Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Composer Spotlight on Andy Kelley

When I met him at a chiptune show in NYC earlier this year, Andy Kelley aka superjoe changed my perception of him as a person. For one thing, he’s shorter than I had imagined. Judging from photos of his angular head (think Conan O’Brien) I assumed he would be towering, but he turned out to be about 6’ by my estimation. At the show he also clarified his love of electronic music, favoring it over the acoustic tunes that came before. I asked Andy a few questions about his pet project SolidComposer, his experience in compos, and an Internet band he’s in called The Burning Awesome.

Andy commented on his earliest exposure to music, which happened to be of the acoustic variety. He said that, “My mom would always listen to country music while I played Legos. I hate country music. I didn't start liking music until much later.” His leaning away from non-synthetic sounds continued to the present day: On more than one occasion, he completely dismissed acoustic versions of electronic compositions. He affirmed this line of thought as my question brought it up, and he used OverClocked ReMix as an example. “I'm a sucker for synthesizers, what can I say? I'm disappointed that the OCR judges think there is too much electronic music, because I love it.”

This is also reflected in Andy’s approach to music production. Speaking of his common workflow methods, he said that “I usually start with some effect, trick, or sub-genre I want to try out, see how it goes, and then work from there. It's not a particularly effective method. I'd like to know a better way; maybe I should be planning on paper or something.” He uses FL Studio and works with two staples of that workstation: Sytrus and 3xOsc. Andy also incorporates the Vengence Essential Clubsounds sample packs as well as SampleFusion. He owns a guitar and occasionally uses a microphone. At one point he had a piano keyboard, but that fell away as he felt he had inadequate skill in that area.

With his gear in place, Andy made a number of entries for composition competitions. He first discovered compos via the OCReMix forums and found them compelling. “It's fun to get instant feedback. Also the Doubles’ Dash ones force you to quickly cooperate with someone you don't know, who you can only communicate through the Internet. It's super fun.” His interest in the mechanics of running a compo led him to develop a competitions arena at SolidComposer. He noted that, through ThaSauce’s existing format of using IRC to synchronize listening parties, “One Hour Compos don't scale to more than eight people; it gets unruly to manage. I saw a place where my l33t skillz could help make the competitions a better experience.”

SolidComposer embeds a chat room into the compo rounds themselves, and the listening parties are automated. Although he was mostly pleased in how the concept of his website worked out, he admitted that “Ironically ThaSauce currently scales better than SolidComposer after you pass the twenty-five entrant mark.” Over two years after its launch, Andy's site isn’t so much on the back burner as it’s almost off of the stove. He was visibly stunned when he realized how long SolidComposer has been running, and jokingly lamented that he should resume housekeeping on it.

Initially, the site's workbench system had been created as a way for him and his colleagues to work together as an Internet trio. Andy explained the pitfalls of making music as The Burning Awesome: “We ran into all kinds of problems with stepping on each other’s toes, trying to make sure we all had the same samples, trying to communicate effectively. I ended up creating a website to help our project along, and it worked great. I improved it a lot, generalized it, and made it into SolidComposer's workbench.” The Burning Awesome eventually put out a debut album, albeit one largely consisting of the same chord progression.

Despite the intentions of the workbench, the majority of activity on SolidComposer is through its compos. Andy reflected on this, and on the concept of collaboration: “I thought the site would help draw people into what I thought was a brilliant idea for working on projects. The benefit of working with other people is that when you run into composer's block, you have someone there to take the song in a totally different direction and give you all sorts of new ideas. The bad thing about working together is that you often disagree with what the other people do, or they don't understand that they shouldn't put seven Soundgoodizers on the master channel with the bass turned all the way up.”

Andy summarized his thoughts about competitions and group-composing by saying, “Yes, I think compo experience helped me quite a bit. Also vice versa: working on The Burning Awesome album together helped out in compos.” Andy’s attention has shifted away from the online arena as he moved to NYC and pursued his career at Indaba Music. To quote his response at the end of my questions: “Sorry, I’m a bit busy atm.”

