November 24, 2012

4mat - "Sans Titre"

4mat (Matt Simmonds) has had quite a productive year. His new album "Sans Titre" marks his fourth release this year, and it's another solid effort that continues to push the chiptune medium. It's quite something to compare 2010's "Decades" with these twelve new songs, which succeed in progressing Matt's style with polished, cool, and even experimental elements. Far surpassing the previous LP "Origins", the new release is fresh and thoughtful, with lovely production and great songwriting.

Highlights include the riveting "Popsnare" and very pretty "You're All I Have", the latter including some nice acoustic guitar sampling. Also, "Tropics" is a hard-driving banger with a cool drum beat and a sweet melody. Overall, "Sans Titre" is a solid return to form for 4mat, and there's not a bad track in the whole bunch. I highly recommend it, and it's one of my favorite albums of the year.

[You can check out the album here:]

October 13, 2012

Review - "Strike EP" (Covox)

Thomas Soderlund, also known as Covox, is a force to be reckoned with. He's been releasing intelligent GameBoy music for years, churning out a high-quality release every once and a while. Thankfully, his latest is no exception. "Strike EP" is a strong EDM-influenced collection of new tunes, showcasing an evolution in style and a mastery of technique.

"Adult Checksum Corrupt" is a very cool and effective opener, with plenty of interesting chip sounds and a heavy drop towards the end. Throughout the EP, Covox also layers some simple electronic beats over his GameBoy compositions, which works well with his hard-driving, atmospheric style. "A Billion Suns" is another highlight, working the build-up and boasting a couple of sweet melodies.

Although the digital release of "Strike" only has three tracks, they're all nicely full, and the solid fourth tune "Borgarsvin" is freely available from Soderlund's SoundCloud page as well.

Do yourself a favor and pick this one up... I've really been enjoying what this guy has to offer. Covox is firmly in control of his craft and once again proves his relevance here.

SCORE: 8.0 out of 10 - "Solid"

September 24, 2012

Pixelh8 - "Greatest Hits"

He's been making simplistic, catchy chip music for years as Pixelh8, with three full albums and another in the works, and now Matthew Applegate has finally released a Greatest Hits album. It's about time, I'd say. I've been a Pixelh8 fan for years, and "The Boy with the Digital Heart", while not perfect, is still one of my favorite chiptune albums. Cleverly titled "The Best 8 Bits", this new collection takes some of Pixelh8's best for an eight-track highlight of the past six years or so. Narrowing things down to eight might be a bit sparse, however, and I would have included "A Party without You" and "Read Only Memories" instead of "IED" and "Kilobyte Rider", which weren't too remarkable.

Even so, this release has some of Pixelh8's best work, including the lovely "Super Fantastic Turbo Magical" and tender closing track "You Were Born to Save the World". Do yourself a favor and give it a spin.

Applegate has also been working on a new LP called "Hard Reset" which is due later this year, so keep an eye out.

You can stream or download the album here:

August 21, 2012

Review - "The World's Smallest Violin" (J. Arthur Keenes)

J. Arthur Keenes is something else. Setting himself apart from many other chiptune artists with his well-produced, stylish, and uncommonly cool offerings, his latest EP makes for another highly enjoyable listen. "The World's Smallest Violin" marks a definite maturity and progression in songwriting for Keenes, who delivers a dose of brilliant bedroom-produced tunes in five tracks.

Interestingly, the classic GameBoy which was so prominent in Keenes' earlier work takes more of a backseat role here, but the additional and varied instrumentation, including a classy use of electric guitar, does not disappoint. The opening track "Monsters" includes a lovely chorus, which is further complimented by calm, unique vocals. The lyrics are fairly vague and hard to decipher, but the atmosphere conveyed here is consistently excellent. "Southern Accent" ratchets things up with an impressive, extended instrumental section led by a rocking guitar and carefully-calculated percussion. The short, sweet theme of "Trying Not to Hide", on the other hand, brings the EP to a close quite well.

With an appeal not limited to his clear 8-bit influence, J. Arthur Keenes has crafted an awesome set of songs with "The World's Smallest Violin". Although starkly different from past releases, the new style sounds great and is totally worth your time. And oh, that cover art!

SCORE: 8.6 out of 10 - "Great"

[You can stream or download the EP here:]

August 6, 2012

Bubu - "The Daydream Elevator"

Armed with a Nintendo GameBoy and a sweet talent for making lovely music, nineteen-year-old Barnabas Fekete has now unveiled his first proper album under the moniker Bubu. Entitled "The Daydream Elevator", the new release is a beautifully happy collection of well-written chiptunes. Whether it's the hopeful melodies of "Happiness Like This" or the thumping vibes from "Lemonade", Barnabas must love what he does. Clocking in at eight solid tracks, you owe it to yourself to pick this one up, especially if you're feeling a bit depressed. With a spirit such as Bubu's cheery, trusting outlook, why should a little sorrow get you down?

