TED talks have always been about presenting ideas worth spreading, so I’m glad to see they’ve put Chiptunes on display. TED talks try to gain a deeper discussion in a local field, TEDx is more for local programs, and Dan (Dan Behrens, aka Danimal Cannon) hit it off. As Dan described Chiptunes, he defined it as…
… Any music made using, or emulating the sound of, old video game consoles and their soundchips.
Technically with that definition, the PS4 could also be considered platform for Chiptunes, but it’s the sound that Dan and the others are attracted to, not particularly a beefy console. Dan’s chip of choice being a classic Gameboy, he continued into his list of consoles that other artists use to make Chiptunes. Consoles such as the NES, Genesis, Commodore 64, Atari Amiga, and many others. As Dan described, it’s really about taking minimalist hardware, and pushing it to the maximum potential.
The talk itself features some excellent music past the 4:35 mark. Take a listen.
Dan went further to talk about a trend taking place in music software, one that makes music controls easier to use, but leaves you ignorant to what the controls directly changed to achieve its sound. For instance, if you use a plug-in that has a fader controlling a “Smash” parameter, what is the “Smash” doing exactly? Does it EQ the sound? Is something being filtered? Does it matter? By using plug-ins like that, Dan considered it a failing to learn.
Dan also stated that such software is good for businesses, which is true. Music software that gives the end user the sounds they desire is often the goal developers strive for. However, Dan insisted that Chiptune is not a response to such easy-to-use music software, but rather it evolved by itself into where it currently stands in the community.
What are your thoughts on the subject? Do you agree that simple and easy to use software actually does make you less curious about how the sound was achieved?
A combination of 80′s music and chiptunes? You’d have to be crazy to pass up a union like that! Well, you don’t have to now that chiptune artist Dmitry “C-jeff” Zhemkov has released Big Steel Wheels for public auditory consumption.
Described as “A fictional action music adventure, inspired by works of Vince DiCola, action movies, rock and metal music, chiptunes and the legacy of ’80s!” by C-jeff himself, he combines his skill with a cadre of strong supporting artists. Featuring Grant “Stemage” Henry, Dan “Danimal Cannon” Behrens and Raz Ben Ari on live guitar, Jeff Ball on viola, and even the voice talents of Alexander Brandon, Rich “Disasterpeace” Vreland, George “norg” Nowik and Lamont Bellsarios, the album is packed with talent. Boasting an essence of “Transformers the Motion Picture” with the flair of 80′s synth and smooth guitars and viola backing, it nails a heavy nostalgic feel.
With an interest in chip tune music must come a certain desire to figure out the best reproduction of those chip tune sounds. Having a synthesizer myself, I always thought creating a chip tune piece was as simple as using a square wave coming out of my analog SH-201. Everyone has a different method, but this was my approach. Despite different approaches, there is a tremendous difference in the sounds produced from any sound chip, let alone those in video game consoles and handheld devices.
For instance, the timbre of a C64 square wave sounds way different than an NES square wave. They are both square waves, yet the aesthetics that make up the sound drastically differs for each system. If you were going to create an NES based chip tune, it wouldn’t help to emulate chip sounds from a C64, or in my case, my analog SH-201. How can someone spot the difference? Inverse Phase, Mr. MAGFest, as some call him, often teaches people the differences, so they could be armed with an applicable sound palette before creating their own chip tunes. Today, I’ll go over some of these differences thanks to a lecture by Inverse Phase titled Music from Old Sound Chips.
If the words “Retro Swords & Sorcery Gaming” don’t appeal to you, then you very well might be a lost cause. When Conan the Barbarian meets 8-bit, the pixels themselves may be small, but the old-school feel makes it much bigger. The original Tiny Barbarian may have been released in 2011, but it’s still running on plenty of steam with the new iteration; Tiny Barbarian DX. Though still simple in it’s game mechanics of “Press X to attack, Press Y to jump”, it’s the soundtrack that really gives the game the extra push into generating some good ol’ NES feelings.
Composed again by the very talented Jeff Ball (Astroman, Mass Effect 3), the album title is actually Tiny Barbarian DX: The Serpent Lord. Despite the mouthful of a moniker, the soundtrack is chock-full of chiptune beats that could easily be mistaken for the hybrid stepchild of Mega Man and Castlevania (seriously, it’s even listed as such) straight out of the late 80′s. Combining action-oriented melodies with the occasional creepy slow track, the music speaks to Ball’s experience as a composer for other like-minded game soundtracks such as Astroman, but also his dedication as a retro gamer.
