Hey, everybody! Welcome back to Quick Shots: the album review column in which I break down a handful of new EPs, then give a quick and dirty TL;DR to help you determine if a record is worth your time. This time around, I have two unique albums that are miles apart in terms of style and country of origin. While one is the product of several artists uniting to produce something truly bombastic, the other is a culmination of a single person’s ambition to pay homage to the medium he holds so dearly. So let’s not dilly dally any longer. Sit back, relax, and indulge with me as I dissect work by presented by the world renowned Japanese chiptune & breakbeat label OthermanRecords and Canadian newcomer HOFFMAN_IV.
I’m willing to wager that there is no city as equally saturated with chiptune projects as Meriden, Connecticut. This is, of course, all thanks to the massive output of one man – his name is Carl Peczynski, although you might know him as Radlib, or Oxygenstar, or maybe Steady C or sadNES or one of his other aliases. Carl is, to me, the great unsung hero of American chiptunes – I’ve yet to meet someone who is more than casually into chiptunes who doesn’t know at least one of his acts, and although he only does a few shows a year, he’s managed to stay relevant. Is it his many personae that are allowing him to meet the changing demands of the scene, never falling into a the trap of making the same thing over and over? Is it because he specializes in gear that often goes unused by others in the world of chiptune? Is it his love of early 90’s hiphop? Honestly, it doesn’t matter – because regardless of the origin of his powers, Carl’s music slays. I had the pleasure of chatting with Carl not too long ago, and the following are the fruits of that interview.
As I first came to know of Toni through ‘Chiptunes = WIN: Volume 3‘, his first impression was a lasting one. I can count at least on 50 different occasions showing that track specifically to friends (who were really never too keen on electronic music in general) that there’s a lot that can be done in the genre. While most just turn towards popular artists and whatever is blaring on the radio, it’s amazing what you can find with just a little research. Now, being a part of this community, I guess it eases the amount of sifting through unpleasant tracks because, by and large, this place is filled with talented musicians and amazing composers. We come here to hear new tunes but we stay for the wealth of knowledge that gets passed around. Now then, ladies and gentlemen, I present Toni Leys.
With a cover like that, you can tell at least one of two things.
Number #1: This guy knows his Genesis commercials.
Number #2: He likes the YM2612 soundchip (a lot).
Hey ChipWINners! Welcome back to Quick Shots! I hope Thanksgiving treated you well for those of you who got to celebrate, and for those who weren’t able to I hope this belated musical gift more than makes up for your lack of feasting this year. This time around, I’ll be reviewing two EPs that will pull on your heart strings in ways unexpected. These two albums will not only stir the soul and leave you feeling wistful and introspective, but they will also fill you with the determination necessary to close out the year in a way that’s meaningful to you.
So let’s not waste any time! Sit back, plug in those headphones, and lie down on the ground as I make you feel like garbage with two lovely albums from The Flight Away and Sam_Berrow.
Sup everyone! Welcome back to Quick Shots! This time around I’ve got albums up for review that are sure to catch you off guard with their diversity. Not only are these albums stylistically expansive, but they feature the largest array of artists ever covered for Quick Shots! So
grab your butts and hold on tight, because we’re going on a ride through four awesome records that are sure to hold you over nicely til the 2015 winter festival season!
Snooglebum’s “8-Bit Zoo 2”
My first target this time around is 8-bit Zoo 2 by Matthew Wasik aka Snooglebum. Now if you’re wondering why that name sounds familiar, it’s because he’s been featured on two consecutive ChipWIN releases, and for good reason. Snoog’s got a combination of skill, variety and brevity seen in very few composers, and all of that shines through in his latest offering.
A follow up to an EP he released almost a year ago, 8-bit Zoo 2 follows the tradition established in its prequel as he busts out jams that are groovy, twerky, and just all around good fun. Whether its high energy work-out tracks like the opening song–“Epic Cheetah”–or the two stepping urban vibe of the deceptively named “Silent Swan”, Snooglebum is an artist who rarely disappoints. Which is both a shame and a boon because while it speaks volumes about his skill level, it also means that I really don’t have anything bad to say about this album.
