Okay, so this took a lot longer than I thought it would. Aside from the obvious personal jargon that I had, I found myself up to my eyes in new chiptune releases towards the end of 2018. I decided to postpone the list until I reviewed as much as I could.
Outside of music I also found Facebook banning my blogger website for months pushing me jump to Tumblr (utter crap) then finally onto WordPress. Once the website was finally live I found that Facebook had conveniently unbanned my old site. THANKS ZUCKERBERG!
So here comes the question: how was 2018 for Chiptune? Honestly, towards the beginning of September I would’ve said 2018 is completely different compared to 2017. We had Pain Perdu’s new album, 2xaa’s first proper nanoloop release, not to mention a new Chibi-tech EP. However I can safely say 2018 managed to quickly build up momentum towards the end, with sweet releases from Dollfin, Bitshifter, Boaconstructor and Shortee (all of them made it to the list).
10. Kaamos – Inabano Gakudan
I reviewed this way back in June and it was a breath of fresh air from Japan. ‘Kaamos’ by ‘Inabano Gakudan’ is chiptune & synthpop blended fantastically with vocaloid, ‘Hastu Miku’ to give the perfect song for the summer. I particularly loved ‘Kaamos’ mainly because of its bounciness which brings vibes of beach parties and the seaside.
9. Hooked – Dollfin
At number 9 we have, ‘Hooked’ by ‘Dollfin’. As always Dollfin takes LSDJ and fuses all thing sea & trap whilst giving such a bite from the Gameboy’s soundchip. What’s different with ‘Hooked’ however is strong ferociousness coming its style, the intro especially which is incredibly wet but also aggressive. Hooked’s melodies are also on point and sharp, relying mainly on the sawooth wave as its weapon of choice.
8. Vanilla Dome 1 – Glooms
The first of many Nanoloop tracks on this top 10 list, Vanilla Dome 1 by ‘Glooms’ is an absolute chilled banger. Containing some very intricate sound mixing whilst floating over the drums of an Electribe, Vanilla Dome 1 constantly shifts and changes with the motions. Just one listen of Vanilla Dome 1 really chills you out, as the vibes created almost feel like ice melting inside a cold drink.
7. Rainier Dub – Boaconstructor
The second Nanoloop release to break into the top 10 list and it’s ‘Rainier Dub’ by ‘Boaconstructor’. Being an artist already well skilled using NL2, I was aware of what ‘Boaconstructor’ was capable of; or at least I thought I was. ‘Rainier Dub’ starts off slowly, feeling almost like the beginning of a rainy day. But as soon as it gets past the 0.50 second mark, ‘Rainier Dub’ erupts into a storm of epic proportions. Thick and bassy, ‘Rainier Dub’ is one of the heaviest songs of this list, possibly all lists!
6. Geothermal – Classic Mistake
Next up is ‘Geothermal’ by ‘Classic Mistake’. This was one of the first songs of 2018 that instantly clicked with me and first release of the Nanoloop surge. Created solely using NL2, ‘Classic Mistake’ proceeds to build ‘Geothermal’ in a natural way, changing the tone & LFO on the fly. Overflowing with warmth from its dazzling FM synth chords, ‘Geothermal’ is one of my favourite Nanoloop tracks which has had me even remixing it live.
5. The Butterfly – Bit Shifter
This was a surprise for me, as previous Bit Shifter releases had been completely different. Well over a decade since releasing his last album, much of it was met with a warm welcome. One song in particular ‘The Butterfly’ was a highlight for me. Heavy and hard-hitting right from the start, ‘The Butterfly’ shows us how create to killer DnB track without relying technical tricks. ‘The Butterfly’ also doesn’t rely on much sampling either, using the WAV channel for bass & melody and NOISE for snares & hi-hats. The Butterfly is a great track and a good to see one of the OG’s showing us how chiptune is actually done.