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Welcome to Earth

Battle of the Bits had a small handful of battles in the past few days, not the least of which was the seemingly pleading “Submit Anything II”. As a result the combatants upload highly varied product: Jangler sent out a MIDI while LittleTheremin submitted a text file, gyms put up an MP3, and so on. Sonic Zone Remix Competition entered the final countdown as it got to the last to remixers standing: Amphibious, who unwittingly got in a minor controversy regarding the previous round, and Gario, whose vocoder vocals apparently put his entry over the top. 

Dwelling of Duels called up its denizens for a Free Month, which promises to bring in a variety of remixes because of its lack of restrictions regarding source material. SDCompo concurrently allows a wide swatch of VSTs for entrants to use in addition to the sample pack; in particular SQL8 offers emulation of a 1980s synthesizer. This is in aide of the optional theme for the round, which is to generate a nostalgic sound. Elsewhere at OLRmageddon the theme of the month was settled: for “Password” the participants could arrange any video game tune that originally appeared alongside a password screen. For bonus points the arranger would have to use unusual time signatures. 

JHCompo on Tuesday celebrated independence by way of its “Break Away” theme. Starting things off was my vocal narration accompanied by a recording of “Stars and Stripes Forever”, which thankfully did not last forever. Immediately following was dusthillguy taking a break from his pastiche of zany clips to provide some elegant guitar twanging. Duosis appeared with another of his sample-based dance track, this time infusing his drum and bass with New Orleans brass. Rob appeared from hiatus to deliver a brief foray intro pounding trance filled with pitched vocals. Finally nikola threw together an assortment of instruments for the sake of liberty and freedom. 

Thursday’s OHC fell into an unexpected area as the “Out of Their Element” theme provided two images: a fish out of water and flower growing from the pavement. With that in mind Aru Azumaya introduced the round with a narration of his own, included the foreward “See attached materials.” The first musical entry of the night came from Draconiator, who neglected to look at the theme before submitting his dance track. Zovi followed that up by making one of the biggest taboos in music production: using FL Slayer for guitar work. Blastron seemed to lean toward the fish by naming his track “Shallow Water”, expounding on a riff for the duration of his song. 

Duosis also referenced water his entry, although the composition itself consists of a chopped-up sample of a lullaby cover of a Metallica song. IXI came out of compo remission and wasted no time working out lots and lots of bells. At the end of the listening party, munchi made multiple uses of his song description: he announced that he intends to remix various entries from OHC past to celebrate the upcoming 200th round; he also made a point of mentioning that he is now in a dubstep/electrofunk group, and that a new single would be out soon. If one thing is certain, it’s that compo pages can be prime real estate.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

In a Sensual Way

Doubles Dash Compo 17 ignored the summer sentiment by having participants go back to “School” as its theme. A storm rolled in through the area where the compo organizer resided, further taking the fun out of the season. Level 99 and Wildfire prevailed by making a song with explicit lyrics and an unintentional vocal resemblance to “Weird Al” Yankovic. At the other side of the classroom, blastron and I composed a somber dance pop song making use of several Minimoog V presets. Earlier in the week ThaSauce also had a round of People’s Remix Competition dedicated to the game The Lost Vikings. sggod89 stepped up to arrange the source material by turning it on its head; he infused the tune with jazzy groove and reconstructed the piece in the process.

Dwelling of Duels saw June end as the results of “Town Month” flooded in. As expected considering the theme, a large number of RPGs had been remixed including a pair of Final Fantasy tracks, Dragon Quest and Skies of Arcadia. DoD's distant cousin OLRmageddon finished up its round based on a “Racial Stereotypes” scenario. Captain Hypocrite mentioned he would possibly join, and kept his word thereby becoming the only entrant that month. His Super Punch-Out arrangement stayed within realm of chiptune and asked the question: “Do You Want Some Pizza-Cake?”

Sonic Zone Remix Competition hit a snag of controversy regarding the voting of the previous week; in the end Rexy and Phonetic Hero lost by a hair, spurring a mixture of reactions. Round four of the Robotnik Bracket picked up thereafter, pitting Brandon Strader against Gario. This also caused some commotion due to the implementation of vocoderized vocals; at best they fill up the soundscape, albeit unintelligibly. Brandon played to his strengths, putting to use his live instrumentation and singing to convey a sense of loss and confusion.

