Sup ChipWINners? Welcome back to Quick Shots, the album review column where I take a gander at new releases and throw my fifty cents in on their overall quality. This time around, instead of reviewing albums from a few underdogs in the scene, I’ve taken the time to look over releases from three artists thatI first became familiar with because of Chiptunes = WIN! Each of these artists were all featured in ChipWIN Vol. 1 and not only have I loved them all since then, but I’ve seen them continue to grow and change in ways that have made me look at music differently. So without further ado, I’d like for you guys to join me as I take a gander at new music from Lukhash, Whitely, and +Let’s Disinfect!+!
Your pulse quickens… your eyes begin to dilate. Your breath becomes labored…faster and faster. Your palms sweat—knees weak, arms are heavy (MOM’S SPAGHETTI). What could it be?! Anaphylactic shock? Nope. Someone slipped you something? Nah. Steam sales? Praise Gaben, but it’s not that either. With that said, that can one mean one thing:
Saran wrap those loins (wait, what?), hold on to your butts (don’t let go), and bring a plate for all that spaghetti you’re going to be spilling all over yourself…. oh, and don’t forget the parmesan cheese. MAGFEST 12 IS COMETH.
With all this excitement spewing from the tips of my fingers, you’d think I’ve been rockin’ the Gaylord since MAGFest 10? Think again. MAGN00b here! However, this professor right here has her Pokédex on hand to catalog all the nerds, her personal trading cards to share, and Nurse Joy on speed dial should she catch the MAGPlague. While it’s been an eight month process—the first three spent deciding whether or not MAGFest is worth the trek from Los Angeles—it all became a reality when I booked my first solo flight back in November and I haven’t looked back since. Preparing for MAGFest, on the other hand, is totally out of the question. With my only solidified plans being my transportation to and from the event, a floor to sleep on, friends to FINALLY meet, and cash to spend, I’m letting the MAGFestivities take me on my own journey.
Not going to lie, writing this article has me feeling a little jittery, as I’ve caught myself daydreaming about the adventure that awaits: dancing the night away at MAGProm to The OneUps and Love Canon, playing a mad game of Cards Against Humanity in my hotel suite, playing some free vintage arcade games, and cuddling in the middle of the Chipspace floor. However, my excitement for the amount of quality chip acts performing at this year’s MAGFest can never be expressed through words on a screen—such quality, such chip, such A+++, wow.
On top of all that, there’s also PLENTY of weekend chip performances that I KNOW will blow your socks off. My top four do not miss picks (among so many excellent chipartists!) are as follows:
A_Rival: Performing January 3rd at 1:30 p.m.
Bay Area based chip hop producer Luke Esquivel, also known as A_Rival, launched his newest release ’Truthcannon’ on May 21, 2013. With cameos made by bLiNd, Abducted By Sharks, and TRASH80 on the latter half of the album, ’Truthcannon’ is a fantastic, fist-pumping album infused with dubstep drops, dreamy chip melodies and lovely Trance-like vocals to transcend its listeners on a ride through a 16-bit space shooter game.
Auxcide: Performing January 3rd at 12:00 p.m.
Having just dropped two consecutive 8static net label releases on December 18, 2013, Bryan Dobbins, also known as Auxcide, has captured my heart (Morgan and Kilpatrick’s as well) with ‘Speck’ and ‘Pixel’. Auxcide’s ability to produce not one but TWO danceable albums reigns from his precise electronic underscoring accompanied by the harsh soundchips of his Gameboy AGS and DMG running LSDJ. Created using a plethora of hardware including Roland Gaia, Yamaha PSR-500, and Arturia MiniBrute, ‘Pixel’ is the calm predecessor I imagine to soundtrack the victory of war, where ‘Speck’ is an explosion of energy that can’t help but grab your attention. The cool thing about these albums? Auxcide covers ‘The Moon’ from Ducktales Remastered (released by WayForward with music composed by Jake ‘virt’ Kaufman) and ‘Fire and Ice’, the Game of Thrones title sequence track.
Danimal Cannon: Performing January 3rd at 2:00 p.m.
Zef: Performing January 5th at 4:05 a.m.
