, and chipmusician Yoann Turpin has seen a number of his works featured in the ChipWIN community, be it his submission to the ChipWINter compilation, 2014’s ‘FriendChip’, or 2015’s ‘Chip Songbook Vol. 6’. His music is known throughout our niche for its funky vibes, his phenomenal work on the keys, and jazzy, improvisational solos that’re all ingredients for truly gorgeous music. His latest release, ‘Random Smash Hits’, is a collection of three short weeks’ worth of Turpin’s aural artwork. As if the sheer quantity of music he’s released in the last two years wasn’t enough to turn heads, the speed with which this album was composed and mastered is astounding.
So let’s see what chiptune chart-topping pieces lie in wait!
Welcome back to the cavalcade of Volume 5 reviews ChipWINners! This fine Monday, I’m happy to be taking a deep-ish look at tracks 21 through 30 with you dear readers. This selection includes some of my personally favorite tracks, albeit, at the end of the day all 51 tracks are all pretty examples of raw chiptune talent. Without further digression, jump past the fold for some more slightly more focused rambling!
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
____ IS THE GREEEEAAAAAAAATEST,” 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.
Contrary to popular belief, I DO actually listen to compilations other than ours, and in doing so I occasionally run across someone amazing. In this case, I’m referring to Mads Aasvik, better known as Kartmaze. I first heard him on the Project Chipmusic Heroes compilation last year, and his intense prog rock chiptunes melted my face. After grabbing a prosthetic face out of the stock I keep on hand for just such an occasion, I found out that he had actually released a full album. Three more prosthetic faces later, I knew this guy was someone I couldn’t wait to hear more from. With rumors on the Internet saying that we may be getting a new album from him sometime soon, I took it upon myself to hunt him down and question him, for your pleasure and mine. Enjoy!
Adam: Alright, preliminary barrage – what’s your name, how old are you, and how long have you been making chiptunes? What’s your preferred compositional set up?
Kartmaze: I’m Mads Aasvik, I’m 27 and I’ve been doing chiptune for a year and a half (since December 2012). My favorite setup for making music: MIDI programming in Reaper, note by note, using a wide array of VST-plugins with my acoustic guitar on my lap.
A: Now THAT’S interesting! You’re much more a fan of the VST method of doing chiptunes, as opposed to trackers or anything like that? That puts you in quite the minority, from what I’ve seen. What made you pick going that route as opposed to anything else?
K: That’s a really good question, actually! Ever since I (finally!) stopped writing music in the guitar tab software Guitar Pro around 8 years ago and was introduced to proper DAWs, I have exclusively utilized MIDI with VSTs in either Cubase or Reaper. To be honest, I have never touched a tracker in my life, and I wasn’t even aware of the concept until after I started lurking around in the chiptune community last year. After I’ve become aware of its existence, I have never considered trying it out as I’m more than happy with my current workflow. I’ve never cared about (or involved myself in) the chiptune vs. fakebit discussion either, which often comes along together with the VST/tracker subject. I just make music and let people think whatever they want in the process.
A: Right on! And speaking of making music, I remember first hearing you on the Project Chipmusic Heroes compilation last year. How’d you get involved with that?
K: I was approached by Travis, AKA __twc, who had this idea of gathering a few less established chiptune artists and making a collaborative album together. He asked me if I was interested, and I was.
A: A few months later, you dropped your first full length album, ‘Seven Journeys to a New Home.’ How long did it take you to put all that together? Did you know you were going to do a full album when you got The Rise of Zeus on PCH?
K: The thing with Seven Journeys was that only a couple of the tracks were written for the album explicitly. The rest of the tracks had actually been written during a time span of several years in advance. A few years prior to Seven Journeys I played guitar in a prog rock band where I did most of the writing myself, and some of the tracks on Seven Journeys were actually written to be played in that band. We never got to start playing most of them, hence they remained unused. During December 2012 I “converted” one of these tracks (‘Brownout,’ which was actually just a working title I didn’t bother to change) to chiptune after being challenged by a friend to make a chiptune track and posting it on r/chiptunes on Reddit. I got some good feedback from it, and from then on I used some of my old material as a base for some of the tracks that ended up on the album. Everything was ready for mixing at the end of February 2013. I knew I was going to do a full album when we released the first PCH album, however when we started planning PCH, ‘The Rise of Zeus’ wasn’t anything but bits and pieces of old material I had lying around, so the track was made as it is today during the time leading up to the first PCH release.