SDCompo reached the end of round 67 with nine entries in a variety of styles. This was perhaps because of the wider selection of VSTs allowed for competition: FreeAlpha, TAL-Elek7ro, MrTramp2, and Delay Lama. Meanwhile LLCompo: Battle 23 chose a theme for the week that was unusual given the framework of the compo: participants were asked to make original songs about video games. Leading the listening party was an introduction by Captain Barbatar, whose voice undulated from left to right as he murmured without aim. 

JHCompo on Tuesday marched off into the sun by way of its theme of “The Parade”. I started off the proceedings with my usual narration, this time mixed on top of the keyboard instrumental of “Robot Parade” by They Might Be Giants. chunter bopped his way in with a ragtime-tinged piece composed of lo-fi synth sounds. SonicThHedgog settled on a two-shot of old works since his workstation crashed: the first bangs along in the style of dubstep heavy in reverb; the second is more in line with electro house drenched in piano. irrelevnt pleased the crowd working out layers of sharply juxtaposed instruments and clips, mostly in a salsa style. Finally Duosis forwent any attempt to compose, and merely uploaded a song from an episode of Reading Rainbow.  

Thursday’s OHC brought the past week full circle on the subject of birth, life and “a new beginning”. On that note, or perhaps a dissonant note clashing against it, sci worked out some detuned chords and sliced up some breakbeats. Resonantwaves suffered a crash and seemed to continue sci’s precedent of pads and an ethereal mood. Several contestants referenced birth in their song titles: “(BIRTH)” by A-zu-ra warmed over some chips for adequate ambience; “Time Reborn” by OMGitslewis held a vaguely marchable flair; and “rebirth red” by SupaSpeedStrut ran delay over everything. Near the end of the listening party Roseweave put together a seemingly straightforward piece of electronica, although the elements seemed to jostle at the finish.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

This Is What Happened

As the summer swelters on, some music competitions rose up while others cooled off. Battle of the Bits continued its trend of blunt and direct names for rounds with “You Did Not Get This Far to Not Rock Out”. One track from this battle had a revealing title: “I first submitted before this compo started”. On the other hand, Svetlana ran the less descriptively titled “OHC#00898” and submitted the track “short-and-stupid” to it for good measure. Meanwhile the Swapalbum project was underway recruiting participants. Unlike most compos, the goal in Swap is to pass along works in progress to multiple people, each contributing to the track until it is complete.

Sonic Zone Remix Competition rolled out another batch of remixes as it reached round four of the Sonic Bracket. The road to glory became narrower as the tournament funneled to two entries: Amphibious and Xenon Odyssey’s track opens with mellow Rhodes action, and then opens up the soundscape to acoustic drumming, synthetic riffing and undulating saxophone with piano. Rexy and Phonetic Hero began their collaboration with the familiar chips of the past before laying down the beats amid a swarm of in-game sound effects. 

JHCompo on Tuesday lumbered into the “Land of the Dinosaurs” introduced by way of a narration backed by the Dinosaurs TV show theme song. dusthillguy was the first musical entry in, and he delivered his usual flurry of eccentric clips and instruments. ProjektZero return from hiatus to recite the definition of an extinction event, coupled with layers of rhythmic tonalities. mistermv also came back to the party, rousing up a sonic shrill leading into a cinematic score. Roseweave submitted what at first seemed like a straightforward track, but trolls its way into the entirety of George Clinton and The Goombas“Walk the Dinosaur”. At the end of the listening party SonicThHedgog played along on his guitar until he met his unfortunate demise to the jaws of a T-Rex. 

Thursday’s OHC settled on the teachings of ob-li-di ob-la-da as “Life passes you by”. In a rare display for OHC, the theme was accompanied by images: they consisted of time lapse photography of moving vehicles. natsukashi started things off with a description that seems scientific but at best contradicts itself; the song trips its way across a field of breakbeats an ambience. LavenderHarmony sent up a lavish orchestral take on the theme, noting that it could have benefitted from an intermediate section between the first and second halves. IXI took a moment to reflect on the meaning of time, but then put his thoughts aside for the sake of groove. 

