Through my stay here on the ChipWIN Blog, I’ve written many album reviews about a handful of talented musicians, and thus a plethora of eclectic coverage has emerged. Through this journey, where I once started as a novice but passionate listener, I feel pretty confident in my ability to decipher the thoughts in my head as to why I think something sounds great. While I am not a classically trained musician, or studied music theory, or even identify as a musician (…yet), I have become much more constructive when I listen to an album. Leading up to this very album review today, I tend to gravitate toward releases that satisfy a minimum of three requirements: Personality, Composition, and Mixing—and I can very confidently say that these very three things are ubiquitous throughout ‘Ghost Stories’, Together We Are Robots’ first studio album released through Bandcamp on March 11, 2015. (more…)
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!
While I’m sure many agree with the sentiment that their musical taste fluctuates often (and sometimes very rapidly), mine is especially the case when it comes to chipmusic. Due to the wide and oversaturated market filled to the brim with talent new and old, I’m always looking for new and exciting releases that push the boundaries of what these small (but mighty) sequencers and instruments are able to produce—as my article archive can attest. With releases sprouting up left and right, it’s quite a grueling, difficult journey to sift through them in order to find one in which I connect with on more levels than I can explain. However, when that does happen, I feel like I’ve hit a gold mine, and this is especially the case with with The Mineral Kingdom, Oakland’s first chipjazz/doom metal/bluegrass/
chamber music band, and their self-titled first EP. (more…)
Greetings, readers! Boy oh boy has my life been a whirlwind of craziness lately! If it’s not helping organize the Los Angeles SHADOWTRAVEL tour stop with Nullsleep, Stagediver, Starpause, and Trash80, a free E3 party with Japan’s legendary Chibi-Tech at a local barcade in Downtown Los Angeles with Meishi Smile, Space Boyfriend, Space Town Savior, Timon Marmex, and Trash80, or attending not ONE but TWO Anamanaguchi concerts within the same weekend (at the El Rey Theatre in Los Angeles and the DNA Lounge in San Francisco) respectively, it’s planning additional 8bitLA events, dreaming about attending out-of-state concerts like BRKFEST, and moving into a new apartment — I swear! I DO work full-time on top of all of this!
Despite all this crazy shenanigans, it’s good to be back writing this album review for this wonderful blog. I’m here to administer another dose of Chip Treatment the Professor Oakes way, and it is with great pleasure that I bring you a review of ‘SPACE FUGITIVES’ by TORIENA — so sit tight and read up!
Released by MADMILKY RECORDS, a Kyoto Japan-based label founded by TORIENA and NNNNNNNNNN (pronounced as no-no-no-no-no-no-no-no-no-no) in 2013, ‘Space Fugitives’ is a REMARKABLE album released through Bandcamp on January 28, 2014. Beginning her career as a composer and a performing chip musician in 2012 (she’s also an illustrator and web designer!), Sae Shimizu (TORIENA) released her first EP entitled “ORBIT” through Vol.4 Records, and later ‘Black Dance Hole’, her first 10-track album, later that year. Exclusively using her front-lit DMGs and LSDJ to create the music and running it through Cubase 6 (she also uses a Behringer Pro Mixer VMX100USB), Shimizu has dug herself a spot in the chip scene as one of the best international acts, as she performed during Blip Festival Tokyo 2012 at Koenji High in Tokyo (alongside Abortifacient, Aliceffekt, Batsly Adams, Bit Shifter, Chibi-Tech, Covox, and Nullsleep to name a few) and was awarded ‘Best New Artist’ in the World Wide Chiptune Awards, according to her website.
