September 23, 2010

Interview - Brother Android

With two full albums, an EP, and a game soundtrack all composed in a unique chiptune style, Brother Android made his mark on chip music with soft, sine-infused melodies and interesting themes translated into 8-bit, such as outer space and the winter season.
I've conducted a five-question interview him, during which we discuss his inspirations, new style, and future projects.
1. Your latest album "October November December" is one of my favorite chiptune albums of all time. You captured the theme that you went for quite well, especially in tracks like "The Stars Come Out". Where did you get your inspiration, and how did you go about translating the winter theme into chip music?
"At the end of last summer I moved away from the inland Northwest, where I grew up. It was strange experiencing a 'fall' and 'winter' that didn't really even exist except in name, and that is when I made those tracks. So I guess it is some sort of ode to where I grew up. As for translating the feeling of winter into chip music, I think sine waves had a lot to do with it; I find them to have a very cold yet organic sound. I was listening to Autechre a lot at the time and that influenced the album's strong rhythmic component; their music has a really bleak sort of beauty to it, and that is the same kind of feeling that the end of the year possesses in my memory."
2. "Scientific Satellite EP" and "Space Hymns" were your first chiptune albums. What made you decide to capture the feeling of outer space?
"I've always been sort of a science fiction aficionado, for reasons I can't pin down that well. The tracks that I first composed for Space Hymns are pretty old, and I think I was in a physics class at the time and was pretty into the cosmic weirdness of it all. I guess outer space suggests a sort of primal feeling of awe to me, something that is bigger than words, and I think music is the best medium for things like that."
3. With the upcoming "I Wish I Were Your Derivative" EP, you're going to be pursuing a different style of chip music. What made you want to "contemporize" things a bit?
"It's not a matter of contemporizing at all, really; the primary idea was really that I wanted to create music that I thought sounded 'fun'. To me, that revolves around strong melodies, strong rhythms, structural complexity, and a pretty short attention span; if the music comes off as more accessible, that's why, and if it comes across as more typically 'chiptune' in sound, I think it's probably because I used a much smaller and simpler palette of sounds than usual. Every instrument is a square wave or some sort of noise. Sine waves and triangle waves are gentle, and I was tired of making music that sounded gentle; on top of that, it was just easier to focus on structural and compositional strength when limiting myself to only a few textures. Lastly, and probably most importantly, I wanted to try purposefully imitating existing styles of music (funk and disco especially), just to see if I could do it. I guess it was an experiment in trying to distill musical styles to their simplest elements and have them remain recognizable. It's hard to say whether I succeeded at that though."
4. I played Ian Snyder's "Feign" recently, listening to your familiarly-styled soundtrack. What was the process of creating that track like? Did you play the game first?
"Yeah, actually... Ian originally wanted to use the track 'The Space Machine' from Space Hymns, but I liked the game a lot and decided to make a new track for it instead. Originally the game's graphics were black and white, and I think that contributed a lot to the atmosphere of the track."
5. Lastly, what does the future hold for your music?
"It's hard to say, really. I love chip music, but I can't help but feel that I've stumbled into this scene by accident; it's certainly far from the only kind of music I want to make. I really enjoy soundtracking games, though, and am working on another such project right now. I also have been toying around with some non-chiptune ideas lately, electronic and organic, and I want to see where I can take those. And there will probably be another EP shortly after I Wish I Were Your Derivative, but no promises there."
Brother Android's music can be accessed from his website ( and the 8 Bit Collective (

September 22, 2010

Review - "October November December" (Brother Android)

Brother Android's "October November December" is, in the artist's own words, "An album about the winter time," but the music itself is so much more than that. As the title suggests, it's themed around the last three months of the year; and the artist does a masterful job of converting a cold winter's evening into beautifully soft chip music.

The first track, "The Winddown", is a nice and soft intro with a sine-wave melody that introduces the album quickly and effectively. "We Can See Our Breath", track number two, is a flawlessly executed display of percussive and melodic elements coming together to create something wonderful. After the well-structured into, the song launches into a sweeping sine-melody that becomes more sophisticated throughout the rest of its five-minute running time.

"A Walk in the Cold" continues the overall coherence of the album by means of a multi-channeled ethereal theme which thoughtfully continues for the majority of the song. There are a few filler tracks as well, all little gems in themselves, such as "Field Smoke", which happens to be one of the best. "The Stars Come Out" is one of the most beautiful tunes out of the ten which comprise the release, and includes some beautiful melodic and bass work that fits the title perfectly. It's almost as if Brother Android went outside, looked at the stars, came back in and wrote the song.