A: Other than filling out your Soundcloud, what have you been up to musically in the past year? Have you been doing any live shows?
K: Besides what you can find on Soundcloud, I haven’t been doing a lot except working on my next album. I have been working a bit with three talented guys from the US (two from Buffalo, NY and one from Houston, TX). [Adam Note: Mads lives in Norway! The more you know.] We call ourselves Megalixir and are mainly doing SNES covers (I have posted one of our tunes on my Soundcloud, but more will come). I have also started experementing with a synthwave-like genre for use in promotional videos (I have also posted one of these on my Soundcloud, and more will come on this front as well). Last, but not least, I’m currently doing a small collaboration with a fellow Ubiktune artist. We’re quite early in the process, but you definitely have something to look forward to! Regarding live shows, I’ve actually never even considered doing one. If I was to perform some of my own material live, it would have to be with a full live band with me playing my electric guitar, I think.
A: Okay, so, the real reason we’re getting down and dirty here: You’ve got a new album coming out! What can we expect from it? Are you branching out, trying anything new? Is it going to be as facemelting as Seven Journeys? Can we expect more heavy prog rock, or are you switching genres on us? When should we expect it out?
K: Yes, I have! You can expect an epic progressive concept album, musically not too far from Seven Journeys. It will be packed with heavy riffs, catchy themes and melodies, plenty of odd time signature changes, swirling arpeggios, polyrhythms and face melting synth solos! However, it will not be a pure chiptune album. It will have a more hi-fi synth feel to it with more acoustic sounding drums and more complex synth sounds. Regarding the release date, I’m very uncertain. It all comes down to me and my productivity (which is highly irregular nowadays), as I still lack about 1/4 of my planned album length. Last year I hoped to release it this summer, but that’s not going to happen. If I’m going to look realistically at it, a release before christmas is unlikely, I’m afraid. But I’ll assure you that it will be worth the wait!
A: I can’t wait! And thanks a bunch for your time!
So there you have it! If you need some proggy brain obliterating funtimes, look no further than Kartmaze! And you can join with me in counting the days until he makes an official album announcement. In the meantime, keep your eyes glued here while we continue to YELL AT YOU ABOUT CHIPTUNES because the ONLY WAY you can truly learn more is if we YELL AT YOU ABOUT CHIPTUNES.
Welcome back, ChipWINners! It’s good to be back at the blog after a short hiatus. That being said, I hope you’re ready for another interview! This week, I managed to get a hold of one of the most versatile talents in the scene! Using a bevy of tools over the course of his career, this artist took the time to sit down with me to talk about his new album, weapons of choice, and his recent performance at Toy Company Festival! So without further ado, here’s my interview with Canada’s very own bryface!
Kuma: So I got to listen to a large part, if not all of, your musical catalog, and I have to say, you are one of the more versatile talents I’ve ever had here on rawcuts! How’d you get your start in all this? Where does your journey begin?
bryface: Good question. I like to begin the story at the age of 9. It was the early 90’s, my brother and I just recently got a modem for our 486 PC, and we had started foraying into the world of dialup BBS’s (which served as the precursor to the internet). Some of these bulletin boards held collections of all kinds of files, including 4-channel and MODs. Somehow I stumbled onto one written by 4mat, and I was blown away by his style of composing! That’s pretty much the earliest influence I can recall on my style.
bryaface: Haha not quite that old! Those guys had lives and careers to live while I was still trying to learn how to do long division. But I’d consider myself maybe just above median age as far as the current chip community Is concerned, if that means anything at all. Too young to be oldschool, old enough to be cantankerous about juvenile chip tastes.
Kuma: Ah, so you’re Kuma age. Good. I thought my brain was going to explode again, the way it did when I found out Glomag has a 17 year old son.
bryface: Anyway, fast forward a few years and I find myself writing tracker music in impulse tracker. Then, I stopped writing in that program because I found it too unwieldy and couldn’t finish anything. It wasn’t until 4 years ago that I got started again, via a copy of KORG DS-10 and focused on short little ditties.
I think all the while, I found myself really connected to the demoscene/tracker chiptune aesthetic because of its uniqueness and focus on melody and harmony more than instrumentation, so stylistically I try to champion that ethic as much as I’m able to.
