Chapter Three: The Unicorn Princess
She is new to me, but not new to music. A graduate of the Berklee College of Music and an indie game sound designer, this talented young lady began her musical journey with a “mix of cassettes by The Beatles I’d listen to in my parents’ old minivan; they’d take me and my five siblings out every Sunday and we’d just drive around listening to The White Album, Abbey Road, and more”. Beyond The Beatles, games like the Legend of Zelda, A Link to the Past, and Sonic showed her the possibilities of 16bits, and the immursive power of the orchestra and electronic music. Her initial album offering, ‘Bitcrushed Memories‘, came across my feed via the incredibly talented James Landino and I’m so glad it did.
Some folks in my boat (read as “newbs to chiptune”) might assume that all Chip has to offer is hyper, upbeat, Mario-at-a-rave, frenetic sound-scapes. Well, my dear readers, variety is out there, and Miss Jamie Billings, the heart and mind behind The Unicorn Princess, is proof of that. With an intensely personal vibe, the music on ‘Bitcrushed Memories’ is an ambient journey that evokes emotional memories. For The Unicorn Princess, this was her main inspiration:
“The album is essentially a heartbreak album in the form of a diary. It was my way of processing what I was going through. I’d say it was cathartic, but because I also worked with mixing and producing the album myself, it wasn’t exactly healing to re-listen to those tracks over and over again. I tried putting as much of my soul into the tracks as I could, and hearing the tracks now still brings me back to certain memories and I feel like how I was then, so I try not to listen to it too much myself, unless it’s to showcase something I did with the production.”
Driven by an impressive, self-reliant work ethic, Unicorn Princess recorded and produced ‘Bitcrushed Memories’ in just over six months at the end of 2013. The album is a mix of gameboy and musical instruments that were “recorded and DSPed the crap out of like wind chimes, bells, guitar, voice samples of mine”, a combination the artist calls ‘Folktronica’. The variety of sounds adds to the emotional power of the album, with each song being given texturing and mood beyond the simplicity of the individual samples. For instance, in the opening track ‘I Went to England‘, the use of church bells and wood-block textures helps to evoke not just the image of modern England, but also the rattling carts, town criers, and long trips at sea that are indicative of the country’s long history.
Each track helps push the story of the album further with its distinct feel. ‘Liar‘ follows ‘England’ and gives chip sounds the center stage which the artist uses to create a more driving edge. ‘Hanging On‘ trends more toward a floating ambiance. ‘Give in to Me‘ is sexy at first, but ends with certain air of desperation, of begging. ‘Everlasting‘ finishes the album with the lonely, sharp darkness of loss. With every passing track, the listener is able to connect with a part of ourselves that understands what The Unicorn Princess was feeling. If you open yourself to it, you can find yourself suddenly in a spot in your life where you were in the same vulnerable state as the artist. To me, this is the hallmark of a truly talented musician: the ability to transport you through memory itself, find your heart, and grab hold.
‘Bitcrushed Memories’ tells a special tale, one of happiness and heartbreak; one that is both the artist’s and your own. I strongly encourage you to listen, share, and support to spread this tale to the masses.