‘Ratvader’s Dream’, released through the incredible Swedish Columbia netlabel, is the first full-length production from Gothenburg, Sweden-based musician Ratvader, one-half of the group Hello World. If that name sounds familiar, it might be because they wrote the opening track for ChipWIN’s most recent compilation, the Wild West-themed ‘A Fistful of Chiptunes‘. Their atmospheric contribution set the mood for the rest of the album and was a demonstrable display of their musical expertise. What’s more, the album was produced – and had its cover art drawn! – by El Huervo, an artist whose work you may recognize from Hotline Miami between some of its music or its iconic cover art. Now that you know a little bit about the artists, let’s get to know the music a little more intimately, shall we?
Greetings, ChipWINners! It’s good to be back on the blog with a phenomenal new album to review. While others may ponder what future 2017 has in store, we chiptune fans have a particular proclivity to maintain a strong sense of reverence and respect for the past. There is no other recent release that exemplifies this ideal better than ‘Out Of Memory’ by Zalza.
‘Out Of Memory’ is a tribute to humanity’s achievements through the exponential growth of technology, focusing on the exciting period of time from the late 70’s to the early 90’s when the personal computer rapidly grew from a compelling oddity into an essential, multi-billion dollar industry. Throughout the album, Zalza makes use of vintage computer documentaries reporting on “something referred to as technology”, guided programming tutorials, and giddy new PC owners who “just installed the Internet on their computer”. It’s a thematic construct that is at times humorous, but always intensely inspirational. This theme is all the more authentic coming from an artist who tinkered and toiled his way through those halcyon days himself. Let’s take a closer look at just a few of the excellent tracks from ‘Out Of Memory’.
In the chipmusic community, new talent seems to pop up all the time. While these skilled musicians float under the “mainstream chip” radar, they never fail to convert at least a few dozen fans with their debuts and with each new release they put out. Enter sieken, a Swedish artist with a promising and unique style in what might be the most diverse sounding year chipmusic has ever seen. His debut EP, ‘Tokyo Monogatari’, was released on February 17th as an EP of his demo tracks, and its phenomenal sound attracted me to reviewing it today. So, let’s dive right on in! (more…)
Greetings, readers! It’s about that time, eh chaps? While it has certainly felt like an eternity since I wrote my last album review (which you can read HERE), it’s good to be back! As I’m here to administer another dose of Chip Treatment the Professor Oakes way, it is with great pleasure to do so by reviewing ‘papillons’ by xyce—so sit tight and read up!
Released by CheapBeats, the label for the Tokyo-based chiptune and lo-fi event of the same name, ‘papillons’ continues to take the chiptune world by storm with Tom Offringa and Roel Heerspink’s release that hit Bandcamp on June 8, 2013. While the two musicians contribute to chip music as their solo acts xylo and cerror respectively, xyce is incredibly prolific as a duo. Hailing from Holland, the two met on a Dutch online forum (which you can read about all about in the interview with Kuma HERE) and joined forces around 2005/2006. Mustering inspiration that varies from France Gall, The Weepies, Children of Bodom, to other chiptune musicians and the demoscene itself (which Heerspink has been a member of since 2001), this bitpop duo’s album boasts 16 remarkable tracks using various hardware including the Amiga 500 and Atari 1040 STe. Coupled with album artwork by m7kenji—a Japanese game app developer who designed ‘Bugtronica’ and the Blip Festival Tokyo 2011 mobile schedule—xyce takes their listeners on a journey as they push the boundaries of the intersection between old school cracktro melodies and a bouncy Europop flare.
Receiving wide support from Bryan C (bryface), Mark Knight (TDK), and David Thorn (Dasid) on Bandcamp, as well as a listening party via 8 Bit Power Hour on 8bitx.com, ‘papillons’ opens up with ‘cloture de jardin’, which translates to ‘garden fence’. While it’s interesting to take note that the track titles, including the album name itself, are in French, such decision instills an incrediblely airy and flowy vibe that seems to take flight as the album progresses. ‘cloture de jardin’, a wonderful precursor to the latter tracks of the album, was composed using an Open ModPlug Tracker ran on Windows 7 (20 channel.xm at 148kb.) However, while I’m sure knowing each and every channel specifics mean a great deal to many musicians I know, xyce has put forth that by making music on different machines, their focus is always the same—melody—and melody is always key regardless of the channels used. Logistics aside, ‘cloture de jardin’ is a wonderful spring-like tune (which reminds me a lot of TQ-Jam) that is sure to have your body groovin’ in place and foot tapping within the first 30 seconds.
‘rainbow dash!’, xyce’s first collaboration on the album (the other being the ending title track with malmen), features RADix, Jakob Svanholm’s project that has earned him a respectable reputation through composing Amiga tunes in the 1990’s. With a hypnotizing key pattern, ‘rainbow dash!’ has an incredibly distinctive melody that changes form throughout the song. Most accurately compared to a melodic rollercoaster, ‘rainbow dash!’ throws its listeners into a whirlwind of adrenaline-pumping reactions that’s very reminiscent of accompanying a video game player in a side-scrolling running sequence. Notably, ‘rainbow dash!’ builds in tempo very early, levels off midway, and then spirals down the latter half of the track.
‘subsonique deux’, very appropriately mastered near the conclusion of ‘papillons’, is the longest track of the bunch and happens to be my personal favorite. Oozing at the seams with an unforgettable cyberpunk rhythm on the Amiga 500, ‘subsonique deux’ is a wonderful example of xyce’s ability to create melodies and key patterns that are undoubtedly polar opposites of the spring-like tracks such as ‘cloture de jardin’. Within the first 30 seconds, listeners are forced to strap in as they are catapulted into what feels like a high-speed jet race. The track, which formally translates to ‘subsonic two’ in English, breaks out in a fusion of Breakbeat and Drum and Bass kicks and breakdowns similar to that of artists such as Pendulum and The Prodigy around the 1 minute and 45 second mark.
While I have reviewed only three tracks that depict the eclectic style and tone of the album, keep in mind that there are 13 other wonderful ones! That being said, ‘papillons’ can be purchased through Bandcamp digitally for $5, or the hard copy for $10, which ships out to your door within three days. Either which way, this is an album I definitely recommend buying (if you haven’t already!) as I assure you it’ll make its way to your list of top favorites.
That’s all ChipWiners! Until next time on Chip Treatment—Professor Oakes signing off!
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.