An unofficial sub-theme for the night seemed to be abundance of pianos: seventhelement battled his ailing computer to get his keys going; A2Z dipped his ivories into heavy delay and deep pads; Misael.K ran what sounded like an ambulance siren throughout his tinkling notes; and DucksUnlimited sang over a recording of The Beatles’ “In My Life”, known for its sped-up piano during the song’s bridge. Duosis used gratuitous samples of Five for Fighting’s “100 Years” and capped it off with an obscure Ali G clip before finally putting into some electro. Finally jarski sent along a bonus track perhaps best described as he put it: “wind scene dnb remix”.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Freedom of Choice

The past week proved to a playground of options as far as where and when musicians could join compos. Battle of the Bits in particular held a fair number of competitions in the past few weeks with a variety of themes: some of the rounds had odd titles, such as “reliable internet broadband”, “what the hell botbrs” and "everyone vote on this". Perhaps the most specific was “If you are the owner of this website and weren’t”,  apparently referencing the domain snafu of the previous week. The song names continued this trend, as seen in Svetlana’s “I forgot how to make music” and Chip Champion’s “I found it finally”. 

People Remixing Competition 220 reconstructed science with sggod89’s selection of Portal 2 for entrants to remix. The source material melds an ambient soundscape with dance rhythms, opening up many possibilities for interpretation. OneUp sampled the praised “lemon speech” from the game and went forward using breakbeats. evktalo’s arrangement used the source’s bassline to the exclusion of other elements; he also noted the irony of remixing the game considering it causes him motion sickness. Zerothemaster went for rap vocals and an 8-bit asthetic, but decided against listing the lyrics in the description. Trism played around with a musicbox and un-tiss while sggod89 dropped a bonus entry of his own. 

LLCompo started things off with a narration by WVI, who admitted to still being sloshed from the last week’s round. Rather than announcing the theme of the night in a straightforward manner, he related an increasingly unsettling anecdote about a “Blackjack Dealer”. The Sonic Zone Remix Competition hit round three of the Robotnik Bracket revealing an interesting twist of fate: Brandon Strader’s guest vocalist Wildfire from a previous bout would go on to be Brandon’s direct competitor. Both of their tracks were in the running while Gario and Syllix dueled on in a narrowing field of four entries total.

JHCompo on Tuesday ventured on the motorway, tying in the weekend’s summer festivities with a “Road Trip”. Tomapella was the first to blurt out “WOO YEAH” and went to work building a talkbox-infused chillout track. chunter crash-cymbaled his way in and did some extended soloing for the occasion. InvisibleObserver finally removed his invisibility cloak in time to return to JHCompo under the swagger of an electrohouse beat. irrelevnt admitted to “Road Tripping Ballz” but nevertheless delivered a bass-and-whistle tune panned out to maximum efficiency. Finally Maraki started his engines in a sea of chippy blurps and skidded off the roadway by way of four-on-the-floor. 

Thursday’s OHC noticeably was missing its organizer for the night, and so it came as little surprise that theme was “Free for All”. With that in mind, BrandonS fooled around with Mellotron tape loops to produce a pre-manufactured arrangement, which he found to be ironic. TheMisterCat incidentally played with pad sounds on the keyboard, using nearly the same core approach as Brandon but outputting a completely different result. Roseweave recorded a new version of John Cage’s composition “4:33”, but defied the original by including a deliberate musical action i.e. beatboxing.

MandraSigma was the first of many entrants to reference the theme in the song title, as his “Anarchist Hipster” served as a synonym of sorts. Other included seventhelement’s “Freedom is a Competition”, A2Z’s “Loose” and CJthemusicdude’s humorous “Fwee for Soundfwonts”. Duosis made a rare appearance sampling a handful of clips, and used the final chord of Pink Floyd’s “Atom Heart Mother Suite” as a pitched instrument. At the end of the party munchi sent off “Tribal Loops” in an effort to expand drum and bass into the realm of drums and loops.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

The Compolympics

The Sonic Zone Remix Competition reached round two of the Robotnik Bracket resulting in 11 entries. The tournament has been home to some tense but fun banter amongst the participants, including Amphibious’ note that he sequences all of his arpeggios by hand because it’s “the only way.” In this sense, I felt like a reporter hanging out in the locker room after a sweaty game in the Olympics. Elsewhere Dwelling of Duels started June off with the wonders of “Town Month” in which participants could remix video game town themes. More specific rules apply, such as that the town be occupied by non playable characters. 

