Alex Lane – Titan

This is another album that has been in my possession that I’ve yet to review…until now. I first had the pleasure of meeting & hearing Alex Lane’s music back in 2016 when he first came to Manchester for the ‘ChipBattles Tournament.’ Originally from Australia but now living in Southsea, England, Alex’s style felt very classical but at the same time, came off quite technical. This was changed up however when he was featured for Chip Bit Day 17 and came up to Manchester with a midi guitar hooked up to a C64! The result was quite amazing, the sound made fuller due to the bass.

Alex’s latest album, ‘Titan’ is his 2nd to date. Released with ‘Chiptune powerhouse’, Cheapbeats it features a more refined music style compared to his previous one.

We start off this review with the opening track, ‘Chinon’ off Titan and it begins with a fantastic arpeggio, before descending into a fat, bassy melody. Just the sound coming off this instrument is enough hook you in, the playful tune from Alex walking up and down the scale, like a journey with no end in sight. As well as that, it’s slow nature allows the notes to resonate and make more of an impact, especially at the high & lows of the scale.

‘Chinon’ then slowly transcends into it’s 2nd song, the album title track, ‘Titan’. This song is the complete opposite of ‘Chinon’. Instead of being slow & soft, ‘Titan’ is hard & fast, utilising a lot of sweeping between notes as well as breaks. ‘Titan’ often feels like snappy with some bite, especially towards the ‘2:40’ mark which transcends into a heavy mixture of heavy pulse.

Although ‘Titan’ is the title of track off the album, I wouldn’t say it’s the best. I think that title goes to the last track off the album,’Ulriken’, as it’s the best of both worlds with Alex’s use of melody is incredibly on point. ‘Ulriken’ immediately begins hooking you in with a addictive sequences of chords, before going into probably one of the most catchiest tunes of the album. But Alex’s creative use of the scale never cease’s to amaze, going from strength to strength, backed up with its strong use of chords.

Out of all the albums this year, I believe ‘Titan’ has the most creative use in melody & its notes. Although the whole album is quite slow at points, I believe some of it’s best moments are during those times. I’m definitely looking towards future bassy tunes that alex creates, as each one runs seems to run shivers down my spine.

 ~ Alex Lane ~ 

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Monodeer – Particles

This week is an entirely different kind of beast when it comes to LSDJ. Monodeer is an artist who has been in the chipscene since 2010, shaping the sound of what chipbass is. ‘Particles’ (released via, The Base Bit) was my first album listening to Monodeer, so I was interested to hear what I’d been missing out, especially considering the introduction of a volca beats.

Although the whole album stood out, the one song that hooked me in the most was the track, ‘The Reckoning featuring Mega Ran’. It starts off with a fantastic intro, sliding into a fill of gameboy noise, before the slow fat bass line takes control. This is where ‘Mega Ran’ takes to the mic, his lyrical prowess on point with Monodeers’ backing music. Although in most cases the rapper is made the main focus of the song, I feel in this case Monodeer’s backing is balanced very well with Mega Ran’s lyrics, the main musical hook sounding powerful as hell. ‘Monodeer’ even has his own part of the track where he shows more of his technological LSDJ wizardy. Out of all the rapping collaborations in chiptune, I feel ‘The Reckoning’ is one where both the music & lyrics are on point work fantastically.

Moving on, another track that I think needs to be talked about, is the Album title track, ‘Particles’. I love how minimalistic the music sounds from the gameboy & volca, yet a closer listen shows a lot more going in terms of sound design and how the drums slowly play. It’s main hook, a dubstep trill beginning at ‘1:30’ is exactly what separates ‘Particles’ from the rest of the songs on the album. Unlike dubstep however, ‘Particles’ is a lot easier on the ears, with the sound of the hook more soft & warm, rather the dirty feel you generally get from the rhythm. This in turn makes ‘Particles’ more accessible to people who generally put off from chiptune.

Overall I really enjoyed listening to ‘Particles’ from Monodeer, mainly due to the introduction of the Volca Beats Drum Machine. This is something I can really appreciate, as I too use a volca (The ‘Sample’) in my music. Very important machines when wanting to take your music the extra mile. ‘Particles’ will definitely be an album that I’ll be listening to in the future to come.