Bottom line: if you’ve not heard any of Snooglebum’s music til now, or have only heard the tracks he’s contributed to ChipWIN, I highly recommend starting with 8-bit Zoo 2 and its older counterpart. Both are exemplary of why Matthew’s such a beloved contributor to ChipWIN and the scene as a whole.
Fave song: Reggae Moose
Bang for Buck: 5/5
Replay Value: 4.5/5
Overall Grade: 4.8/5
Half A Person’s “Billy EP”
Up next we have a new chiptuner named Billy Murphy, aka Half A Person. A composer hailing from New York, what’s bodacious about Billy (aside from the fact that he’s yet another up-and-coming New York chiptuner) is that while he is a relatively new artist to the scene, Billy EP is hardly his first album. In fact, it’s his third EP in just as many months. That level of productivity is one to be admired, especially in a new artist, but does Half A Person’s gumption mean he has produced a good album?
This EP certainly isn’t bad, but I can’t help but be reminded of another neophyte I reviewed earlier in the year: Dream*Eater. Billy EP shows that, much like Dream*Eater, Half A Person is an enthusiastic composer who has moments throughout the album that shine and reveal his potential, but often falls short of making something magnificent. Moments such as the opening 15 seconds of “You Can Tell I’m New…” or the breakdown in “Son, Don’t Touch That Record Player” are great examples of this nascent talent.
On the other hand, songs like “Swing Your Hips/Swing Your Fists” and “Is it OK to Overwrite?” feel like they’re lacking something. That missing something is worsened by the fact that those songs aren’t bad, they’re just average. A shame, because average is often forgettable, and as part of the next wave of chiptuners coming into the scene, HAP is not someone I think should be overlooked.
So, Billy Murphy, if you’re reading this, I’m gonna tell you the same thing I told Dream*Eater:
“Keep making music at the consistent clip you do, but when it comes to putting out an album, give your stuff time to simmer so you can really bring out its full flavor.”
This EP wasn’t bad, but you’ve got serious skills, so get back to the studio and make something worthy of those talents! I am definitely looking forward to hearing more from you!
Fave Song: Driving To My Girlfriend’s House At 1 AM To Help Her Kill A Spider
Bang for Buck: 5/5
Replay Value: 3.3/5
Overall Rating: 3.7/5
I Thought You Were A Marxist Records’ “Operation Fuck The Moon”
Our next album up for review is one that really caught me off guard, as I not only had never heard of the record label that put it out, but I haven’t heard of any of the artists that contributed to it, either! Created because he felt the need to have a chiptune album under his label’s belt, Andrew Robbins of I Thought You Were A Marxist Records has put together an unexpected delight of an album with one of the most awesome names I’ve ever heard! If that title alone somehow doesn’t give you a raging fist-pump boner, I can assure you the music featured on this record will!
From the simple joy the opening track by Ozark Soundscape (from which the album takes its name) to the surprisingly groovy, begging-to-be-remixed “Go Radio” by Collection Get!; the creepy, industrial banger that is lain2097‘s “VGGB” to the surprisingly emotional roller coaster that is Taylor Fang‘s “The Burning of the Royal Crops Part I: The Magician”, this album has done two things successfully I’ve seen other labels try to do but fall short of.
First, it lovingly showcases an incredible array of skills in a way that, when played from end to end, does each artist justice. Each song, regardless of style or method, fits nicely against one another when played in track order, as no one artist feels overshadowed by another when played straight through. That in and of itself is amazing, but the second thing it’s done correctly is that it’s made me aware of several people I didn’t know were lurking in the shadows all along.
