HarleyLikesMusic – Steel City Zone

For this week, I have the distinct pleasure of reviewing the newest album of one of my biggest influences – HarleyLikesMusic’s new ‘Steel City Zone’ as released on Thebasebit. I’ve known Harley for a few years now, first meeting him just before he got into making music on LSDJ and to say his music leaves an impression would be an understatement. After two wildly successful albums released on the Cheapbeats label, Harley is back again with his old tricks – and some new ones too. As someone who cites Harley as a major influencer of my own techniques, I think I’m quite lucky that I get the chance to talk about this with you – it’s not often one gets to discuss someone who has brought so much to the LSDJ game.

This year instead of going along the same road Harley has developed a four track EP, poignantly named ‘Steel City Zone’, after Harley’s hometown Sheffield, known for making the famous Sheffield Steel. For the whole EP, Harley has focussed his efforts on adapting the sounds of Sheffield’s underground music and making something new in his own style.

Moving into the crux of things, here are three tracks off album that really captivated me

The first track is the song, ‘Hello’, which immediately hitting off with some thumping drums, bass and lead. I love this intro as the hollow tones really ring out and set a direction as to what the rhythm will be. It then proceeds into some odd and funny samples from one of Harley’s friends calling out, saying; ‘Hello’ and ‘Harley, you there man?’ Whilst sounding slightly out of place, they feel more as if they’re an in joke against one of Harley’s mates. This is something Harley usually does quite a bit, as heard on, ‘Super Dooper Double Dooper’, in which he uses a excerpt of James York’s (of Cheapbeats fame) daughter when asked, ‘how hot is the centre of the earth’. The main hook of  ‘Hello’ is something that utilises both the pulses channels as well as the WAV, to create a frankenstein combination of epic proportions. This whole sound and tone seems to be crux of ‘Hello’, as Harley constantly uses it as well as building upon, to great effectiveness.

Moving on we next have the second signal track, ‘Steel City’, which uses continues the same tricks and techniques of, ‘Hello’. However unlike ‘Hello’, it features a heavier pulsating beat, helped along by the heart pounding bass. The hooks of ‘Steel City’ serve as the high addictive driving force of the song – each melody and hook is eclectic, bouncing off the sampled drums and working with the rhythm to produce a mixture of frightening combinations. For me ‘Steel City’ has to be my favourite track off the album as nothing at all seems to let up, firing on all cylinders and giving a banging track one could immediately get hooked onto.

‘Infinity Tricks’ is probably one of the bounciest tracks I’ve heard in some time. It instantly kicks off with a extremely funky and melodic hook, before announcing itself with a ‘yeaaaah!’ sample, which incidentally was taken from Harley’s YouTube intro. Whilst ‘Infinity Tricks’ centres itself around the main the hook and its sound, it is constantly shuffled about going as far as to making a complete new song just before the 2:00 mark. This is especially more true around 3:00 when a new hook, more captivating than the first is introduced, with Harley changing the sound from a pulse to wav sound. One final thing before I finish reviewing this track; we can’t possibly forget the impromptu melody at 1:36 sounding a lot like 2 Limited’s ‘Unlimited’, because reasons.

At just 20 minute run time over 4 tracks, ‘Steel City Zone’ was a great listen. Harley’s previous albums have usually been longer, but I feel the culling of tracks for this EP, allowed him to focus on refining a small selection. I’ve always said that instead of producing a quantity of an album, you should instead focus on the quality of one. It’s also one of the reasons why I’ve been taking a while to release my material! Maybe this year…I hope.

HarleyLikesMusic
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Thebasebit
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NNNNNNNNNN – Cosmic Lovely Lovely

This week instead of listening to the new releases I’ve got lined up, I thought I’d go back into the past and dig up something 2012 instead. I’ve been a big fan on ‘NNNNNNNNNN’ ever since seeing him play Calmdownkidda’s ‘ChipFest’, his dubstep style was extremely polished. ‘Cosmic Lovely Lovely’ was NNNNNNNNNN’s first album and immediately you could tell there was something promising. All tracks show a full array of tricks & techniques, however one track that shines the most of the album is the heavy as fuck, ‘Wanker Harder’.

It is an excellent song about how someone can put heavy dubstep into 8bit form. ‘Wanker Harder’ instantly begins with a heavy riff right off the bat, immediately showing NNNNNNNNNN’s talent with the WAV channel. We then go to a light melody, something ‘NNNNNNNNNN’ likes to put into a lot of his tracks. The style resembles an odd likeness to that of a punchy, jazzy piano due it’s tightness and rhythmic nature. It then builds further, getting more and more until the crescendo peak, where we hear the ominous, gritty voice of WAV channel, ferociously pounding both the left and right speakers.

So much can be heard going on during this time, it is hard to believe that this was single handedly created on one gameboy. Both the wav and pulse channels are used to their fullest potential, the woops and wamps crafted and played so rhythmically that they flow perfectly between one another.

‘Wanker Harder’ is a rare example of taking a genre outside of chiptune and giving it the 8-bit treatment. Although there is some chipstep/dubstep songs I have heard, nothing comes close to NNNNNNNNNN’s take on the genre.