With energizing stage presence (as this video of TORIENA performing at Blip Tokyo 2012 can attest), Shimizu’s passion for music began with her parents (her father is a DJ) and her enrollment in junior high band (Shimizu played tuba, double bass, and bass guitar). Shimizu began her journey in electronic music in junior high after discovering Kraftwerk and Daft Punk, and later Gold Panda and Squarepusher in high school, but remarks her interest in music is “quite fickle because the mood at the time can change.” (ICON.jp, January 17, 2014)
Receiving wide support from Pedro Silva of Slime Girls and Shane Banegas (watashimo), and featured on DJ Cutman‘s ‘This Week in Chiptune‘ on February 19, 2014, ‘SPACE FUGITIVES’ opens with ‘Fetal movement’, as TORIENA creates an memorable, rhythmic introduction to the album at large. The calmer precursor to the latter half of the album, ‘Fetal movement’ is surely the calm before the storm. With BPMs ranging from the upper 110’s to lower 130’s as it starts to take speed, ‘Fetal movement’ is a brilliant example of dreamy, low-fi tracks that produce a sense of nostalgia, as Shimizu includes the Gameboy start-up sound as an element to the track, and a drone element which she pitch bends (which reminds me a lot of the sound the cars make upon accelerating in RoadBlasters and an element that The Depreciation Guild used quite often.) Another stylistic choice (whether intentional or not), is the slight humming her DMGs make throughout the course of the track—if you listen carefully, you can hear panning clicks laid on top of the melody she creates using her pulse channels, and the hi hats in her noise channel. There’s nothing more appealing than the true, natural sound a DMG can make, and I could never understand why artists would ever want to hide that!
‘Call me again!’, very appropriately mastered near the conclusion of ‘SPACE FUGITIVES’, is one of my absolute favorite tracks on this album. Sitting at just about 3 minutes long, the track throws you through a tornado of emotions as soon as it commences. Oozing at the seams with an unforgettable j-pop vibe, Shimizu mimics Mario’s jump and fire flower sound elements, which she very strategically places throughout the track. Leading up to about the 55 second mark, ‘Call me again!’ is a wonderful example of Shimizu’s ability to masterfully build up the emotion of the track using a rather static BPM and glitch-like elements, to then launch the listeners into a whirlwind of adrenaline-pumping elements and a much quicker tempo. Uplifting, hyper, and incredibly fun, ‘Call me again!’ sends me on a wild cat and mouse chase as I truly feel like I’m not able to rest until the conclusion of the track. Unlike its precursor ‘Fetal movement’, ‘Call me again!’ is far from anything calm, soothing, and dreamy (but rather insane and wild!)
‘SPACE FUGITIVES’ can be purchased through Bandcamp digitally for $8. This is an album I definitely recommend buying (if you haven’t already!) as I assure you it’ll make your way to your list of top favorites. While TORIENA has not yet performed in the western hemisphere, she tells ICON.jp that she would very much like to perform outside of Japan in the future—so keep your eyes out and catch her performing when this happens!
That’s all ChipWIN readers! Until next time on Chip Treatment—Professor Oakes signing off!
Welcome back to Raw Cuts, ChipWINners! First and foremost, I’d like to take the time to thank you all for stickin with me over the past few months! This is my 20th edition of RCwK and to help celebrate this special occasion, I decided to do something special and interview not one, but two very awesome artists who not only run an incredible netlabel, but have recently put out a stellar compilation that’s a celebration for them as well!
5 years ago, Chema64 founded 56KBPS, Mexico’s premier chiptune netlabel! While his start off was small, with only a handful of artists contributing at first, Chema64 would soon be joined by another awesome artist by the name of Atoms or Faeries! Working together, they not only put out albums that do the chipscene in their neck of the world justice, but they would go on to found and curate a chiptune music festival called Format.DF: a 3 day event that would go on to be the Blipfest of Latin America!
To celebrate, commemorate and immortalize the beauty of that festival and achievements thus far, the guys put out a bombastic 30 track compilation that manages to set itself apart from other chiptune/lofi comps over the past 2 years by being dynamic, diverse, culturally flavorful and easily accessible! From the grimey sounds of Crab Sound’s “Nooby Clairvoyence” to the intermittent wubs of Coleco Music’s “Irak Undo” to the trance/house korg inspired goodness of Anwar Sanchez’s “What’s I O”, there is literally something on this album for everyone. In short, this is one of the few times where an album so lovingly captures lightning in a bottle that the sum of the parts is truly equal to the whole.