 ~ Monodeer ~ 

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DataStream – Midi City

This week we’re staying away from the retro consoles, and instead picking up all things midi. ‘Midi City’ by ‘Data Stream’ is a album which utilises a variety of old school hardware; from a ‘Yamaha DX7s Keyboard’ & ‘Boss DR550 drum machine’, to a ‘Korg MS2000 Synthesiser’ and ‘Yamaha MU5 Tone Generator’. These are just a few of the machines that ‘Data Stream’ uses throughout Midi City’s Album.

Let’s dive right in!

we’ll begin with the opening track, ‘Concierge’. It starts off superbly, with vocalised keys introducing us into some stellar pumping bass, whilst the rhythm of the drums roll along, the kicks almost mimicking the bass line. As for the keys, ‘Data Stream’ layers them almost graceful-like, the upbeat nature already supplying the funkiness of the song. ‘Concierge’ is a fantastic track to begin with on ‘Midi City’, as really tries to put you back in the nostalgic waters of city life. It almost feels as if you could be listening to this track whilst driving down the claustrophobic roads of 80s Manhattan.

As ‘Concierge’ draws to close, we’ll now segway into the 2nd track and my next pick; ‘Night Walk’. This song is just as funky as ‘Concierge’, however instead focusing on mood, ‘Night Walk’ amps of the energy of the bass, giving an almost slap-like feel to it. Along with the bass, we also have a xylophone playing in the back further adding to the rhythm. I love the how both these sounds interact with each other, their staccato feel playing off another. This allow the the drums to hang back, focussing more on the clavs & cowbells, which fit more with rhythmic nature of the bass & xylo. Over the top for the lead we have more midi sounds, with some suited to the style & feel of a guitar. ‘Data stream’ use’s this particular midi sound rather smoothly, using legato to slide through the notes. ‘Night Walk’, definitely suits it’s name and is a stand-out track on ‘Midi City’.

‘Midi City’ is a smooth & funky album to listen to. It was a nice change to the raw 8 bit sound I usually get. The relaxing & chill sound was incredibly nostalgic to hear and felt like I’d been transported back in time. It also reminded me of City Guys’ self titled album, as that too focussed on the whole ‘city life theme’ as well as the 16 bit soundchip (albeit more sim city-like). Finally, it pretty cool to find out that ‘Data Stream’ is a fellow mancunian, adding yet another skilful chipmusician to the pile.

 ~ Data Stream ~ 

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DBOYD – Paradise

This week on Chip Bit Sid, DBOYD’S album, ‘Paradise’ (released via ‘Galaxy Swim Team’) has been in my collection for a while, but due to other commitments it fell out of my mind. It wasn’t my trip to Japan and I saw him live at Squaresounds 17 however, I was blown away and immediately went to buy ‘Paradise’ on cassette. From then on I listened to ‘Paradise’ relentlessly, whilst finding myself constantly humming its catchy riffs.

It’s opening track, ‘Lazy Dayze’ is a perfect song to begin with, having ‘DBOYD’ driving up the melody factor way past 100%. You can immediately tell that this dude has an understanding in Jazz fusion melodies, as it really stands out in every instrument played, in not just ‘Lazy Dayze’ but some of the other tracks too! Lazy Dayze’s hook is catchy and playful, trapping you with it’s enticing tune. It’s also used as nice call back and whilst featured quite a bit throughout, it never wears it’s welcome.

I loved the majority of songs of Paradise, however the last track off, ‘Brightsided’ was one that truly made my day. With an intro that starts off slow, but quickly gets fast as lightning, ‘Brightsided’ then explodes in to a chaotic fusion of all things ferocious & melodic. ‘DBOYD’ is never afraid to hit the high notes of LSDJ, keeping the high octane energy going, only leaving a few seconds to pause before further pushing the insanity!

Out of both tracks reviewed here, they all are outstanding. However I have to say, ‘Brightsided’ is the better track out of the two, pushing the chaos of what DBOYD is known whilst still allowing the hooks & catchiness of the melody trickle in.

‘Paradise’ is a fantastic album for 2017, and although my review was late it definitely has some tracks in the top 10 of this year.

 ~ DBOYD ~ 

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