With a recent TEDxBuffalo appearance about chipmusic, Dan ‘Danimal Cannon’ Behrens is making his way to MAGFest 12 to rock your faces not once but TWICE. Performing under both Danimal Cannon and ARMCANNON this year, Behrens released ‘Parallel Processing’ alongside Zef on January 15, 2013 under the prior. (NOTE: One of the two artists will be releasing a new track on the upcoming MAG=WIN comp! Listen to the teaser HERE to guess who!) With that notable progchip sound, ‘Parallel Processing’ is another stellar Ubiktune release, and is an album quite like none other. The two technically skilled artists combined forces, smashed their noggins together, and went to town to create an album whose INSANE level of musical engineering is accompanied by their love for Gameboy processors.
That’s all for this month’s Chip Treatment! I’ll be seeing all you Carbon based lifeforms at MAG! If for whatever reason you can’t make it, be sure to tune in to clip-stream.net as my awesome friends Casshern and Glenntai are manning the livestreams so you don’t miss out!
[Turtle Princess] Hey guuuuuuurl. [/Turtle Princess] I know you guys are itching to get through more of these dope chiptunes, so let’s not stall any longer, hmm?
Track #17: SUPER MANLY BROS. X by Phonetic Hero
First up we’ve got Super Manly Bros X by Phonetic Hero, AKA Pete Lepley! You may remember his previous work with us, or perhaps his jamming along with other ChipWIN contributor Theory of N, but if not, you should definitely get out there and check his work on Bandcamp (handy links provided for you at the end of the article!).This track is reminiscent of the first Mega Man X title – which is good because Mega Man X is amazing and had a soundtrack that everyone wishes was the soundtrack to their own life.* I could honestly imagine this being Idris Elba’s theme, were this for the soundtrack of a Pacific Rim SNES game – it’s badass-flavored, with a lot of drive pushing it forward.
Track #18: Oynx by Zef
Oh man Zef! You know, Zef AKA Chris Penner! Another return ChipWINner Zef continues to bring the pain. And by pain, of course, what I mean is sick beats. Zef is known for good dance music, and good dance music is what you get with Onyx. He eases you in, gets you headbobbing, and then suddenly you’re po-going and you have no idea why but you’re sure as hell not going to stop. It’s a nice mix of low and high energy music all in one track. It’s a song that conveys motion: while some songs are just kind of there, as an ambient cloud, Onyx makes the listener feel like they’re traveling – like they’re moving along towards the end of the song, instead of just waiting for it. And at four minutes, the track is long enough to suck you in and make you a part of it without feeling like you’re left unfulfilled and wanting.
Track #19: Face Nation: A Nation of Faces by S.P.R.Y.
S.P.R.Y. (AKA Narayan Choudury) is a newcomer to our compilations – but he’s already become part of the family, having been responsible for mastering the Pxl-Win album. Back to the track, though,the percussion usage here is really fun – S.P.R.Y. makes heavy use of what I like to call “maniac drums,” by which I mean the kind of drums that if you were watching a live person do it, you’d think they were a maniac because their hands would be flying all over the place. This is a perfect example of one of those songs that has both fast parts and slow parts functioning at the same time which makes the song almost seem like clockwork, with each speed functioning as a gear to move the others. You’ve also got a repeated loop as the head, but it ends up changing voicing every few repeats, so the song actually ends up having a lot more depth to it. It’s fried gold, it is.
Track #20: Silverfish Riot by Snooglebum
The mysterious entity known as Snooglebum may be a newcomer to ChipWIN but he’s been quite busy when it comes to making chiptunes – his Bandcamp boasts quite a few albums, which you should go apply to your eardrums. Silverfish Riot is super fun – it’s simultaneously slow, but high energy. I’m not really sure how that works, but it’s quite good. Strong, punchy bass drums always make a song feel tough, and while the melody is a mid-length loop, it ends up being punctuated with a few variations. The song exudes the purest extract of danceyness – while some songs are labeled “dance music,” it takes a lot for a song to actually move someone to move themselves along to the beat more than just tapping their feet, and this song’s got it.