June was also the start of OLRmageddon, this time centering on the “Racial Stereotypes” of the gaming worlds. A list had even been provided with various examples, such as “evil Russians, evil Japanese, evil gays” in wrestling games. LLCompo made its transition away from SolidComposer and onto a site that it felt was more manageable. For round 20 the theme was “Your Worst Enemy” accompanied by an introduction by Saif and Kay Faraday, narrated by WVI: In a distinct change from the norm, it blasted along with a metal beginning that lead to quirky orchestral music topped by WVI’s ironic rant. Battle of the Bits had a slew of competitions in the past few weeks, but ran into a problem with its domain as of this writing.

JHCompo on Tuesday turned up the heat for its 102th round with its “Volcano Theme”. I began the nights proceedings with a spoken-word introduction gradually overcome by the sound of the earth’s crust shifting. SonicThHedgog sent up a brief riff fest of guitar and breakneck snare as he ascended “Mt. 5150”. skyndileg opted to take a flight out of the area, looking back on the aftermath of an eruption using somber strings, woodwind and bongos. nikola took perhaps the most fat out route by constructing an “epic space volcano” that he admitted was in the early stages of development. 

Thursday’s OHC settled on paying tribute to the “Death of a legend”, without saying who the entity was. After prompting, the compo organizer specified that the round was dedicated to Eduard Khil, better known as the Trololo Guy. Given the also-recent death of Ray Bradbury, entrants that night chose either direction, or to other places altogether. Slimeball got the top spot and bid rest to Khil via vocal samples pitched to resemble the funeral dirge. seventhelement was the first to forgo specific people and simply laid down breakbeats amidst an orchestral soundscape. 

Several others took the theme and went on their own journeys. TheMisterCat wrote an “Epitaph” regarding the mysteries of life; DDRKirby(ISQ) touched upon the Legend of Zelda and the legendary status of his own previous entries; johnfn dedicated his track to his own death since he neglected to study for finals; and CJthemusicdude asked the audience to avenge the death of a heroic friend. munchi slid onto home plate at the end with “Death of a Legend (instrumental)”, noting that he intended to have vocals in the chorus: fittingly the lyrics were "DEEEATTTH OOOOOFFFF A LEEGEEENDDD!!!"

Friday, June 1, 2012

Composing for the Weekend

Doubles Dash Compo 16 happened to fall on both the eve of Memorial Day weekend and the start of Blip Festival 2012. Perhaps not coincidentally the theme was “Roadtrip” at a time when people were likely traveling to celebrate the holiday. The turnout was slimmer than normal: DucksUnlimited and Neon Jalapeño joined forces to create “The Road to Perdition” displaying Duck’s vocals. The track is mostly laidback electronica until a sudden rhythmic shift near the end. Toward the end of the holiday break LLCompo: Battle 19 ran into a small implosion at SolidComposer, leading the round to migrate to another site for the party.

Dwelling of Duels received its entries on the half shell as “TMNT Month” reached its end. In addition to DoD’s usual rules, the month also offered that those with the highest ranked entries would go on to be part of the OverClocked ReMix project Shell Shocked. Meanwhile People’s Remixing Competition 219 also offered some album inclusion goodness by challenging participants to remix Gunstar Heroes for the Be Aggressive project. Both Danger Hawk and sggod89 were up to the task, and in a change of form the winner was decided by the project group rather than through a vote. 

The Sonic Zone Remix Competition saw round 2 of the Sonic Bracket bear remixed fruit. Unusually, one of the tracks came with a set of lyrics: Phonetic Hero’s “PseudoMeltdown” features the vocal stylings of Xarnax42. OLRmageddon on the other hand paid tribute to the lesser known composers of the video game world. For bonus points, the entrant needed to include the Wilhelm Scream in some way. Pinkos Anon obliged by putting the scream into a sampler and letting it run the gamut of pitches alongside the music of Star Control 2. He did however use other instruments besides the scream, thus losing the challenge stipulated by XO that would have led to a multitude of prizes including a custom forum title.