But don’t take my word for it; sit back and relax with it as I take the time to talk to Chema64 and Atoms or Faeries about their music, the scene, the album and what comes next for them.
Kuma: So lets get started at the beginning. How’d you guys first get started in chiptune and how did you two meet each other?
Atoms or Faeries (AoF): Would you like to go first Chema?
Chema64: I accidentally came across chipmusic in 2005, I don’t even remember how, but the first chiptune I heard was by Tugboat. I made my first tunes by 2007 and in 2009 I founded 56KBPS Records, because there were no Spanish-speaking presence at the time. I met Marco (Aof) in 2013. He’s only been part of the net label since 2014 but so far he has been a invaluable piece to the label.
Kuma: I think that’s the most brief history of someone’s background in chiptune I’ve ever heard. XD Well done, Chema! What about you, Marco?
AoF: I’ve always loved videogame music. I used to listen to it every day and sometimes I just played a game because of its tunes. I studied Music Production and while I was doing so some of my electronic music teachers told me the music I made sounded like something out of a retro videogame XD I started making bitpop in 2010 under the name Atoms Or Faeries. I released my first EP on May 2013 and I came across Colectivo Chipotle. I contacted them and met Chema in person during the FORMAT DF. We got along really well and sometime later a curator position was available at his label. I jumped at the oportunity and here we are today.
Kuma: Now correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t Format DF that shindig Virt performed at down in Mexico? If so, I’m glad it was you guys who organized it, because if this album is any indication, you guys must have kicked ass live!
Chema: No, those were different guys, we brought Danimal Cannon, IAYD and MENEO to a 3 day free music festival, Format.DF. It’s the biggest event of its kind in Latin America so far.
AoF: It was great bro! We played at an abandoned chapel that belonged to the Spanish Inquisition. And it was sooo cool! I wish you were there!
Chema: The ambiance was magical, all brotherly love and all!
Kuma: Oh man that still sounds awesome! like a South American Blipfestival or 8static Fest! I’m so glad the chip love is spreading and that you’re making it happen! Are there any plans to include more overseas artists in the future to the event or for you guys to travel into the US and play up north in NYC or Philly?
Chema: I’m going to do some visuals next week in SXSW, thanks to IAYD. It’s going to be my first show outside of my home country!
AoF: Regarding this year’s FORMAT we’d love to invite international musicians again, of course! We’re still in the early stages of planning, though.
Chema: And talking about bringing people, we are making slow but steady progress for this year’s Format.DF. We already selected some musicians from South America and United States. Last year we wanted to bring someone from Japan but it didnt happen
Kuma: Do you have plans on inviting some of the artists on this compilation? Cause I have to say, a lot of the people on it I’ve not heard of and I feel bad for saying that cause this albums really legit! And if so, are there any in particular you liked working with that contributed to the label that you’d like to see have more exposure?
Chema: Yes, I guess the Chilean artists have a record of exporting excellent music.
They are very professional and from what I know, they need more exposure. Talking about mexican artists, we get some top quality acts, starting with Crab Sound, such a young artist, but one of the best.
AoF: Most of the people who participated in the album will play on this year’s festival. I can’t say I enjoyed working with any one person in particular. Everyone was great in their own way and though there are people who are way more developed than others I enjoyed working with them all. A chip labor of love!
Kuma: I’m glad to hear there’s as much love where you guys are as there is where I am, and I’m glad to hear that love is starting to become more interconnected and international. Going back a bit to interconnect that idea, how did you get your gig to do visuals for SXSW, Chema? And how long have you been doing visuals for? Is it something you took up after getting involved musically or something you always did beforehand?
