Glooms – Vanilla Dome

After handling the behemoth known as Chip Bit Day, it feels great to get back into doing some reviews. After racking a collection of chiptune albums, it definitely seems like Nanoloop is topping the list for 2018, with certain release such as, Monotony’s ‘Eternal Slumber’ Party & Classic Mistake’s ‘Geothermal’. Next on my list is ‘Vanilla Dome’ by ‘Glooms’ and released with, ‘Datafruits’.

Started a few years ago in Seattle USA, ‘Glooms is a project by Tanner Hughes, spanning over a variety different machines, from Nanoloop to Electribes & Ableton. ‘Vanilla Dome’ focuses more on the combination of Nanoloop & Drum Machine.

We begin with the opening track off the album, ‘Vanilla Dome 1’ which kicks out vibes like a chilled sunday morning in bed. Starting out with shimmering arpeggio scattering itself, it’s soon built upon by the rolling sound of eclectic drum beats that are complimentary towards the chilled out nature, like rocks to a scotch. Seriously though, the drums pop beautifully, with instruments such as the kick giving off just a tight, high toned click. Check out ‘1:09’ for a good example off what I’m talking about. Outside of the percussion, the melodies are also sublime too, weaving about perfectly with each other. Filter & delay effects are further added in for good measure, providing an extra layer for the dynamics of ‘Vanilla Dome 1 ‘ but giving the extra kick that the song needed.

Whilst ‘Vanilla Dome 1’ is more an upbeat chilled tune to melt to, the opposite can be said for my next pick track, ‘Lifestyles of The PNW’, which comes across feeling more like an exorcism of house music. This is down to the several hooks, such as, ‘The chanting keys’, which ring out like a choir of gouls in unison. This sound is used for much of Glooms’ music and particularly effective; here’s some context to why. To the listener, all this sounds very uncanny and strange. This is because ‘Glooms’ has de-tuned much of the sound as well as using odd matching notes, making them sound slightly out of key. The method in turn makes the listener cringe a bit because of the unfamiliarity of the sound. It’s mainly down to this why ‘Lifestyles of The PNW’ is a stand out track for many on ‘Vanilla Dome’ album. One other thing that contributes to the signature sound, is the constant use of delay on each and every channel, whilst using dynamics on the speakers to make everything flow around the listener. It’s particular effective practice when trying to push ghastly themes.

Glooms’ ‘Vanilla Dome’ was an interesting listen, namely down to Glooms being one of the few artists who takes advantage of Nanoloop’s syncing capabilities. I’ve only seen a couple artists do this (2xAA & Cheapshot to name a few). Admittingly Nanoloop 2.0 can be quite limited sometimes in it’s form whilst compared to LSDJ, however there are a few points make the software far stronger than the latter, with the easiness to sync up play being a big win for me. With releases like ‘Vanilla Dome’, Nanoloop is definitely shaping up to be chiptune synth of 2018.

 ~ Glooms ~ 

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Portopak – Bull Inside The Echo Chamber

It’s been a while since I reviewed a Portopak album, but here we are! The last time he was featured was two years during the first start of the ‘Chip Bit Sid’ blog. If you haven’t heard his music, Portopak’s music style is a combination between chiptune & shoegaze music, using a lot of echo on his guitar as well as his voice. For this review I’m looking at his latest single, ‘Bull in the Echo Chamber’. For ‘Portopak’ it’s the first song that’s actually included vocals & lyrics.

The song begins with ‘pulse wave’ arpeggio, running up and down, before going fully fledged into guitar, bass & drums. Whilst the bass & drums are handled by the gameboy, the guitar is fully live, its bright tone masked by wet delay & echo, the sound resonating throughout. This goes on until both the melody & guitar stops, with the bass and percussion going on. At 0.40 Portopak’s vocals kick in and are covered in delay & reverb as like the ‘guitar’. The meaning of the lyrics, the feeling that today’s generation are undoing everything that people have worked hard to build, really struck a chord with me, as I’m going under the same thing at the moment. ‘Bull in an echo chamber’ was a great progression from Portopak’s general style of music, and the inclusion of vocals adds another nuanced level to the song.

As well as ‘Bull in the echo chamber’, there’s another track included in the EP, ‘The unfriendly dreamer’, an instrumental song. Whilst this song doesn’t include any vocals, its music is much more fleshed. The melody is much stronger, the guitar, padded out with so many little different effects, the bass thick and fat, and the drums; recorded so well that they come fantastically crisp. Some of the melody is also coupled with guitar, providing an added emphasis on the sound ‘Portopak’ is trying to achieve. It’s something you don’t usually hear in the chiptune and an intreresting coupling, rather than the traditional pulse & wave being put together. ‘The unfriendly dreamer’ is a nice finisher for the EP to end with and the progressive structure between the guitar & chipmusic, beautifully balanced.