You can stream or download the release here:

July 9, 2012

Review - "Of Atoms and Stardust" (Auxcide)

I'm a little late in getting around to posting about this one, but better late than never. Sacramento-based artist Auxcide has finally unveiled his debut LP, entitled "Of Atoms and Stardust". Set up as a sort of concept album about the cosmos, the eight tracks included here are suitably epic, utilizing the combined sounds of two GameBoy Advance SPs.

Beginning with the quick one-two punch of "New Cosmos" and "Aphelion", the album skyrockets into a great start, boasting grand melodies and an almost orchestral flair. "Aphelion" in particular is my favorite tune from the record, based around a soaring, catchy theme that makes a great impression. Another high point comes in the form of the bass- and buildup-heavy "Selene".

Although there are some weak spots, and the final mixing job leaves a lot to be desired, "Of Atoms and Stardust" makes for an enjoyable and unique listen. Props to Auxcide for an impressive, solid debut.

SCORE: 7.5 out of 10 - "Good"

[You can stream or download the album here:]

June 21, 2012

Xyce - "Mosaik"

Roel Heerspink and Tom Offringa, known respectively as Cerror and Xylo, seem to work quite well together. Their latest chiptune album, released under the collaborative name of "Xyce", serves up another helping of happy tunes written on the Amiga 500, Atari ST, and PC. Although I didn't find most of the new songs to be nearly as memorable as past offerings, "Mosaik" does include a wonderful collaboration with none other than Radix (Jakob Svanholm) himself. The title track has a beautiful melody, bass line, and sense of progression that Radix and Xyce should be proud of. Other highlights include the lovely opener "Petite Amie Rouge", along with the amusing "Every Day I'm Hustlin", which made me smile with its titular speech sample.

You can stream or download the album here:

June 5, 2012

4mat - "Rips"

Just a little over a month after releasing his latest album "Origins", UK-based chiptune legend Matthew Simmonds (4mat) is back with a brand new EP. "Rips" is a lovely collection of new tunes that continue pushing the genre to exciting new heights. With 7 tracks, 4mat provides a solid and very cool release that is definitely worth your time. The first few songs shine the brightest, and "Atomic Sons" in particular is quite an awesome, soaring track. Kudos to Matt for pulling no punches with his unique and well-made music.

Stream or download the EP here:

May 18, 2012

Kurt James Werner - "Schism Method"

Every once and a while, an electronic artist will come along and introduce a weird, unique, and cool new approach to writing music. Kurt James Werner, a graduate student at Stanford's Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics, has done just that with his release entitled "Schism Method". Through 11 tracks, he showcases an interesting and well-produced exercise in genre-bending, complete with glitch and breakbeat elements playing along with 8-bit tunes.

The first track "Twitch Constuctor" opens with ambiance and develops with some driving, whacked-out drum programming that reappears for the other tunes. But the songs aren't just glitches and circuit-bending--Kurt also keeps things appealing with melodic, retro themes in tracks like "Into the Ocean" and "Apocalypse Eagle".

If you think you'd enjoy something different or distinctive, then Mr. Werner's "Schism Method" might just fit the bill. While it's probably not for everyone, his music is quite thoughtful and worth checking out.

You can stream or download the album here:

May 7, 2012

Review - "In Death a Dream of Color" (Brother Android)

"In Death a Dream of Color" is an immensely personal record for Harrison Lemke, otherwise known as Brother Android. Written over the course of two years, it deals with the concepts of deep loss, confusion, grief, and faith. Stylistically, the music is fuller and more evolved than the artist's previous efforts, which can be both confusing and rewarding.

At first glance, the album might seem sub-par or difficult--in fact, I initially didn't like it very much. With additional listening, however, the songs grew on me and began to sink in. The first track, "A Beginning", opens up with an excellent use of staccato, combining with a slow melody that lowers its tempo over time. Brother Android ditches the usually retro percussion for more realistic drum samples, which end up working pretty well. "The Hospital; Your House; the Dark" is a definite highlight with its pounding drum rhythm, which is nicely complemented by the melody. Enhancing the progressive nature of the record, this track gives way to a mournful and sad tune to close things off.

Afterwards, "Holy Fear" reveals a more classic Brother Android style, being more accessible as well. The melancholy, panning square waves continue into the sixth track before giving way to "Tree of Blood", where things really start to ratchet up. Almost symphonic with its clever use of dissonance, the tune seems to convey a bitter sense of grief and possibly anger, demanding an answer to why some catastrophe had to take place.