Kuma: I’m glad you have, and I’m especially glad you’re doing it with DS10, because while there certainly talented DS10 people out there, I find the ones I’m most familiar with don’t carry that aesthetic the way you do. kloudygirl makes noisey, dank industrial, and decktonic focuses on using it it the way a club DJ would use a synth to make disco, so when I got to hear your work, especially on “how to dodge lasers” I creamed my pants a little.
bryface: That’s very kind and horribly disgusting of you to say. But yeah, I mean I _could_ do music on those styles, but I feel like it’s a waste of time to trod where others can tread easily, you know? (not that it’s NECESSARILY easy
but yeah I like a challenge.
To clarify, I feel like, ‘why waste time covering territory that others are covering ably already?’. What excites me is the discovery of new things, and that desire is best met by me doing composition that is challenging.
Kuma: Very true. There’s nothing wrong with making similar music, but I definitely enjoy that, as far as DS10 is concerned, you’re walking your own path. That being said, the Korg isn’t the only program you use to make music with. Tell me, of the tools listed on your WAVEFORMTOWN page, which is the one you like most outside of DS10?
bryface: Impulse tracker, Famitracker, Sunvox, korg m01 and LSDJ all have their strengths and weaknesses as far as sound shaping is concerned. The DS-10 was a great portable platform as far as portability and control over sound is concerned, but over time I felt it was too restrictive compositionally. 16 notes x 16 patterns was not enough for the complexity of the songs I really wanted to write. I hate to be cliche, but LSDJ has become a favorite because it combines the familiar tracker interface with portability and a degree of sound control. (at least, control within the confines of the hardware)
Portability is super important to me because I can’t stand sitting down at a computer to write music anymore. too solitary, and too remote to capture musical ideas that flicker to life in a short moment. I haven’t touched a DAW in years lololol
Kuma: Really? That’s surprising, as I know a lot of artists, even if they’ don’t perform using DAWs, they’ll use them to refine and touch up their songs for album releases. Are you saying you don’t master your music at all? That all the stuff I’ve heard is raw DS10 or LSDJ?
bryface: All the DS-10 and LSDJ stuff i released before this newest album has not been enhanced with a DAW. I simply lacked the knowledge/perspective to consider post-production a big deal. ‘VARIOUS TOPICS’ marks my first use of a DAW (Reaper) for legit EQ/mastering.
Still though, the post-production is quite minimal as far as altering the spectral content of the music is concerned because i believe in maintaining a kind of verisimilitude whereby i didn’t resort to underhanded tricks to make my music sound unnaturally impressive. I want to be more or less on the level with how i present my music. It’s more impressive that way.
Kuma: I respect that. I respect that a lot, especially because it’s clear how much effort you put into making a high quality production. So much so, that it seems to have paid off for you in a big way, seeing as you got to play at Toy Company Festival earlier this year! Talk to me about that, man! Were you nervous? Excited? Was this your first time playing a large scale fest like this?
bryface: It definitely was my first experience playing a multi-day show on that kind of scale! As far as the “exclusive opportunity” of getting to play the show was concerned, I do want to clarify that by pointing out that there aren’t nearly as many chiptune artists in Canada, even less so in Vancouver where i am. So when i heard about the festival, i figured, hey, if ever there was a +30% chance of me getting involved, why not?? So I got in touch with XC3N and the Toy Company guys and they were like, ‘yeah let’s make it happen!’!
I was definitely excited to play. I wasn’t really nervous though, because i believed that my music was worth sharing, and also because a lot of the artists I had met previously at other events (Blipfest 2011 being the first of them).
To me it was more about the excitement of getting to hang out with all these awesome peers/heroes/brothers-in-arms again (which doesn’t happen often at all for me, given how remote I am).
Kuma: Oh c’mon! You’re not that remote! Vancouver may be far, but it’s not like you’re in the middle of nowhere like jmr in Newfoundland!
Regardless, I do get that feeling. Festivals are often the only time a lot of us get to see each other in person, so being able to take advantage of the opportunity to attend means a lot beyond just being able to play. Was there anyone in particular you were happy to see?
bryface: Haha i feel for that guy, being where he is. On a related note, jmr was hanging out at Toy Company Fest too, so i got a kick out of meeting him in person and seeing the same thrill he had in meeting IRL peoples! (previously only knew of him in IRC channels and whatnot).