Track #21: Miami Lights by Masikus
The final track here, Miami Lights by Masikus (AKA Angel Hernandez), is nice and trip-hoppy. I love trip-hop. I love chiptunes. So getting them both in one go is pretty fantastic, in my opinion. It’s great chillmode music, and serves as a nice counterpoint to the past several more high-energy tracks. With much slower beats, it’s got this soothing groove going on, and with the nice airy section starting ~1:10, it’s got this nice, wide-open and relaxed feeling to it. It’s just…soothing. Soothing is not normally a quality I ascribe to chiptunes, but this track is just that.
That’s all for this time! Tune in next time, where we will all be covering this album on Brandon’s assorted collection of jaw-harps.** And keep an eye here on the blog, because big things are coming! I know that sounds like the normal blog rhetoric, but I actuallymean that!
*Don’t sass me, boy, you know it’s true.
**I’m joking, we’re not going to do such a horrible thing to you!
And now for the first write-up from the man with many, many hats, Andrew Kilpatrick, who’ll be adding “ChipWIN Blog writer” to his already long list of pursuits (I dunno HOW he finds time, but I ain’t gonna question it!! ;D ). His first post is all about the artist behind track #10 from ChipWIN Volume 1:
Zef, or Chris Penner, delivers to the compilation a track from his most recently released progressive electronic opus ‘Blackout’, the astonishing ‘Pure Voltage’. Zef staples dub influences into the flesh of dance music, whilst heaping on atmosphere until all contenders to his dirty throne choke. Drum n Bass kicks flow over the track like a tightly woven blanket of fist-pumping decadence, backed by a series of un-restrained glitch flickers that flirt with outright dissonance and melodies that hook themselves firmly in place and subtly build structure around a seemingly, at first glance anyway, free-form song flow. His style is reminiscent of the style fast becoming the new definition of what the standardised ‘chiptune’ is (a definition that changes as rapidly as artists join and leave the scene), and Zef is certainly a definer of this newly emerging amalgamation of certain popular electronic styles and chiptune instrumentation.
Being the first artist to have a solo release on the now thriving Noisechannel.org label, Zef backed up his debut stunner with the glorious and previously mentioned ‘Blackout’, wherein he improved and perfected his developing sounds and styles to great effect. Now, with rumblings of a release with Danimal Cannon in the works, Zef seems poised to place himself firmly in the chiptune lime light whilst he is organically becoming a respected figure in Chipland.
For more Zef check out his Bandcamp and download/spread/ streamwhilstcoatingyourselfinoil his tunes. It’s definitely worth the venture.
Sup y’all? =) Hoodie here. Got something a bit different for you this time. My last videogamedj.com Friday Freakout (11/16) was a write-up on The Bitman & his latest chipalbum “Epic Elevator Music“. During the course of writing it, I asked him for a few thoughts, comments on the album, etc. to include in the article to give it a little extra color. Instead THIS is what I got: an hour’s worth of quality chat & awesome stories. Too much to use in the FF write-up, but way too damn cool to keep to myself. Enjoy~ \m|♥|m/
Brandon Hood aka Hoodie: Mostly, just give me some thoughts on this album in general. How you feel about it as a whole, the tracks, what inspired it, etc. Talk about it a bit. I’ll grab a few of those thoughts and stick ’em in there as they work. =D
Max Dolensky aka The Bitman: Alright.
Hoodie: More or less, talk about your music a bit. More informal than an interview. Just whatever you think/feel. =D
Bitman: The first tracks for the album started in late March. I had just banged out a decent EP for Noisechannel after “owning up to my stupid newb claim” that i could write 10 good minutes of music in 10 days. I took a three week hiatus from writing, and reflected on that EP. I was disgusted by it for a while. I said to myself “it’s not melodic enough, the chord progressions are boring, it’s too… plain…”
So I started the song that became “Southern Shuffle Scuffle,” mostly just nailing down the atmosphere with the string-bass style WAV and noise channel being a detuned pitch for musical effect.
Next up was “Blue Beat,” seeing as the last song I had produced with a Latin feel “Let It Slide, Humbug” from my Nimbus album was a bit of a failure though it showed so much potential. It, like the other songs, wasn’t strong or had a catchy hook but not much else.
