With the help of Kickstarter, another chiptune album has been brought into existence. Most people probably know Jimmy Hinson (a.k.a Big Giant Circles) and his music from games like Mass Effect 2 and Call of Duty Black Ops 2. It might surprise some people that in addition to the game music he writes, he also composes chiptunes. This latest album, The Glory Days, is a new collection of original pieces written by Hinson. The Glory Days was funded through a very successful Kickstarter campaign that far exceeded its original goal. Not only did the Kickstarter hit the goal of $5,000, but every single stretch goal was met as well. The Kickstarter receiving over $60,000 in pledges, allowing Big Giant Circles to hire several remixers and fellow game composers to help construct an extra remix album for release at a later date.
The Glory Days is a sequel to Hinson’s first album of original music, Impostor Nostalgia. This original album was a collection of music written by Hinson and featured several music remixers and composers. The concept behind Impostor Nostalgia was that while the music mimicked the sound and energy of chiptunes from older videogames, the music itself was original work that was never featured in any game, past or present. It was a cool experiment and generated some excellent new tunes. This time around, Hinson is flying solo with this sequel album, The Glory Days. Like the first album, this one aims to celebrate the sound of older game tunes while enhancing it with modern synth and electronic sounds that weren’t available years ago. Does Big Giant Circles pull this off on this second solo album? Read more to find out. (more…)
There are plenty of chip music makers out there these days. I have respect for all of them — it’s difficult work, to be sure. But one person I especially admire is Chipzel. She broke onto the scene when she wrote the three-track OST for Super Hexagon. But she has plenty of original works out there too.
The latest among them is Spectra, released in September 2013. This full-length album was created entirely in LSDJ, so it’s pure Game Boy goodness. The nature of this album? I think the headline gives it away, but if you want a detailed report, as well as where you can pick up the album, keep reading!
This week Penny Arcade announced its concert line-up for the upcoming PAX East 2014 convention. The event, as usual, will take place at the Boston Covention & Exhibit Center from April 11-13. Each of the concerts, the first on Friday and the other on Saturday, will feature performances by three different groups. A number of previous music guests will be returning to perform this year, including Metroid Metal, The Video Game Orchestra, and Anamanaguchi.
The PAX East 2014 concert roster is as follows:
-The Video Game Orchestra
It looks like it will be two nights of great music for PAX East attendees this year. A few of us from Original Sound Version will be checking out the concerts as well. Information on events, guests, and hotels can be found at the PAX East website. For those of you who were not able to grab tickets for the event, the concerts will be streamed live on the PAX Twitch stream. The event is less than two months away. Which bands are you looking forward to hearing?
You know life’s pretty awesome when you get more Inverse Phase popping up in the video game music and chip music scene, and it’s fantastic when it’s right during the start of the new year. Why slug through a cold winter, right after grand events like MAGFest, and be jonesing for new tunes to keep spirits high?
Case-in-point here is Treachery in Beatdown City: Episode 1, which pays tribute to all the sidescrolling beat ‘em ups of the 8 and 16-bit era that most of us ’90s kids grew up on, such as Double Dragon and Bad Dudes with some RPG aspects thrown in for good measure. There’s nothing like a good beat ‘em up game, and this particular one allows us gentle listeners a delightful cadre of chip music courtesy of Mr. Brendan “Inverse Phase” Becker.
A new year has begun and with it another MAGFest down in National Harbor, Maryland. This was my second year attending the annual Music and Game Festival. There’s always a ton of things to do, from attending panels to rocking out at the concerts. Now that I’ve had a chance to recover from the trip and gather my thoughts, it’s time for a recap of some of what I experienced at MAGFest 12.
Most of the panels I attended were focused on music. The first of these was the “Write Your Own Nintendo Music,” hosted by Brendan “Inverse Phase” Becker. His talk focused on the tools that he uses for creating 8-bit/chiptune tracks for his music projects. He explained the methods in which music on the Gameboy and Nintendo Entertainment System was generated and what the musical and technological limitations for each were. Since this year’s MAGFest was Zelda themed, he included a demonstration of 8-bit music writing by reconstructing the “Dungeon Theme” from The Legend of Zelda.
Brenden “Inverse Phase” Becker
Two of the other music panels that I attended were hosted by game composer Tommy Tallarico. He’s probably best known for his soundtracks for Earthworm Jim and his work as the head of Video Games Live. The first panel “Video Games Live: Behind the Scenes” focused on his work with the orchestra program that he tours with around the world. Tallarico spent a majority of the time telling the audience stories about his experiences performing videogame music and revealed some of his upcoming arrangements for the orchestra. (more…)
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…)