‘Bull in the echo chamber’ was a nice short EP to review and it was a welcoming to listen to Portopak again, after so long since the last review. ‘Bull in an echo chamber is available to buy to as a cassette’. Check it out in the link: https://portopak.bandcamp.com/track/bull-inside-the-echo-chamber

 ~ Portopak ~ 

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Classic Mistake – Geothermal

Seeing as I’ve been reviewing a lot of the albums I missed out on last year, let’s instead look at an album in 2018. ‘Classic Mistake’ is a an artist I’ve only recently come across, beginning with a cover of 0F Digital’s, ‘Mesh’ and featured in ‘The Great Australian Barbecue Bash’ compilation. What I liked about ‘Classic Mistake’ is that he almost exclusively uses ‘Nanoloop 2.0’, creating some fantastic hooks which are reminiscent to early techno. ‘Geothermal’ is Classic Mistake’s first album released under ‘Cheapbeats’.

We begin with Classic Mistake’s opening signature track, ‘Geothermal’ and starts very strong, featuring eclectic beats complete with tantalising a snare & cymbal combination. The drums are complimented with some colourful group of keys & bass, that shimmer and shine as the track continues forward. Both the percussion and keys are Classic Mistake’s strong points, feeling creative and effective. A good example of this in ‘Geothermal’ is during the build up at around the 1:00 mark. It features a fantastic, tight fill of the drums as the keys slowly build up in volume until hitting the crescendo. It really gives off the that late 80s / early 90s techno vibe and continues throughout the track. ‘Geothermal’ is a smooth, tight track that uses strong foundations and builds upon perfectly.

Whilst ‘Geothermal’ is more about building around the piano keys, my next pick, ‘Loose Unit’ focuses upon tight bass lines that slightly remind me of New Order’s ‘Blue Monday’. However, unlike Blue Monday’s funky attitude, ‘Loose Unit’ is more darker in its tone and nature. Its main hook -the bass line- feels more heavier than anything else off the track listing, yet the minimalistic tone makes ‘Loose Unit’ the most catchiest tracks off the album. Again Classic Mistake’s drums are on point, tight as the hell, complimenting the minimalism of ‘Loose Unit’ but sizzling on it’s own as well, through unique instruments such as, its cymbals and rides.

‘Geothermal’ was a great listen for a new chiptune album of 2018 and I loved Classic Mistake’s tight style using Nanoloop 2.0, so much so that I ended buying the CD version of the album (it’s constantly on rotation in my stereo). It’s similar to 2xAA’s however, ‘Classic Mistake’ relies on using the piano, along a mixture of major and minor melodies. ‘Geothermal’ was a great introduction to ‘Classic Mistake’, and after seeing his venture into ‘Nanoloop Mono’, I’m looking towards his future material!

 ~ Classic Mistake ~ 

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Graz – Monolith

Hey guys. It’s been a while since I last published a review, mainly down to getting the funding secure for Chip Bit Day 18, but I’ll talk about that later. For now I’d like to review an album that I’ve been sitting on for a while now. It’s ‘Monolith’ by Graz and was released with ‘Ravertooth Tiger’.

The last time I review a Graz album was back in 2016 with ‘Ravepunk’ and that released by ‘Cheapbeats’. It was a great listen whilst feeling incredibly boppy & funky. ‘Monolith’ however is a lot different compared to ‘Ravepunk’, sounding more heavy whilst feeling darker & grittier.

The best example of these themes can be heard in the opening track, ‘Death Becomes’, which features some sinister sounds from the furious WAV channel, accompanied by the dark & deadly melody made by the Pulse channels. This melody in fact is probably one of the catchiest hooks off the album and it immediately captures you, engulfing you in a aura of death & hysteria. It’s also referenced a fair bit throughout ‘Death Becomes’, with ‘Graz’ using pieces of the melody, improvising and leading to quiet some variety in the song.

Whilst death & darkness are heavy themes throughout, ‘Graz’ also brings dubstep into the mix, heavily using the the Wav Channel to issue some great break downs. This can be heard in the track ‘Burst (Bit By Bit)’ which uses frequent ascending & descending ‘WAV voice sounds’. It’s a great unique little hook in the track, and without it ‘Burst’ wouldn’t be what it was.

Sampling is another technique used to a great extent, leading to some interesting sequences that lend themselves to the dark themes produced. Monolith’s signature track is a great leader in displaying this, with the introduction showing some fantastic techniques merging percussion and voice samples with each other. The samples are so quickly used that you’re unable to understand the meaning behind them, yet provide the necessary kick to ‘Monolith.’ Whilst the sampled sequence is interesting in ‘Monolith’, I cannot forget the WAV’s produced in the song, as the sounds & tones created are by far some of the most intriguing and deadly hooks off the album.

Graz’s album ‘Monolith’ is yet another album from 2017 that I failed to review quickly. Thankfully I made by for that and giving it the necessary words it deserves.

 ~ GRAZ ~ 

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