So I strode to make a funky bassline, and then slap a cool syncopated Latin line on top of it. I’d say it is almost as simple as my earlier works, but overall the atmosphere and sound design lend themselves well to the simplicity.
At this point in like late April, the noisechannel crew was throwing some sort of streaming/show your WIP’s party. I played these two songs, in chunks, and was greeted with praise from the likes of Mikee and Freque, as well as Awesome Force and Nic (later to be known as Protoflight). That was the first bit of the catalyst.
Then, for a brief 3 month period, I bothered to freshen up my skills in Ableton Live, and continue producing tracks in LSDJ. In Ableton I played with lots of rock and dubstep sort of things, as well as hip hop and jazz. I wound up making a conceptual track “Mourning Glory” that was very doom-esque in atmosphere, featuring instrumentation by myself on euphonium and trombone in addition to my chip roots.
During this time, I was home from college for the summer working at a children’s summer camp by day, and DJ’ing by night. Occasionally I would visit the only open mic open to under-21’s in my part of Alabama – a bluegrass open mic. This open mic inspired me to write a sort of blue-grassy track called “Boom Shakalaka,” drawing upon my Southern upbringing. I remember going onstage and playing the track for the 25 or so people, and getting a few jaws to drop. It’s hard competing against greybeards who have been playing fiddle, guitar, and mandolin for longer than you’ve been alive, but I feel like I held my ground okay.
Hoodie: hahaha That’s awesome!! Sorry, man. Just the thought of that. HEROIC STATUS.
Bitman: I was very moved by the lovely scenery here in Alabama, the mountains and forests, etc. This song started the small trilogy within the album.
Then, I worked on a few other tracks, most of which I have backed up and left to rot on my hard drive for now. I was hoping to pump out some fresh tunes for BRKfest.
BRKfest was a curious thing – I basically had to plead for shanebro to come so I could bum a ride off of him. I had contacted Solarbear countless weeks before I even dropped 10 Day EP, promising I’d have better music, and he put me in on the roster. My parents were not thrilled. haha Unfortunately, we both had overprotective mothers, who were concerned that we would go partying/getting drunk/have public sex/smoke pot/never come home, or whatever. So Shane’s mom and grandfather went with us to Lexington, Shane’s family leaving from New Orleans and picking me up in Birmingham.
We went to BRKfest, and apparently this is where I made a name for myself. In these two days I grew up more as a person and musician than I had in my whole life.
Shane and I talked a bit about LSDJ, Gameboys, and music theory (something Shane still isn’t strong in formally, but he has amazing ears, I dare say better than mine) for the long 8 or so hour drive. Shane was one of the first people to comment on my tracks back when I first started chiptune. There’s nothing better than feeling like your travel companion is like your biggest fan. He and his family were kind and made the trip extremely nice. :)
We got to Lexington, and I stand alongside the likes of SMILETRON, Nestrogen, and Kitsch at his table outside Al’s Bar, the venue for the first night. It’s like getting to be backstage at a rock concert, to a degree.
I went to Kitsch’s table, and bought a bunch of gear (including the first clear cases to be formally sold, he signed my battery cover :3) We discussed the quint, Gameboy programming, and even his upcoming projects. He was floored by what I knew (apparently), and we made sure to talk a lot. We still message and email a few times per month.
The first night I did not play, but instead I was blown away by artist after artist. The next night, I had to follow Saskrotch. Of all artists, one of the thrashiest dudes ever. I was all like “Oh crap, what do I do? I know, Saskrotch is such a troll on chipmusic.org. I will write a parody of Eye of the Tiger, and totally diss chipmusic.org since I don’t like the site.”
This is where I finally grew up.
I didn’t know all the words to my parody by heart, so I grabbed my trombone and played along after failing through the first verse verbally. So I just kind of opened with Eye of the Tiger Possibly the funniest thing to do after following a massive artist.
Hoodie: hahhahhahha You ARE my hero for that!!
Bitman: From there I played some songs, and my stage fright was getting the best of me. I was playing songs I wasn’t too fond of, from my older releases. Then, my soul sister PANDAstar got onstage. She and I danced, and got the crowd moving. I finally believed in my music a bit because someone else really did.