Hmm… in general it was great to see some artists from the Ontario chip scene, and the Wuebec chip guys, all in one place. Twofer! Saved me a bunch of flight money for sure. Btw, I gotta hand it to the Quebec artists: I was really impressed with how they banded together to make this show happen, and it was evident that they’re genuinely excited artists who are able to put personal ambitions and politics aside to have a good time. They deserve praise and continued support.
bryface: I wanna offer kudos to Danimal Cannon. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing him play live several times and I’ve always wanted to return the favor to him and many of the artists that were at TC fest. We always seem to run into each other a lot, too, and for a guy who has every reason to be all “pssh i don’t need to talk to you” chip star style, he’s always been very generous with his time and attention. I’m thrilled that we’re labelmates, but more so that I can just call him “Dan” and not by some contrived pseudonym.
Kuma: Huh, that’s cool, but honestly that’s the first time I’ve ever heard such. That being said, let’s talk about your new album, ‘VARIOUS TOPICS’. What were you looking to create when you set out making it? Was there a certain sound or change within yourself you were looking to make when crafting it? What was the bar you set for yourself with this LP?
bryface: Well, I originally had never set out to make an album proper, but as more unfinished music became closer to being done, it seemed a more viable goal. But no, there was no “thematic core” or imagined story behind the album. The music’s album is basically me going, “what’s the kind of music that I personally would like to hear more of from the chipscene?”, with the added guiding principle of “try not to do anything that’s been done before.” So the music I’ve written is very much my reaction to trends and norms that I see in chipmusic today and trying to challenge them.
If I’m to be honest, I kind of feel that the average person’s interest in chipmusic could stand to be less myopic, stylistically. Sometimes I feel that “current chiptune” is more about recreating mainstream music tropes rather than carving out unexplored territory, so my goal here is to try and provide some demonstration of what that unexplored territory could look like.
Kuma: While I’ll admit part of why I fell in love with chip was because I was initially blown away with how lush and similar to traditional instrumentation this music could be, I have to admit I do admire your creativity in wanting to venture off in the other direction. It takes dedication to do so, even in a scene as small as this. Will you be doing anything special to promote this EP? An album release party or a concert?
bryface: Oh yeah! Of course I’m not knocking anyone’s taste in chipmusic per se, but if there is any statement that I would want for my album to make, it’s that there is indeed even more headway to make in this territory! One thing I’ve tried to do specifically was to imbue an organic/human quality so as to almost make people forget they’re listening to chiptune. I’ll be interested to see if this actually ends up ringing true with the general public.
While I suspect this conversation will get published after the fact, this Thursday (Sept. 19th) Noise Channel Radio is hosting a Listening Party! I’ll be chatting it up with TrueStar and anyone else who happens to be on IRC at the time about the album.
I don’t really have any other plans for a release party, as there aren’t many people I’d celebrate proper with here in Vancouver. It’s more likely that i’ll get right to sharing the album with people, maybe making supplementary content for it, BUT, a mere week after the release, i’ll be heading to japan to party with the Square Sounds crew in Tokyo! I also have a few shows lined up there, in Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka! So that’ll be my “release party” so to speak! Hard to top that!
Kuma: God damn, that sounds awesome! I’m incredibly jealous, but I’m sure you’re bound to have a great time! That being said, I’d like to thank you for your time, bryface. It was a pleasure interviewing you and getting to know you better, as well as listening to your music. Do you have anything you’d like to say to our readers before we wrap things up?
bryface: I would just like to ask for you all to listen to my work and to share it with others. But to be clear, I wrote this music not because I necessarily want to be “known” or anything. I wrote this music because I have a love for the process and for the result. I wrote this music to continue and celebrate a proud tradition of being invested in your craft and finding fellowship with those who similarly understand the relationship between sweating technical details and the creation of a product that is more than the sum of its parts. That is what I feel is at the heart of the chipmusic community, even all the way back to my days as a nine-year-old, and it’s important that we continue to cherish that.
That and, if we meet in person, and you tell me you like my music, you get an automatic beer.
Thanks for doing the interview, Kuma, this was indeed super fun. I also wanted to give a shout out to C-jeff for allowing me the opportunity to continue Ubiktune‘s fine tradition of musicianship and hopefully not run it into the ground!! (tugs at collar nervously.)
Kuma: Run a netlabel into the ground? I doubt anyone could do that, especially someone as talented as you! bry, once again, it was a pleasure talking to you. Take care and good luck with your future ventures. I look forward to doing this again with you.
That’s it for this week’s edition of Rawcuts! Don’t forget to tune into NCR tonight to be a part of bryface’s listening party for his new album, as well as heading over to bandcamp to not only pick up his new album, but to check out his older stuff, as well! ‘Til next time!