Track seven, "It Rains", is the album's lengthiest track, clocking in at over nine and a half minutes. I've never heard the simple concept of rain portrayed better in electronic music, but the second half of the track is not quite as mystically satisfying as the first. A beautifully mellow intro leads the way into panning percussion and gradual complexity, which results a musical representation of an intense thunderstorm by the end.

"A Bit of Sun" begins with an increasingly intense percussion sequence before giving way to another ethereal, soft melody, symbolizing the first sign of sun after a long winter. The closing track is "First Freeze", a mellow chill-out style effort involving a somewhat harsh and icy melodic sound. It provides a satisfyingly competent close to an excellent album with a long, fading white noise sample that softly slides down in pitch before giving way to complete silence.

Brother Android proves his admirable talent and competence with "October November December", an adequately-titled, soft chiptune experience that delves into a theme not often covered by other chip musicians. The symbolism of the winter theme comes through very effectively in the music, with several standout tracks and enough charm to earn a high level of respect for the cleverness of its artist.

The man responsible for this masterful release is known in real life as Harrison Lemke. To him, chip music and electronic fans everywhere should be in awe of these tracks. Mr. Lemke, you have successfully crafted one of the very finest chiptune albums of all time.

SCORE: 9.0 out of 10 - "Outstanding"

[Brother Android's "October November December" can be downloaded for free here:]

September 1, 2010

Review - "1-Bit Symphony" (Tristan Perich)

What is a 1-bit symphony? Tristan Perich answers this question with his music. Although every note you hear in this collection of five lengthy “movements” is, in fact, the lowest representation of digital audio, the artist manages to create something that is both unique and beautiful with these “primitive” tones. As you press play on your iPod or flip the switch of the electronic circuit, the symphony and Perich’s talent begin to shine.

The first movement, at five minutes, is also the shortest—though there are only five songs, collectively they add up to a little over forty-seven minutes. “Movement 1” is my personal favorite: it is an epic, symphonic, and solid introduction to the most unique chiptune album ever composed. Led by a racing melody and noteworthy bass line, Tristan somehow manages to form simple 1-bit notes together into something extraordinary, something epic, and something that no one else has ever accomplished.

“Movement 2” picks up where the first track left off, and the first half of the eight-minute song is, once again, epic and beautiful. However, once we hit the 4:00 mark, a change for the worse occurs, and what is possibly the worst moment in the album. It consists of a rough, off-key-sounding bass, though there are some pure harmonies to make things a bit more tolerable.

The third track, “Movement 3”, starts with a rather tense melody which races along like the first movement did, accompanied by a simple bass line which repeats itself occasionally. The tense atmosphere and noteworthy melodies combine for another solid track. Eventually, a pure sequence of harmonies is introduced, playing along with the other notes quite well. The 5:00 mark signifies a change, and at 6:38 there’s a nice sort of bass explosion which accompanies a long, held harmony. Perich strips down the song to its basic elements before closing it off.

Thus we are led to “Movement 4”, during which a lot of things happen. A sequence of note-fading staccato work eventually gives way to different layers of itself playing on a delay at the same time, growing steadily more complex. 2:00 signals a melodic change, and later on some high-octave melodic work is brought in as well. The 3:25 mark introduces a nice bass along with a melodic signal; but 3:47 is where things really heat up with the introduction of a great melody that eventually fades to bass. Later, the melody and main staccato are brought back, and the song is still beautiful even at 6:00. A classic, chiptune-module note-sequence comes in around 6:46, while at 7:11 it joins to the hanging note and strips down to a repeat-melody as the song ends.

“Movement 5” is the final song, and at almost fifteen minutes it is also the longest. As it begins, one note plays for other tones to play along with, which then cut off to give it due presence. A sort of melody is introduced, which grows more filled-in and fades back to the original at 2:10. At 3:40, pure hanging notes fade to a single, pure, long harmony; and by 4:30, harmonic tones are held with a repeating melody for a while longer. At 5:38, another strange moment in the album occurs, and it involves the final act: a single long harmony holds itself for almost the entire remaining nine minutes with a soft melody playing in the background, until the song finally cuts to complete silence at 14:24.

Overall, “1-Bit Symphony” is worth your time, provided you can tolerate more than the modern, noisy GameBoy music that plagues the chip music scene today. There are a few setbacks, but overall the music is extremely innovative and epic despite its limiting hardware. In a way, Perich’s album is a form of art: he takes simple, extremely lo-fi electronic notes and creates a type of symphonic performance. Merely describing the music, however, can’t quite do it justice—do yourself a favor and experience the “1-Bit Symphony” for yourself. You may just be surprised at what you hear in the next forty minutes.

SCORE: 8.5 out of 10 – “Great”

[Tristan Perich’s “1-Bit Symphony” can be downloaded from Cantaloupe Music (, iTunes, or Amazon (]