Hoodie: -grins and listens-
Bitman: It was then I said “Screw it. I’m playing you guys some new material. It will blow you away.” And this is where, according to Kitsch, I made chip history:
I played “Mourning Glory” live.
Hoodie: Oh shi-
Bitman: Mic’d trombone, everything. And no one saw it coming. A flat 109 beats per minute doom-jazz-ballad. Booming out of the ridiculous rented speakers.
Bitman: People were confused at first.
And then, they began to sway.
Then, the drunk couples made out.
Then, so did the sober ones.
Bitman: And there I was, serenading them with my greasy trombone tone (I am more of a New-Orleans swing guy than I am bebop or classical, in terms of sound and style). It was then I had balls, and they were eating out of my hand.
Hoodie: I can tell! I *LOVE* that style of jazz. Christian Scott = my favorite jazz artist. A trumpet player, but still, similar brass style
Bitman: So, it only made sense. I was in Kentucky. The blue grass state.
Hoodie: Uh huh.
Bitman: So I booted up Boom Shakalaka, the song I had played at the open mic earlier.
Bitman: And I said to the crowd that this was a bluegrass-dub tune. And I left the thing in song mode, having fun, and stealing every glance at the dumbstruck smile on Roboctopus’s face. I regret nothing. Seeing the approval of one of my 3 idols (the other two being Danimal Cannon and Zef) gave me immediate gratification.
And then something else happened. Everyone started getting on stage. Like, Hunterquinn, andarugo, a very drunk datacats, and Mikee. And Curtis told me I had one song left.
So I played my one “banger” Joel the Cube master, a slow-thrash at 160 BPM, taking the audience through power rips and rumbling wubs. At that point, shirts were off, and even Curtis was a bit speechless.
Bitman: Literally, Pandastar, Curtis and I were the basically only people onstage with shirts.
Bitman: And I asked Curtis if I could close with a 1 minute singalong. So, I booted up my cover of Party Rock Anthem.We had fun singing through the first segment of the song, and I cut to my super-secret dubstep drop. Then all the shirts should have been off (Curtis and Pandastar remained modest) and hunterquinn threw his, and it got caught in the rafters of the bar.
Bitman: Mikee got my trombone and used it to fish the shirt down (I had to pick him up, poor dude is super short). Video evidence of hunter’s shirt being in the rafters is on Youtube here. After that, it occurred to me that these people really cared about my music, theirs, and really everyone.
Later that night, around 3AM, BRkfest’s sound guy had an afterparty at his basement. So Shane and I went. We were due to leave at 5 AM to head home. So, KKrusty played this epic cover of “The Final Countdown,” and I was there with my DMG and my trombone. We made eye contact. He nodded at me, I put the horn up, and took a solo in C blues, matching the song’s key of C minor. Apparently it was really good. I don’t remember much of it. xD People went ape for it, I was barely lucid, sleep wasn’t something they had a lot of at BRKfest.
Then it was my turn to play. So, I booted up my last unplayed song of the whole festival, my thrash cover of “The Pretender” by the Foo Fighters. I played along on trombone, soloed, hit the high notes. I had time to shake hands, pack my horn up, and hoof it to Curtis’s in time for Shane’s mom to pick us up. I fell asleep before we left Lexington, and I woke up 15 minutes away from home in Birmingham. After that, I took a songwriting break until I moved in to college.
Within a month I had laid foundation for all my other songs, and I was contemplating releasing an EP with horns. What ended up happening was me getting involved in two pep bands, the marching band, a jazz group, all while balancing basically 18 hours of classes and a girlfriend. So I decided to milk a single LSDJ release for all I could, since one Gameboy was all I could carry with me around campus and use at any time. I was listening to tons of Danimal Cannon’s “Roots” and Roboctopus’s “Victory Lapse” at this time.
Hoodie: Excellent releases! A couple of my favorites, no doubt.
Bitman: By late September, I had finished all the songs except for Roboctocephalopod and Appalachian Wanderer. Those two were special. I originally wrote Robo’s song as an attempt to emulate Robox’s style. Instead I made a similarly atmospheric piece to his tracks with a rich bass solo and simple Pulse channel accents and melodies. It reeked of his influence, so it was named after him.