Chema: I started doing visuals in 2011 because the chiptune shows require it. Being a graphic designer really helps in this department. I absolutely love doing them, it`s like a natural extension of the music and the way I do it is really like playing a live instrument. IAYD was kind enough to invite us to his hometown, and what better time than during SXSW. He also got me the gig, I’m so exited to see Danimal, IAYD again and get to know the Tx Chiptune scene.
AoF: IAYD is such a great guy! He’s very talented and friendly and he parties like there’s no tomorrow! It was difficult to keep up with his partying levels I’ll tell you that XD
AoF: Yes. I have a list that’s longer than Santa’s. I especially love bitpop, so Fantomenk, Dunderpatrullenand Bossfight are high on the list. I really love Omodaka‘s work as well, the way he combines traditional japanese folk music with electronica and chiptune is so original and fantastic! I like to include hints of Mexican folk music on my music so I feel really connected to Omodaka in that sense.
Chema: Yeah I was thinking exactly that, Marco. Also in the graphic department the “Mexican style” is pretty evident. It’s not about nationalistic feelings, but about the style, that you don’t see very often in chiptune/demoscene.
Kuma: Those are some big names, and of those, I’ve only seen Omodaka, but I can def say he alone is worth the cost of a ticket if you guys can get him to come to play for you. That hint of the traditional was something I did notice in your music on your Soundcloud page, AoF, and I thought it was pretty cool to hear something with a somewhat traditional flavor in chip. Conversely, I gushed over how typically chip Chema’s Shatterhand remix was, so I’m glad I got hear a bit of both from you guys. That being said, was diversity something you were def going for when you put the compilation together, or did you have other feelings/thoughts in mind when you put it together?
Chema: I knew from the start, with this many artists, it was going to be a mess in form and style. The only criteria for this albums was: “Let’s invite our friends that make the most awesome music in the area”. I guess quality was the definitive criteria. I can finally be confident that the scene in this part of the world really matured in the last couple of years
AoF: Thanks Adam! And yeah, the music from our friends is so diverse there was no way we could’ve limited it in form or style if we wanted to remain true to what FORMAT was about. Yep, I concur with Chema. Quality was the main criteria in this case.
Kuma: It def shows. Every song on the album is a lot of fun to listen to, and even some of the songs that are in styles I generally don’t listen to are still rather enjoyable. The whole compilation is just dynamic and it’s something I love and want to hear more of in the future from every net label that puts out collections like this. That being said, once again, I’d like to thank you guys for your time. Is there anything you two would like to say in closing before we wrap this up?
AoF: I personally enjoyed working on this compilation very much. It was great to experience such diversity and growth from our friends at the scene.
Chema: I would say we still have a long road ahead of us and that this is only the beginning. I also wanna thank you and Brandon for the interview! It means a lot!
AoF: Thanks so much for having us Adam! It really means a lot to us. We’ve been struggling to get a footing on the international scene and I feel like we’re finally making it happen! Chip love for everyone! Also, have you heard the phrase “Chido-Chip”, Adam?
Kuma: No, I can’t say I have.
AoF: Chido is a slang word that is very similar to “cool”. So Chido-Chip means something like Cool Chip and it carries all the energy and enthusiasm we feel for chipmusic. I feel it represents really well the feeling and state of the Mexican scene.
Kuma: Nice man! Chido…I’ma have to remember that. I’ll def spread the Chido-Chip love and vibes here, man! Thanks again to you both for the interview!
Thanks for tuning and keeping up with us on the blog, and especially for sticking with my derpy butt for 20 issues of Raw Cuts! It’s been a truly fantastic ride and i can’t wait for what the future brings! That being said, don’t forget to check out 56KBPS as well as Chema64 and Atoms or Faeries individual work! And if you’re at SXSW, check out the chiptune and vgm showcases this week for a chance to meet Chema as well as some of the other awesome artists from across the world who are performing there! ‘Til next time!