JHCompo on Tuesday brought things "Back to Basics" for its theme after I had teased at the many possible puns related to it being the 101th round. dusthillguy kept things simple by way of a mellow tempo and later dropped a beat. nikola welcomed the theme as it allowed him to put out a Game Boy tune using LSDJ. dskyndileg took a left turn by presenting a climatic showdown between two rivals, back by trance pads and guitar arpeggios. Due to a bit of awkward timing, Duosis uploaded an hip-hop “outro” before the actual final track of the night: irrelevnt worked up and down the piano scales and rocked out with stabs of “Apache”. 

Thursday’s OHC selected A2Z’s theme suggestion for the night: “Alone in the Woods” brought back compo memories as far back as the forest-themed round 51, nearly three years ago. dusthillguy started things off by puffing tobacco in the words, thereby avoiding a “smoking trees” pun. Obtuse appeared fresh off of his Blipfest experience to noodle away on bass and keyboard. Several people made of use of backward audio including sci’s mirrored vocal clips, IXI’s reversed cymbals, and Acuity’s choice to flip basically everything. At the end of the round Arcana found himself “Seeking the Way Through” using stock Logic Pro percussion sounds as he got out.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Aging Schoolhouse

This week the Sonic Zone Remix Competition saw the siege of the Robotnik Bracket, round 1. For the round, entrants had to remix their previous selected source material, as well as the material of the opponent. As for the storyline, cutscenes explaining the current plot points of the tournament are not available as of this writing. OLRmageddon offered a tantalizing premise for this month’s theme: with “Non-Famous Composers” participants are urged to remix tunes from the unsung heroes of video game music. For a bonus, people could also include the Wilhelm scream so long as they actually do a remix to include it in.

SDCompo further invested in its revisal of it rules by allowing other VSTs that contestants could use. Specifically FreeAlpha, TAL-Elek7ro, MrTramp2, and Delay Lama are available as weapons of choice. Battle of the Bits held a number of compos of its own, including one noting the seventh anniversary of the site. Other competitions held had a variety of colorful titles, including “Pixelz in teh morning coffee” in which pixel art variations of a cup of Joe were created, and the “haven’t tracked in a week, so this week has tracking”, which expectedly features tracker files. 

LLCompo: Battle 18 came across a vast “Wealth”, and according to the ASCII in the description was passed along from one Kirby to another. The round’s introduction narrated by WVI also contained background music by WVI consisting of he own voice. As noted by the intro, the turnout was smaller than usual but nevertheless filled with regulars. Some entrants chose to enumerate their wealth, like liquidwind’s epic lo-fi “75 trillion dollars” and the introduction’s more modest “$18”. Sear on the other hand simply claimed “All of It” before laying down frantic electronics. On the other side of the coin, Delphinus encountered a beggar asking “Spare Some Change” amidst piano, strings, record scratches and a sample of Pink Floyd’s “Money”.

JHCompo on Tuesday hit a milestone with its 100th round, and thus started off with a composite of previous intro narrations before establishing the “Space Station” theme. chunter entered the “Moog Space Century” both honoring the compo and Robert Moog’s birthday. Tomapella’s track brings to mind the brass-heavy electronica of Blast Corps. Kay Faraday brought out a frenetic dance pulse reminiscent of a Mortal Kombat session. Cooling things off was jmr, who offered some of his guitar stylings for an “Abandoned Colony”. Finally swordofdestiny seemed to bring in elements of dubstep, and asked the other entrants to name the song his chord progression came from. 

Thursday’s OHC got a bit old fashioned when it revealed its “Old-School” theme for the night. A-zu-ra apologized for the track he cobbled together whilst waiting in line for Fanime, and promised to make it up later. dusthillguy promptly followed this up with his own “Nads” adequately fitting the theme by using an old sample of my voice. Draconiator spun out a pun by stating that the schoolhouse is crumbling due to its age, and created a brief groove. A number of entrants went the way of hip hop for the night; Obtuse rapped over a funky backing track and live bass; A2Z settled on a kickdrum for rather long time and dropped chordal stabs; and Acuity spat rhymes into what sounded like a paper cup. At the end of the listening party Evdog took a left turn with rapid-fire 12-bar blues, asking “…so this is old school… right?”