Hoodie: Yeah, I can totally hear the nod to Michael, but you still made it yours just the same.
Bitman: The other song, Appalachian Wanderer, was my attempt at envisioning Robox making dubstep.
Bitman: I wrote it in about 4 hours on a bus while I was in Tennessee with the marching band, and I again got to see the Appalachian mountains and all the lovely Fall leaves that I had seen in July on my way to Lexington for BRKfest.
Hoodie: Absolutely beautiful part of the country, especially in the fall. Very striking, inspirational scenery, no doubt about it.
Bitman: The hardest thing about the album though – was labeling it with a name and a genre. Or genres.
Hoodie: It isn’t one! haha Wildly varying styles! Part of what makes it great.
Bitman: I settled on “Epic Elevator Music” because it plays off of “common” elevator music stereotypes – easy listening latin, bluegrass, jazz, and electronic ambience. From there, it was a matter of dealing with the fact that all of my releases sound wildly different. Nimbus was very “my-first-album-09-glory-days-like” for chiptune, while Ten Day EP was grungy WAV-tastic stuff like what was “cool” in the chipstep-sort of area, but lacking in melodic movement for the most part.This release, I feel is a bit ahead of itself. It all fits in terms of general sound design, attention to detail, and duration.
The one song I left out – Solemn – is very special & is included on the album almost by accident. Shanebro and I have been working on a collaborative 1xLSDJ project called “Ikalyde”. Much like how Frostbyte and Kedromelon joined forces to make iamclouD, we are literally building upon each other’s works to make a tag-team album.
Hoodie: Love shanebro. Definitely approve of this pairing
Bitman: We had talked about this long before “The Sky Is Ours” saw release, probably a whole 7 weeks or so (which is actually a pretty long time in our work). We basically worked on two songs in quick succession, trying to produce a theatrical chip album telling the story of two aliens coming to earth in the early 1910’s.The styles starts out aggressive and synthy, but when their space ship is knocked off course by something unknown, they hurtle through the universe towards earth where they are greeted by organic things represented as acoustic instruments, and swing, which will be featured in the EP. The aliens then change mankind’s perception of music with a jamming radio broadcast, exposing man to electronic unce. From there, we track the progression of rock and roll, blues, bebop, metal and trance in man’s attempt to replicate the music of the aliens. Eventually, the aliens leave, and man almost forgets about the music, until one day earth’s electronics receive interference, and receive the music once more. Given the technology we have today, the humans literally are called and respond with their simple electronic music (chiptunes). Our dream is to eventually have it animated as a 18 minutes short or something.
Shanebro included “Shut Up and Fight” on his EP, so I decided to include “Solemn” on my release to complement it. From there, we have no more finished songs, but it is up and coming.
Here’s what you can look forward to from me in the future – an almost-exclusively Ableton EP with doom jazz and chip, a collab on a chipstep tune with Ballooonbear, and Ikalyde will come back strong this spring and possibly appear as a joint act at BRKfest. I also have a Christmas song in the works. I’m a busy guy. haha Sorry if I typed way too much. xD
Hoodie: NO. Apology not accepted. haha
To be honest, we need a full BRKfest writeup. So much epic.
Hoodie: I would give you a fucking bear hug right about now if I could. hahahah Good stuff man! My adventures & experiences within both the VGM and chipscenes the past few years are filled with similar goodness. I won’t even get started on that because then we’ll be here all night and I’ve gotta finish these writeups. hahaha
Bitman: I’m a bit frustrated with myself for being in this scene for a year and a half, and just now starting to get some real traction, but it’s good to see I’m moving into the scene a bit more. Currently I am getting ready to take a song writing break for a few months after I am done with this stuff.
Hoodie: I’d say you’ve figured out a really good pace for that. Should work out just fine.
And that sums it up! Hope you enjoyed the read as much as I did! I have a feeling it won’t be the last of them in this style. ;)
Also, if you’ve yet to check out The Bitman’s chipjams, here’s a solid bevy of links to help you fix that pronto: