Good afternoon Chiprealm, this is Viridian Forge, coming to you live from Internets with our continuing coverage of the Chiptunes = WIN: Volume 3 epic release of epicness. Today we’re delving into tracks 12 through 16 of the compilation, continuing with a numerical order that has no organizational value whatsoever. Know going in that each of these tracks is amazing in its own way, and each is worth your ear’s attention.
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!
It’s time to get classy tonight on The ChipWIN Blog! And by that I mean, of course, I’m going to do my first “manifesto” with a focus on booze & chip from Great Britain. Aren’t you thankful you can’t hear the extraordinarily terrible British accent that I’m absolutely affecting on this entire article as I write it? Because I totally am. In my head. Jolly good show & all that rot. Sounds just like the beer fox actually (don’t worry; you’ll meet him soon).
At any rate, Beer & Chip Vol.6 is going to be all about…
Morland “Old Speckled Hen” Ale & Mark ‘TDK’ Knight
I initially picked up a sixer of Old Speckled Hen on my brother’s suggestion. While we don’t always see eye to eye on beer choices, this one was a pretty good call!
Old Speckled Hen is a smooth, easy drinking, refreshing ale with some tasty malty flavors. Just the slightest bit of sweetness, but not enough to “ruin” it in my mind. With that rich amber color, it’s a beautiful looking beer as well, especially poured into a tall pint glass and left sitting in the window for the sun to shine through (which is a terrible damn idea; your beer will get warm way too gorram fast!).
Classy, classy Hoodie.
This could easily become a go-to beer for me, particularly in the warmer months; except as an import it’s a bit too pricey to be a regular grab (around $12 for a sixer in my neck of the woods). I expect I’ll still buy it on occasion, and would definitely be willing to try its counterparts (“Old Golden Hen” & “Old Crafty Hen“) were I to run across them.
But nevermind what I think about this tasty ale! Why should I waste words talking about it when you can listen to a fox puppet tell you all about it?? (brilliant advertising campaign).
Truth be told, while I like this English beer pretty well I mostly purchased it to assist in making a smooth segue to my UK chipartist, the demoscene legend Mark ‘TDK’ Knight (nevermind the fact that his chosen alcoholic beverage isn’t beer of any kind…).
If you’re unfamiliar with that name (or have only seen it popping up around the intertoobs within the last year-ish), don’t feel bad. TDK has only recently returned (2012) to making chipmusic after a considerably lengthy hiatus (approximately 19 years!!!). And while I could delve into his considerable back story of early chipmusic creation (he began in 1984), in depth demoscene involvement (google Anthrox and Melon Dezign) & subsequent video game music composition (skim his Bandcamp bio for that impressive list), I’d rather focus on his current efforts! In particular, his aptly titled full length album ‘Reawakening’.
This excellent 11 track chip album is a combination of brand new jams & revisited tracks from his past, all created using a mix of his well established Commodore chip savvy and modern music production skills appropriated in more recent years. As a whole ‘Reawakening’ screams of compositional experience and refined talent; covering a gamut of musical styles, every single track is an engaging and addictive listen. Were I forced to choose a favorite from the release, I’d likely go with ‘Erethism’; there’s something about the crazy, happy energy of that jam that gets me grinning like an idiot every time!
In addition to this powerful comeback album, TDK also managed to lock-in Henry Homesweet to do a killer remix of his track ‘Nicotine Pang’, which is released separately via Bleepstreet Records here:
To complement his return to chipmusic, TDK has begun performing it live as well, incorporating his talented & frenetic fiddle playing. This unique addition enhances what is already a quality live set. In a short time, TDK has performed at a solid handful of European events over the past year, up to and including SuperByte 2013, with a spot at NINTENDOOM 3.0 coming up the last weekend of February.
TDK chip-fiddling up a storm at SuperByte 2013.
To top it off, Mark’s a genuinely delightful character (sorry to out you, bro! <3 ). The 8 Bit Power Hour release party we held for ‘Reawakening’ is still one of the most enjoyable shows we’ve had to date (as well as one of the snarkiest; damn Brits!! ;). And working with him on both ‘chipWINter’ & ‘Volume 2‘ was an absolute honor & a joy. Check out the most excellent end result of both of those contributions below:
I say, I suppose that wraps up this unusually British edition of my beer & chip review! Here’s hoping you get a chance to sample the tasty brew, preferably while listening to TDK’s excellent jams. If you need more British-ness for the night, just go watch a Doctor Who marathon or something, I dunno. Cheers!!
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!