I know we here at ChipWIN generally tend to stay away from Buzzfeed-y listicle-type articles, but with all the different music coming out these days it can be super hard to actually keep up with everything. If you don’t know where to look, you’ll miss something great – and if you DO know where to look, all your friends will love you for giving them dank music recommendations!* (*Note: ChipWIN does not guarantee love of any kind regardless of the circumstance.)
While this is by no means an exhaustive list, here’s some of my favorite places to find chiptune and chiptune-adjacent music.
The last month has been pretty insane for me. I just moved from Boston to the glorious concrete jungle of NYC for work, and part of my plan is to be closer to the scene here, and other great music scenes I love. New York City is a breeding ground for inspiration if you look in the right places. There’s always something to do, someone playing a gig, someplace hidden that’s DIY filled with passion projects. There are young people and people who’ve become worldly throughout the decades, taking what they know and using it to hopefully inspire others. This brings me to this month’s article: I wanted to cast some light onto some of the people in these converted warehouses and buildings to showcase the positive difference they’re making with art, visuals, music, sound, and booking.
Last month, I had a really cool opportunity to play at a Kick.Snare event, held in Bushwick. The event is hosted and run by Kris Keyser (also known as ‘Onism’) and Christophe Richard (also known as ‘Note!’). I’ve also had the opportunity to attend my first PULSEWAVE show, which was the second time I was at Babycastles. This article is about the last month and the kind people I’ve come across at a few NYC events.
If we’re really honest with ourselves, there are certain kinds of chiptune that are more visible than others. If I walked up to a random Joe at MAGFest and asked who their favorite chiptune musician was, I’ll bet dollars to donuts that they’d bring up an artist known for either Game Boy or NES music, or if they’re over the age of 30 they might mention some demoscene artists and their love of the Commodore 64. But unless you really go looking for it, it seems like it’s hard to find anyone making music on the venerable Sega Genesis, or at the very least made with the YM2612 soundchip. It seems that way – but nothing could be farther from the truth. I’d like to take a few minutes and bring to light some real gems out there of an under appreciated console and, if you’re inspired by the end of it, give you the tools you’ll need to make your own original content to take to the club.
[3/18/16 Edit: Thank you to the community for reaching out to help with a few missing points/bad links in the article – these have been amended/added.]
Happy Friday, cats. It’s funny – here I am, right on the cusp of my 24th birthday, and I was thinking to myself that I wasn’t going to get anything nice. Turns out the universe proved me wrong once again, because Monomer just dropped his new album ‘Labyrinth,’ and boy howdy, this album is, as the kids say, “most ill.” Let’s dive right in, shall we?
I distinctly recall back in April last year during the ‘Quite Operational’ launch party on Arecibo Radio that I said that listening to Monomer was like “rolling around in a vat of distilled 80’s.” As it turns out, that continues to be true. While still sounding recognizably like himself, Gavin has gone out of his way to make this album stand apart – which, given his mission statement over on the Bandcamp page, that makes sense. He says: “My main goal after ‘Quite Operational’ was to create an album where each song had a unique character, not only in the composition but also in the arrangement, production and mixing. This led to a lot of new territory for me, which was both exciting and terrifying, but I’m extremely happy with the end result and can’t wait to share it.”
I feel a track-by-track analysis would diminish the overall experience of this album, so I’m gonna let you absorb it on your own instead.What I will say, though, is that the new auditory maneuvers Monomer pulls in ‘Labyrinth’ are something to be feared and respected. While still maintaining the signature “splashy drums, punchy bass and heavy synth” sound which is so evocative of the 80’s, this album features all sorts of new additions, like the use of vocal samples and some pretty stellar drops leading to something evocative of a slower, funkier hardstyle. Like his last album, Monomer seamlessly blends in the chippy sounds you might expect with more traditional synth and drum sounds, as well as the occasional guitar riff snuck in the background– a sound palate which is at once familiar and unique.
As far as what track shines above the rest, I really can’t say. Eponymous tracks are usually the best on any album, and ‘Labyrinth’ does not fail to impress.However,every song evokes something different – some go for the aforementioned hardstyle feel, some feel like they could have been ripped right out of Tron Legacy’s soundtrack (y’know, that one by Daft Punk – so yes, I am unashamedly putting Monomer on the same level as Daft Punk in terms of quality). Still others feel like the 80’s power ballads of the same type that The Protomen went to emulate in ‘Act II: The Father of Death.’ All in all, I’d say Monomer definitely accomplished the goals he set out with for this album and then some. If you love Monomer, you’re going to love this album. If you don’t love Monomer, you might still love this album, but if not… that’s just, like, your opinion, man. I can abide your poorly chosen opinion, dude.
Pick up the album on Bandcamp from Monomer’s page, on the Ubiktune page, and if you want a physical copy of the album, grab it from Telefuture.