Friday, May 18, 2012

Hella Good

People’s Remixing Competition 218 had an unexpected explosion of turnout activity compared to previous rounds. This was to the delight of the organizer Bundeslang and of sggod89, who selected Parasite Eve for others to remix. DjMokram expressed his fond memories of the game, and went to work with an electrified take featuring bits of other themes. hoboka made it in by a hair and submitted a mellow, tripped out version. Sir_NutS took a more electro route while PRC newcomer Trism settled on ambience. Meccaneer displayed his nostalgia via a searing piano lead and lo-fi accompaniment, and then sped things up toward the end. Obtuse and Chickenwarlord both chose to go for fast-tempo outing, with the latter entrant also incorporating Aya's theme. Sggod89 wasn’t one to hang back on the source material he picked, so he submitted a bonus entry that sampled a clip from the film Event Horizon.

The Sonic Zone Remix Competition reached the voting stage for round 1 of the Sonic Bracket, and thus unleashed a batch of Sonic the Hedgehog remixes. At 15 entries, the collection of arrangements could serve as an album its own right, and comes with its own artwork. The nearing deadline for the Robotnik Bracket promises just as large a turnout. Over at Dwelling of Duels it was decided to call upon turtle power with TMNT Month. As a bonus, participants could remix a specific few Ninja Turtles themes for a chance to be included in an OverClocked ReMix album: Shell Shocked. Those with the highest ranked entries would go on to be part of the project.

LLCompo: Battle 17 gave a brief shout out to Mother’s Day in the theme description, but plunged ahead into the depths of “The Jungle”. kfaraday’s introduction narrated by WVI wonders why the scenario was chosen, asked that the night be dedicated to dogs instead, and points out that a reading is unneeded when all the entries have already been created. A pair of tracks related to savages took the lead, with Oh Buddism’sCannibalismo” layering various acoustic elements and Delphinus’ having “Dinner with Cannibals” overhearing a conversation about meat. The night also had a fair amount of animal-related songs: PowerFail expressed his “Monkey Trouble” by way of slamming rock riffs while Smooth Suck asked simply “Why did the lion get lost?”

JHCompo on Tuesday dealt with the “Sudden Fame” of being an Internet star. With that in mind, chunter made a funk ballad about “Monsters” neglecting to provide context and thus leaving it open to interpretation. liikwiid also seemed to be puzzled by the theme and went ahead with kalimba experimentation. After a quick intermission by Duosis, the round continued madbrain who went for an eighties television show vibe about “Famous Ghosts”. SonicThHedgog did a quick YouTube search for a guitar solo and delivered upon it with expected wankery. Finally Clockwerk converted fame into “F['n l]ame” for a short but effecting bit of couch electronica.

Thursday’s OHC chose “To hell and back” as its theme, arising suspicion that the organizer was away playing Diablo III during the round; that thought was later confirmed. LOLitslewis started off with a parody of Tenacious D’s song “Tribute”, which itself is a tribute to the greatest song in the world. A2Z preceded his somber track with a laundry list explaining, among other things, that he is out of tomatoes. The entrants came up with a variety of plans to escape hell: seventhelement improvised his way out via endless brooding piano; blastron rode through the air and wrote rock lyrics to that effect; and Arcana simply ran as fast as he could, pushed along by trance. 