Admittedly, lurking may not even be the correct term, as Andrew Robbins himself states he recruited these people from /r/chiptunes and cm.o, but even in a community as small as chiptune, people tend to fall into their own circles and tend to communicate primarily in preferred locals. Having been a part of ChipWIN for so long, it seems I’ve almost forgotten there is a world out there beyond the 2800 members of the Faceboook group I’ve come to call home.
So Andrew Robbins, if you or any of the astoundingly accomplished artists featured on this compilation are reading this, thanks for reminding me there are others out there. It’s a wonderful reminder to know there’s always something new to be discovered. Also, feel free to come to ChipWIN to chat, derp around or make yourselves more known. I know I may have to get out of my “house” every now and then to meet you guys, but just know that at ChipWIN, our doors are always open, and you’re more than welcome hang out at ours. Just…don’t do any “Is this chiptune?” posts.
Favorite songs: Go Radio, The Burning of the Royal Crops
Bang for Buck: 5/5
Replay Value: 4.7/5
Overall Grade: 4.8/5
TommyTSW’s “Moments In Time”
Our last album up for review is Moments In Time: a record from an artist I’ve adored since I first reviewed his work in my first Quick Shots article. Hailing from Brisbane, Australia, Tommy Fullerton, aka TommyTSW, has released another prime album full of incredible music that hits the sweet spot every single time. Combining familiar retro sounds with various samples and instruments as he’s done before, Moments In Time (alternatively titled TSW3 due to the cover art) sets itself apart from it’s first predecessor in several ways.
First, Tommy’s increased use of strings. While TSW’s work has always been eclectic and atmospheric, this album goes one step beyond as TSW has clearly taken the time to really study and practice his use of orchestral samples, allowing for a lush, vivid experience that ties directly into the second improvement Tommy has made, which is establishing mood.
While I’ve always lauded Tommy’s ability to create stirring aria, being able to make songs that move the soul and being able to make an album that does that are two different things. While Tommy’s album TSW certainly did move me, it moved me less as a whole and more as a sum of it’s parts. Having seemingly learned from that experience, Tommy has made an album that flows through seamlessly and also breathes, which is important as that’s another aspect he’s grown in.
TSW was an album that, for all intents and purposes, played like a musical portfolio to showcase Mr. Fullerton’s skills. While those skills were formidable, the result was music that wasn’t allowed to be fully explored and didn’t offer chances for either Tommy or the listener to really take in everything he crafted. The exact opposite is true with Moments in Time, as not only has the average song length gone up from roughly 95 seconds to three and a half minutes, but each one stands out on its own, allowing them to be individual experiences unto themselves.
The culmination of all these attributes result what is Tommy’s greatest achievement date. Tommy has finally made an album that feels like an album and not like display case for his talents. That alone deserves praise.
In fact, Tommy’s garnered so much praise from me on this effort that I only have one complaint about this album. While certainly not expensive by any means, it’s strange to note that compared to TSW, which was $2 when I first reviewed it and is now pay-what-you-will, Moments in Time/TSW3 is $4 for an EP that has exactly a third of the amount of tracks as it’s predecessor. A strange decision, to be sure, but despite that choice, Moments in Time is undoubtedly a treasure worth adding to your collection. If you do have the money to shell out for it, I strongly recommend doing so, as it’s not only a great listen, but it’s proof that Tommy is bound to achieve his dream of becoming a highly sought after game composer.
Favorite Song: Have Faith
Price: $4 (Austrailian)
Bang for Buck: 4/5
Replay Value: 5/5
Overall Grade: 4.8/5
Well, that’s it for this round of Quick Shots! If you liked any of the artists you’ve heard, don’t forget to follow them on social media to keep up with their latest shenanigans. Also, don’t forget to check the ChipWIN blog regularly for other articles such as album reviews, artist interviews, recipes, and all sorts of hype we got going on here! Last but not least, if you’re an artist who’s struggling to get noticed in the scene, don’t be discouraged, cause you never know when I might take a shot at ya! Keep doing what you do, and remember: Kuma loves you! Peace!
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