Boasting some incredibly catchy electronic tunes that will make you feel like an 8-year-old in front of your Nintendo again, Tiny Barbarian DX: The Serpent Lord is as fun a musical adventure as it is a hack ‘n slash game. Both available for a listen over at Ubiktune, as well as at the ever-wonderful “Name Your Own Price” tier on Bandcamp, so there’s no excuse not to enjoy the miniature musical muscular magnitude!
Yeah, he “does” him. I am the king of not-so-subtle innuendo!!
I just wanted to share this. Released perhaps as a birthday gift to Luke Esquivel, the 8-Bit Pimp himself, Inverse Phase did a fully-chipped mix of the chip-hop artist’s theme song. “8 Bit Playas and Pimps, Throw Your Hands Up High!!” Check it out!
Without question, SQ Chips was a success for Square Enix. Fans loved it, critics loved it, and it apparently sold well enough in Japan and worldwide to not only do a sequel album, but to also dig deep in the chiptunes scene and create separate chip-arrange albums for Final Fantasy VII through XI.
I’ve probably said this in other reviews, and I’ll say it in this one as well: if you’re going to milk a franchise, and/or you’re going to milk an arrangement style for your franchises, it’s not necessarily a bad thing as long as it’s done right! Look at Falcom, after all. The Ys series took on a life of its own in the world of music; Falcom rewarded eager listeners, and in turn, Falcom was rewarded for providing high-quality music. Win-win, right?
So, is SQ Chips 2 following in the convention of “win-win,” or do we have a series of phoned-in arrangements to try and hop on a burgeoning fad (the chiptunes scene)? I’ll “give it to you straight” after the jump. (more…)
It’s always a good time when Ubiktune sends a bit of news our way, and today is no different. Continuing their amazing year of releases, The last few weeks have seen two new albums released on the label, sure to peak the interest of chiptune lovers of all types and stripes.
Reflections of a Dancing Leaf by fluidvolt is an album based on Claude Debussy, celebrating his 150th birthday. The album is a tribute to the composer using the hardware of SNES, N64, NES and even uses 1bit sounds to demonstrate the greatness of grand compositions using the most restricted of electronic sounds.
Rhythm’n'Bits is a tribute album dedicated to the video game soundtracks that had a big impact on the artist, Yoann Turpin, as a child. The result is pure melodic bliss, inspired by the RPGs from the 90′s as well as Sega Mega Drive and Super NES games, blended with a good bit of funk to create a truly unique album atmosphere. With this album, Yoann has managed to make one of the best chiptune albums of the year, and it’s creative and original take with so many familiar sounds and themes makes it a must hear of the year.
Reflections of a Dancing Leaf and Rhythm’n'Bits are available at Ubiktune right now. Rhythm’n'Bits can also be purchased on iTunes for $9.99.
So far, it seems that the new arranged album XI Chips -Final Fantasy XI Chiptune- (catalog # SQEX-10320) is available only through Square Enix Music’s e-Store. Some online retailers, like CDJapan, are offering it as a special order, with a marked-up price to boot.
I don’t know if S-E is waiting for, like, the North American 10th anniversary of FFXI to release this album on iTunes, or if they don’t realize what a gem they have in their hand.
After the jump, I’ll talk about this internal rival with the “SQ Chips” albums, and why I think it might be the unlikely winner of my heart. (more…)
Eirik Suhrke might not be a name that rolls off the tongue, but for many years, this young man has been a central part to the chiptune community. In his early teens, Suhrke traversed the internet as Phlogiston, one of the brightest new minds in the chiptune scene. His style was indescribable, his passion undeniable, and his dedication unmatched, within just a few years, Suhrke had been one of the youngest to receive a release on 8bitpeoples, launched his own successful chiptune/video game soundtrack label service and performed live at Blipfest.
Today, he has taken the proper step into video game music, responsible for the music in Derek Yu’s smash hit Spelunky XBLA. So it is for that reason that we took the time to catch up with an old friend, and talk about his rise to fame, and his current projects.
Check out the interview after the jump (more…)