The interlude "Things Get out of Hand" is one of my favorites. Completely devoid of percussion, it clambers forward with strong bass lines and an ethereal motif. Ultimately glitching out and showcasing distortion, it finally leads into the title track, which completes the release with a theme of acceptance in the face of sorrow.

With existential overtones and a firm grasp on his music, Harrison pours his heart into an album that is both beautiful and challenging. "Dream of Color" isn't very accessible or dance-able, even for chip music; but it is a deeply personal and interesting journey worth taking.

SCORE: 8.0 out of 10 - "Solid"

[You can stream or download the album here:]

May 4, 2012

Bubu - "Emptiness Meets Happiness"

From relative newcomer Barnabas Fekete, otherwise known as Bubu, comes a sweet EP entitled "Emptiness Meets Happiness". This five-track collection is brimming with wonderfully euphoric GameBoy tunes, including memorable melodies and a nice mastering job to sweeten the deal. My personal favorites are the beautiful opener called "A Sensible Alternative to Daydreaming", as well as "Love Is All We Have", which features a lovely recurring motif. Overall, Bubu's music plays like a nice, happy love story.

April 8, 2012

Ro-Bear - "Three Years"

Ro-Bear has been performing GameBoy music since 2008's Blip Festival, and his album "Three Years" offers some of his best work. This nine-track release includes a selection of songs written over the past three years, with a good amount of lively melodies and ideas. Ro-Bear keeps things interesting with several real highlights, such as the atmospheric intro to "The Discovery of Ice". The oddly-titled "Dank Taquitos", on the other hand, is full of happy melodies and a nice sense of progression. Overall, "Three Years" is a solid effort that's worth giving a spin.

Stream or download the album here:

March 18, 2012

Review - "7bit Date: Robot Love" (Beek)

There's something wonderful about 8-bit module music done right. Demoscene artist Beek has been writing chip music since the mid-1990s, and his excellent mastery of the genre shines through in "7bit Date: Robot Love". This twelve-track album is a pleasantly retro joyride, chock-full of catchy tunes and lovely production.

"Pyramidium" opens up the record with a rousing three-note melody, while "Lunar FREAK On" introduces some catchy, lo-fi funk. From beginning to end, Beek's latest offering is a fun listen. The tracks don't deviate too much from the confines of chiptune, but neither do they stay too restricted by them. The result is a mostly great collection of inspired material that shuffles up the musical style to keep things interesting. There's even a bit of retro reggae and 8-bit funk to grace your ears with, like the aptly-named "Funknium". At track number twelve, "Don't Let 'Em" closes off the album with a slightly sad but sweet flourish.

Overall, this "7bit Date" is one that you should definitely take.  The mixing is tight, the production value is solid, and the tunes are well-composed. It may not have the grand ambition of some other major releases, but as Beek shows, sometimes you just need a little good, clean musical fun to have a great time.

SCORE: 8.4 out of 10 - "Solid"

[You can stream or download this album here:]

February 12, 2012

Chipzel - "Phonetic Symphony"

After a full two years, Irish chip musician Chipzel is back with "Phonetic Symphony," her second full-length release. With thirteen upbeat and danceable GameBoy tunes, it's available over at BandCamp for 6 GBP (roughly $10 USD). Standout tracks include "Venice" and "Child's Play," displaying the artist's talent for thoughtful melodies, percussion, and harmony.

January 31, 2012

Ben Landis - "Adventures in Pixels"

Now here's a new idea... instead of just writing music, why not come up with a quirky comic to go along with it? Ben Landis has done precisely that with "Adventures in Pixels", a pleasant 20-track release with enough happy chiptune vibes to go around. With many nice, lighthearted melodies in tracks such as "Chickens (Going 'Peck peck peck')" and "Matt's Theme", the artist also throws a few surprises in for good measure, including the occasional piano or orchestral-influences tunes. Aside from the music itself, however, the album includes a full-length comic in digital format as well. All in all, Ben's effort is well-mixed, catchy chip music that certainly warrants a listen.

January 16, 2012

Revengineers - "Self-Titled"

Revengineers, a budding chip-rock group, has played with the likes of similar artists Anamanaguchi and Starscream, but their debut self-titled EP has a unique sound of its own. You don't always hear such thoughtful and talented instrumentation alongside the retro sounds of Nintendo's NES and GameBoy, but the Revengineers pull it off here quite well. Be sure to check out the upbeat and melodic "Laika", as well as the other four tracks of this noteworthy record.

Stream or download the release here: