Villainest – A Vision Of Light

Whilst everyone is engaged with the Chiptunes = WIN compilation over August, one of 2018’s greatest chip albums has just been released; ‘A Vision of Light’ by Canadian 16bit based band, ‘Villainest’. It’s been a while since their last album, ‘A Good Day to Try Hard’ was brought to my attention, much to critical acclaim. I reviewed it previously on my blog, giving it high praise, also rating track ‘The Machine’ as one of my ‘Top 10 songs of 2017’. ‘A Good Day To Try Hard’ was a great introduction to an already incredible band, however it is nothing when to compared to their latest release ‘A Vision of Light’. How you may ask? Let’s find out through a few tracks that picked my fancy.

To start off, we go to the third track off the album: ‘Rapture’. It’s a rambunctious and funky song with a solid melody that is extremely addictive. ‘Rapture’ kicks itself off by playing the chorus, which serves as the staple hook that the song calls back to. However, for me the part that hooked me was at ‘0.38’ and the funkiness of verse. The whole piece flows fantastically, with the keys following the vocals flawlessly, the rhythm is amped up to 10 by the guitar, bass and drums. Everything comes together perfectly creating what, in my opinion, is the perfect hook. Another part of ‘Rapture’ that hooks you in is the guitar solo. Villainest’s guitarist, James Harding, is known for creating a mean guitar solo, with the song ‘The Machine’ being a prime example. ‘Rapture’s solo seems stronger and more controlled than ‘The Machine’ however, with peak parts really capturing you quite easily. There’s more sustain on notes than fills and technique, opting for slickness and atmosphere over style. Rapture is really a song to start with and wet your appetite for what’s to come.

Next on my list is the melodic song ‘Cliff Hanger’. What I loved about a lot of the songs off ‘A Vision of Light’ is the time taken to work on the melodies and tone that’s supplied by every instrument. ‘Cliff Hanger’ is an example of this due to one of the best chorus’s I’ve heard all year. It flows like a roller-coaster flying through the chords and notes, before taking a huge dip in the last third of the piece – truly a remarkable part for 2018 and one of the most catchiest. Aside from the chorus, ‘Cliff Hanger’ also has a fantastic and distinct style, allowing each instrument to be heard in all its glory. This is particularly good for the Sega Genesis sounds, as they can be hard to hear sometimes in tracks when the guitar is hogging the spotlight.

My last highlight is conveniently the final and title track off the album, ‘A Vision of Light’. What I absolutely love about this song is that it flows with the sounds of the 80s: everything from the choice of chords and wet reverb, to the passion yells from both vocalists and harmonizing of instruments. This is one of those tracks that even though it is at heart a chiptune song, it supersedes the genre and becomes its own unique thing. In my opinion that’s something you rarely see coming from chiptune, with only certain songs achieving this (for example, ‘Get The Bleach’ – ‘HarlyLikesMusic’, ‘Air Glow’ – ‘Trey Frey’, ‘Waste Lan’ -Robotopus’). This sole reason is why ‘A Vision of Light’ is my favourite song off the album and high up in my ‘Top Five Chiptune Songs of 2018’!

Villainest should be proud of the amount of sheer effort they put into this album as there were so many choice songs to get hooked onto. In fact, I found what took most of my time was deciding which were my favourite songs to write about. Obviously the catchy ones such as, ‘Cliff Hanger’ and ‘A Vision of Light’ were strong contenders, but on flip-side you had slower songs such as, ‘Stalker’ and ‘Prom Night’ which were just as distinct. We even have the heaviest song off the album, ‘Escape From Space Jail’ to think about, due to its face melting introduction.

A few months ago I was wondering when Villainest were going to release another album. Flash forward to now, I’m glad to see that they didn’t disappoint.

Villainest
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Robotprins – Beam Of Love

robotprins-beam-of-love

I had the very nice pleasure of meeting Robotprins back in 2017 when I was in Japan for Squaresounds Tokyo. Originally from Sweden but now residing in Japan, Robotprins’ music is blend of nes style chiptunes against wild and fancy guitar skills. I’ll be looking at his latest release, ‘Beam Of Love’, an EP consisting of two tracks.

The main focus of ‘Beam Of Love’ is evidently its title track, and is a collaboration between ‘Robotprins’ and ‘Yurika’. The guitar, programming and lyrics have been crafted by ‘Robotprins’, with ‘Yurika’ lending her vocals to the track.

‘Beam Of Love’ begins with ‘Robotprins’ delivers a tangy, solid guitar riff. This serves as main driving force for the track and is handled by the guitar and nes music. As the guitar rolls forth, the chiptune programming takes shape, shimmering and shining. Its sound is both bright and powerful, and fits perfectly in the world J-pop. However, its main strength is how Robotprins’ chipmusic compliments Yurika’s vocals. It enboldens her voice, balancing the tone and harmonising it beautifully.

Speaking of, Yurika’s vocals during ‘Beam Of Love’, she does a spectacular job throughout the whole track. Her singing really lends to the story; about Robotprincess getting reprogrammed by ‘Ondman’ and sent to fight ‘Robotprins’. In order to restore ‘Robotprincess’ to her former self, ‘Robotprins’ must use the ‘Beam Of Love’. Whilst the lyrics maybe quite out there for some, Yurika’s voice really helps covey the quirkiness of Robotprins’ story and further develop its charm.

‘Beam Of Love’ was a bright and beautifully crafted track that managed to bring some shine in what is now the middle autumn (or fall).

Robotprins
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Boaconstructor – Winds Of Null

Boaconstructor-wings-of-null

It’s the first week of October and here I am reviewing yet another nanoloop release. This time we have Boaconstructor’s ‘Winds Of Null’. For context into ‘Boaconstructor’, he is a Seattle based musician who also runs ‘The Base bit’ one of the go-to net labels of chiptune. ‘The Base Bit’ have released a variety of accomplished albums from artists, from ‘Refresh’ from Trey Frey, to ‘Steel City Zone’ by ‘HarleyLikesMusic’. It has been three years since ‘Boaconstructor’ has produced an album, with ‘Loop Dreams’ being released in 2015.

Whilst ‘Loop Dreams’ and ‘Winds Of Null’ were produced using Nanoloop, they vastly different albums. ‘Loop Dreams’ focusses on using modulation to create weird and wonderful noises on a high BPM. ‘Winds Of Null’ on the other hand, focusses more on the bass, as well as detuning the melody and slowing down the music. For me I prefer Boaconstructor’s latest album, as I found it more accessible to listen to. The recording and mastering are also in my opinion much more of higher quality. Everything seems to pop better, with the levels balanced much better than ‘Loop Dreams’.

Getting into why I prefer ‘Winds Of Null’, the best example is the first track ‘Rainier Dub’. It begins with an excellent introduction by detuning the melody. ‘Boaconstructor’ does this by using a slow LFO on the pitch. It’s eerie but very effective as it provides a nice contrast to the main hook that begins afterwards. As soon as that starts, it hits you like rolling thunder, the twisted, bassy notes flow free and sounding dangerous & detuned. The drums are also alive and kicking, complimenting each bass note played alongside. The snare and kick both pack a massive wallop and due to the slow BPM, are only used when necessary. This allows the sharp bass to breathe and be heard more clearly.

For me ‘Winds Of Null’ is a welcome album in a year which already seen  many fantastic releases recreated on Nanoloop. It is well crafted featuring many hell raising hooks that will leave you scratching your head on how it was produced. Those snares in particular will make me re-think on how I create them on Nanoloop.

Boaconstructor
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Thebasebit
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Pool Water – Meltdown

poolwater - total-meltdown

Instead of writing about chiptune, I thought I’d look into something a little more different. ‘Total Meltdown’ is the Acid House album from artist ‘Pool water’ and released with label, ‘DataFruits’. I’ve been following the net label ever since they released Glooms’ album, ‘Vanilla Dome’. Whilst I found a lot of the releases were full of character, Pool water’s ‘Total Meltdown’ was the one album that caught my attention.

Recently I’ve been getting into Acid House, going as far as to buying a Volca Bass to introduce into my music. Pioneered by madman experimenting with ‘Roland TB 303’, the aggressive sound really brings an edge to the music. Yet when I listened to ‘Total Meltdown’, it is evident that there is more to sink your teeth into than just acid bass.

This brings us to my pick track, ‘No Way Back’. Whilst a majority of the tracks really focus on the funkiness of the bass, ‘No Way Back’, instead goes more into other areas. It works more on merging samples together whilst also focussing on the bass simultaneously. A good example of this can be heard at ‘2:00’, where ‘Pool water’ constantly mashes a manipulated sample saying ‘Jack Your Body’. As they’re doing this, we still have the bass pumping along, providing a wet yet powerful line throughout. This part alone, gives ‘No Way Back’ a fantastic rhythm, which is both chaotic and funky.

Although ‘No Way Back’ is one of my favourites, there are plenty other tracks which are great! For instance ‘Jack Your Body’ or ‘Let Your Feet Stomp’ are both head nodders. In fact listen to Pool water’s ‘Total Meltdown’ in one sitting; you’re guaranteed to at least get into the funk a few times!

Other tracks to listen to:

‘Jack Your Body’ & ‘Let Your Feet Stomp’

Poolwater
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Datafruits
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