‘Cosmic Lovely Lovely’ was NNNNNNNNNN’s first release, however it immediately showed full potential and is a must listen to anyone in the chiptune community. Here’s to hoping he releases more material soon!

 ~ nnnnnnnnnn ~ 

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Sandachi sound system – SI

We’re looking at another release from an artist based in Japan. ‘SI’ by ‘SunamachiSoundSystem’ (砂町サウンドシステム) is a new album, released on record label, ‘Estra‘. Instead of using the most typical chiptune hardware, ‘SI’ was made using an old machine called, ‘The Elektron Monomachine’, which utilises various different bit hardware, such as the ‘SID chip’ (commonly found in the C64) and ‘FM synth.’ Both minimalistic but flowing with style, ‘SI’ feels like an exciting journey through space, with the variety of fat and thick melodies rolling off each track.

A good example of all this can be found in my favourite track off the album, ‘Respond to Bhagawarn’ (バガヴァーンこたえる). It begins very simple, starting off with a very tight set of drums. This is in return is complimented with some fat, warm keys that shimmer and shine. New instruments are then brought to the table, such as the lowly squarewave that echoes out whilst an arpeggio rolls forth. With all this together the songs almost feels as if we’re happily floating in space, looking down at earth and trying to spot any life occurring.

‘Respond to Bhagawarn’ is a lovely track to listen to, as it feels almost euphoric, with each tone and sound ringing out, whilst the laid back beat just plods along. It is also a great example what Sunamachi Sound System’s style is using the Mono Machine, and what else lies in on the album ‘SI’.

Other tracks to listen to: ‘夏 (Summer)’ God’s Patience

 Sandachi Sound System 

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Kosmic Tantra – Tribal Rock

Hello, how are you all doing today? This week I’ll be reviewing a very interesting album called, ‘Tribal Rock’ by, ‘Kosmic Tantra’ and it’s an incredible selection of tracks to say the least. To give you context,  ‘Kosmic Tantra’ are a french 3 person electronic rock band, consisting of a variety of different unique instruments; from the staple gameboy running LSDJ, to the more abstract, Didgeridoo and Accordion. Yes, you heard that right; throughout the entire run time of the album you’ll be hearing  amazing ‘Eastern outback instruments’ whilst chiptune & electronic music are used as the backbone of each track. A first for the genre, I think!

We begin with the title track, ‘Tribal Rock’ and it immediately opens up with the ‘Akai Rhythm Wolf’ drum machine blasting out with its analogue sound. Whilst the drums fill the background, all kinds of sounds are played, from ‘nanoloop 2’ used as the synth and percussion, to what I suspect is the Pocket Operator 12 drum machine being used as the fills. As we go further through ‘Tribal Rock’, more instruments are added such as the staple guitar, laying down some rocky licks and giving the song the flavour it needs. We then have the more abstract instruments center forward, like the Jaw Harp, a metal Lamellephone used throughout history amongst asian and western cultures. Let’s not forget the didgeridoo either, as this provides provides the heavy bass in some parts, like the bridge whilst the guitar plays melodies.

Just reading off all instruments I’ve listed here, you wouldn’t think that ‘Tribal Rock’ would work actually work as a track, but like most original & unique songs, it proves us wrong and then some! Each instrument serves a different purpose and has been mixed well as to avoid any clashes, allowing them to come through crisp as well as being distinctively easy to point out.

From ‘Tribal Rock’, we move on to the next track, ‘Purple River’, a song which ups the ante of the psychedelic genre. It begins with the synth of Nanoloop playing whilst LSDJ percussion is playing in the background. This is then broken up by the hard didgeridoo, which acts as both the bass and the hook. Finally to top it off, the guitar and drums come in, with the guitar playing a wild screaming hook, the sound created with a Digitech Whammy Pedal. This essentially increases the pitch of the sound by various increments of an octave, allowing for a higher, more thrilling sound. I really love ‘Purple River’ and how it manages to weave all the sounds just like the former track, ‘Tribal Rock’. However, unlike the former track, ‘Purple River’ goes miles ahead in it’s energy & structure. ‘Tribal Rock is a great tune, however ‘Purple River’ creates more of an impact with its face melting guitar riff, which is extremely high in energy.

The final track I’m highlighting, is the third song, ‘Why So’. Whilst it’s very similar to the other tracks reviewed, ‘Why So’ focuses more on using the Akai MPC 1000, a vintage sound sampler. We start off hearing the sampler smash out some spacey sounds whilst effects from the MPC trickle out. Like ‘Purple River’, ‘Why So’ manages to build up a lot of energy, utilizing particular instruments to their full potential. It also feels very philosophical thanks not to just the echo-y sounds, but also the sampled english words, ‘Why’ and ‘So’, giving a sort spiritual feel to the whole song.

It was fun listening Kosmic Tantra’s ‘Tribal Rock’, and the fact that they went to the extra mile to utilize old hardware & wind instruments, it makes the album that much more unique and appealing. However it’s that more shocking to find out that I’m the only supporter of the release! If you enjoyed any of these songs, please give ‘Tribal Rock’ the support it needs. It’s albums like this further experiment with chiptune that need to be noticed.

 ~ Kosmic Tantra ~ 
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Original Article on Chiptunes = win

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