4. Guten Morgen – Shortee
Another late surprise for me, so much so that I just didn’t have the time to review it, instead I’ll be saving it for ‘ChipWIN’ article later. An interesting mash up that works fantastically ‘Lost’ by ‘Shortee’ is both innovative and inspirational. This is mainly down to Shortee’s approach to chiptune, using LSDJ whilst scratching vinyl on a turntable. Whilst almost every track on ‘Lost’ is unique and inventive, this evermore true on, ‘Guten Morgen’. Throughout its runtime, ‘Shortee’ really gives it his all, putting all his energy into scratching the shit out vinyl, as heavy bass and drums are pumped out through LSDJ. For me ‘Guten Morgen’ was an outstanding song, and ultimately reminiscent for heavy hip-hop tracks such as, DJ-Shadow’s ‘Walkie Talkie’.
3. Monotony – No Comply Til You Die, High Speed Hill Bomb, Spongebob @ A Rave
This release came out back December 2017, however due the new rule I implemented last year (allowing releases from December) I decided to allow it. Monotony’s ‘Eternal Slumber Party’ is the last nanoloop release off the list but is one of my favourites and for good measure. Like 2xAA’s album, ‘Flow’, ‘Eternal Slumber Party’ is one huge mix, albeit with added samples from FL Studio.
What separates it from the rest of releases however, is the amount of fantastic sounds, melodies and drums. One such a sequence of tracks are the last three songs, ‘No Comply Til You Die, High Speed Hill Bomb and Spongebob @ A Rave’. Together they all last about 9 minutes long, but throughout my listen there’s never a dull moment going on. The energy is always rolling up until you get to the final track, ‘Spongebob @ a Rave’ when it hits one ultimate crescendo. The bass that comes from this is harrowing and fills every crevice of the room. Words cannot describe this so please listen to this how mix in its entirety.
2. Hello – Harleylikesmusic
Back on the top 10 list yet again is chiptune’s no.1 boy, ‘HarleyLikesMusic’. His latest release ‘Steel City Zone’, was a four track EP specifically created around the style of Sheffield’s underground music scene. This was a lot more different than his last two releases, in that his style was more reformed with the sounds being controlled to a better degree. This is best heard in the first track off ‘Steel City Zone’, ‘Hello’ which is structured beautifully and sounds pitch perfect.
It starts off with a humorous intro; dial tones of phones, the internet and finally the voice of someone calling up Harley himself. Me and my Wife always have a giggle whenever this plays; it’s a great testament to Harley’s funny sense of humour. It is then after this we move onto the hook of the song. This kicks ‘Hello’ into an overdrive which both melodic and bassy at the same time. It is so heart thumping that you’ll instantly starting humming along. Once this is over we finally reach the crux of ‘Hello’, the outro. This truly turns up the heat of the song as the drop is heart wrenching, with the bass and kicks thrashing as we reach the end. The big testament to EPs, ‘Hello’ shows how focussing on just a few songs really sharpens your skills on creating a superb style.
1. A Vision of Light – Villainest
Now we finally get to the last song of the list. It’s been two years since ‘Villainest’ released their last chiptune album, ‘A Good Day To Try Hard’, and it was superb album. One of its songs, ‘The Machine’ even made 2016’s list. However, ‘AGDTRH’ is minuscule compared to the behemoth album ‘A Vision of Light’. Everything recorded to perfection and every song is a dream to listen to. I loved listening this album time and time again, however the pinnacle of the album for me is the title track, ‘A Vision of Light.’
This song is one of those rare occurrences where chiptune supersedes itself and becomes something entirely. Much of Trey Freys music did that. For me ‘A Vision of Light’ takes the 16bit sound of the sega genesis, adding in guitar, keytar, vocals and drums, then turning it into something straight out of the 80s. It drips of nostalgia, the melodies and chord sequences sounding like they’ve come straight out of a 80s glam rock band. The passion from the vocals full of heart and soul. ‘A Vision of Light’ isn’t just a great song. It’s a song that completes what is already an amazing album.
So that’s 2018! As you can see Nanoloop took a huge space on the list for 2018 and it’s something I hope to see again in 2019. We also saw the return of a very old chiptune artist with such a great album that it gives Harley a run for his money. Makes me what we’ll see for 2019?
So far we’ve had a stellar EP from tekmann that I’m yet to review and a brand new funky album from DBOYD! And let’s not forget about Chip Bit Day 19 which I plan on making just as unique as ever. Here’s to 2019 in chiptune!