Happy November, everyone!
This month, I wanted to review the recent release by Michigan native, CZOFT. ‘Stratocracy’ was released on October 25, 2017, and features carefully crafted compositions created with lsdj. Featuring 15 tracks fully constructing within one Gameboy DMG-01, the album was released by Utah record label, Catskill Records (the same folks who host Catskill Electronics, a site where Gameboy composers can find their fair share of arduino boys, flash carts, sync components, etc.). This article with contain a review of a new record that I really love, and also share sound design tips straight from the artist for those who want to learn more about lsdj, as well.
CZOFT has been a musician for quite a while. Beginning his journey in heavy bands, he later merged into learning lsdj after learning how to dj. I generally tend to resonate towards albums where you can tell the writer has a history of writing and arranging for instruments, and ‘Stratocracy’ did just that. There are points in the album where it seems hard to believe everything was written and recorded with one DMG. Creating a unique sound by performing useful lsdj sound design tricks, CZOFT constructed an album that is much more ‘full’ sounding than your average lsdj record.
Any track that starts off filtered out will make me smile. Playing ‘Tomahawk’ really showed CZOFT’s background with darker, heavier music; the track gives room for harmonized channels to played over reliable low end percussion. The bass at 2:59 stole my heart and now I want to go pick up my DMG.
‘Mech Suit’ is probably my favorite track off the album. Featuring a heavy beat driven by percussion and bass, this track has really cool sound design and brings the most to every channel. Some of my favorite tracks of all time are those that build gradually, yet stay true to the original motif of song, and I believe this track did just that.
‘Red Mist’ at track 11 was kind of where I started to find it hard to believe that CZOFT only started using lsdj within the last few months: The track is insanely developed and the sound design really made the composition stand out more. Each section of this track was unique yet cohesive to the last, making CZOFT’s dj roots really shine through here. I was really impressed with this one.
Beautiful, organized chaos: These are the words that come to mind when hearing ‘Zone Ender’. This track is really gritty, dark, and fun and I would love to hear it performed live. The effects used here brought so much life to already strong songwriting. This entire album honestly gave the impression that CZOFT has total control over lsdj and isn’t afraid to push the software to new limits.
Hi! Thanks again for doing this interview! I have a few questions for you:
First off, I really, really loved your record and I bought the cassette; I can’t wait for it to come in! I guess to start it off, for anybody who doesn’t know, who are you? Where are you from? How did you start off writing music, and what got you into working with LSDj?
Hi, my name’s Adam: Normal human, from traverse city Michigan. I’ve always played in bands on and off throughout my life: Hardcore, punk, emo, math metal, etc., and then spent a few years teaching myself to dj with controllers using Ableton, and producing songs via Fruity Loops. Pretty typical stuff, but I have been obsessively addicted to chiptunes since 2005-2006. Last year about this time, I decided to forget about conventional music production and focus all my energy into lsdj.
You’re also a visual artist; did you get started first with visuals, or with music?
Music for sure. In between attempts of completing musical projects I’ve always had some form of visual art painting, drawing, digital, and so on.
Which do you feel inspiration for more often?
Both almost equally, I feel… I’ve adapted my visual and musical outlets into a synesthetic relationship of both worlds.
What was the driving force besides this record?
Honestly just my love for music, but more specifically chiptune.
Do you play out often?
Not really; I don’t even go out often, but I do have a pretty sweet show later this month with some really talented awesome people.
I think you’re currently located in the west coast, correct? What’s the chiptune scene like out there?
Well, it kinda sucks, in a way; no one wants to see you play or cares at all. It’s a disappointment, at least directly in Portland. But there are some really awesome artists from here. Plain Flavored takes the cake for me. That guy is insane with a gameboy. Also, Tonight We Launch, Mechlo, and 8bit Zero hold down the chip talent.
You’ve got some really awesome, rich textures in your music. Walk us through how you usually write with LSDj (Do you start melodically, then sound design? Do you come up with percussion later?).
It pretty much always starts with drum and bass… I clone a lot and “chop and screw” a lot of my clones to replicate more complex and dynamic sounds. As we all know, Gameboy only offers so much space, so I feel it’s necessary to get creative with free space and layering. One technique I’ve used from the beginning is cloning your wav channel into a pu1 channel, and replace your bass kicks with some notes and create the illusion of two patterns playing in one pulse channel. Still having some lows and miss working in the channel will make your music sound like it has more depth. EQ correctly, too.
Do you generally use one DMG or sync up a couple?
Only one. That’s all I’ve had for a while. Catskull just sent me a teensy boy and I just picked up some gbasp audio cables, so… We’ll see. 2x lsdj and sequencing looks fun.
How long did it take you to write this album?
About 4 months. And then like two months of listening to it over and over and over.
How would you describe your music?
What made you wanna release via cassette?
I don’t know… I feel the deeper we go into digital archiving, especially with music, having something physical almost, like, makes it real or permanent, like a trophy for an accomplishment. Rarely will a tape made in 2017 get a lot of use, but the essence of the tape completes it for me. Plus, I actually can listen to it.
Do you feel like your personality is similar to your music?
What was the biggest hang up when creating this file? Any lost data/writer’s block/etc.?
Oh yeah. Lost songs, corrupt cartridges, audio interface broke; a ton of stuff. But the biggest: I had only been using lsdj for like 6 months, maybe; I had only known the basics when I started this album.
What’s some music that you love?
Houratron, Converge, Ltron, Zen Albatross, Zan. But there’s so much music that’s important to me.
What’s an average day for you like?
I go to work, I go home, I watch X Files, write music, or make art.
Are you working on new music currently or taking a break post release?
Yeah, absolutely… I have a few projects planned, and another czoft album, hopefully, in early summer 2018.
If you could play one chiptune festival, what would it be?
Magfest, for sure.
Anything else you’d like us to know?
Only because I forgot to put it on the album credits: None of the effects on the album were post recording; they were all done during recording with my mixers on deck’s effects banks. And it was fun. I suggest it.
This was definitely a refreshing album to listen to and I would 100% recommend to anybody looking for something very unique in the chiptune scene. I could easily see this record appealing to those outside of the scene, as well; the sound design makes this album accessible to listeners who probably have no idea Gameboy music exists. My nose is pressed to my apartment window as I wait for my cassette to arrive, and I hope you all consider purchasing one, as well!
Until next month,
The Unicorn Princess