TheMisterCat’s song began with a low-key build that eventually leads to a seeming infinite epic chorus. DDRKirby(ISQ) took on a collaborative effort, allocating half of the time allotted to A-zu-ra for expansion and polish. After a slight confusion, Clockwerk clarified that he was late to the compo and uploaded a piece he made the night before. Duosis showed up to pay tribute to the late Donna Summer through a remix of “I Feel Love” containing occasional chemical breaks. At the end of the listening party DucksUnlimited offered “Your Mom”, an off-kilter electronic piece that encapsulated the zany nature of the night.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Spell It Out

The Sonic Zone Remix Competition began its first mixing stage following an extensive recruitment period. The introduction for the compo is much like the plots of the Sonic games themselves: something has gone wrong in the universe, causing the Sonic Bracket and Robotnik Bracket to form through some contrivances. The tournament promises some exciting bouts, particularly considering the large amount of veterans of previous tourneys such as the Wily Castle Remix Gauntlet. Worlds away over at SDCompo, its 66th round had quite a large turnout with thirteen entries. This was no doubt a result of the revised rules, which extended the usual deadline to six weeks, as well as the newly permitted use of four selected VSTs: Synth1, daHornet, Crystal, and TAL NoiseMaker.

LLCompo: Battle 16 settled on a location as its theme; along with the usual description, “Egypt” also had a pair of ASCII figures walking like an Egyptian. The intro narration by WVI and s1rnight started off with a mic check proceeded by an official decree of the royal pharaoh, and un-tiss. MKC made use of exotic scales before dropping the 8-bit beats and reaching the “Mummy Boss”. blink and the 364s took advantage of SolidComposer’s markdown by incorporating a line break, font resizing and boldness to display their metallic lyrics. The centerpiece of the night was a three-part odyssey conceived by Tilde, Sear and Paratroopa1 as separate tracks: “The Exploration of Harbinger’s Tomb” began with breakbeats combined with chips; it continued with a moodier journey into lo-fi material; and it ended with a lighter tone noted as being “No relation to parts 1 or 2.”

JHCompo on Tuesday threw everyone involved into a dancing game show complete with “Dancing with the Stars” as the intro backing music. AkogareZephyr appeared unexpectedly and offered a breezy scat entry. SonicThHedgog put up a consolation entry sampling James Brown and cranked to the utmost electrohouse volume. Duosis apparently recorded his funk tune with a blanket on the microphone before removing it partway through. skyndileg’s trip hop composition features arpeggios that would be more at home in a 50s doo-wop ballad, combined with trance lead. chunter laid down the funky jams, going back and forth between a clavinet, Rhodes and an airy synth melody. Finally Chickenwarlord contributed to the compo with a quickly-made ambient beat due to his late start.

Thursday’s OHC almost seemed to go meta with its “public forum” theme, as the compo itself has served as an open mic of sorts for various musical talent over the years. DucksUnlimited set the tone with much trumpeted fanfare, and a distorted vocal recording at “The Funeral Pyre”. Further speeches followed: seventhelement delivered his through a vocoder; sci went for a wah-wah effect; blastron full-out sang his words to the assembled throng. The round also had its share of instrumentals including darthpolly’s layered guitar and piano work, though he later felt that a rap would have been a good fit for the theme. The showstopper of the night came from DDRKirby(ISQ) who put together an eight minute piece setting off a flurry of comments in the listening party.

Some further rousing music came from TheMisterCat, who utilized his vocal and flautist talents to evoke a mournful yet driving mood. IXI’s slightly detuned keys supported several glitch effects before the boom-pat entered the fray. The round was not without overly quirky music though: CJthemusicdude made repeated references to DucksUnlimited, and fowl lamentation in general. My own entry “Raise Your Voice” seemed to raise eyebrows as the party wondered what the time signature of the song was. Finally munchi wrapped things up by twisting a mundane-sounding speech into an electronic session punctuated by guitar stabs.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Fire in the Disco

Doubles’ Dash Compo 15 aimed to spur friction with its “Showdown” theme and resulted in three teams of two for the night. The compo organizer Level 99 joined in without worry of unfair foreknowledge of the theme, because it had been set long in advance and had been forgotten by him. He and Brandon Strader grouped up as The Dying Dead of the Dead, and given the metal growling and antagonistic lyrics, perhaps the title could use more references to death. The Whoppers put together a light superhero-themed pop song in ode to the arch-villain, containing an extended guitar solo that soars higher than a caped crusader. Finally ProjektZero spat lines over Prophecy’s stomping beat with chords that bring to mind every hit Britney Spears song ever. 

People’s Remixing Competition 217 visited the world of Warcraft by way of an earlier game in the franchise, Warcraft II. The winner of the previous round, Chickenwarlord chose a track from the classic real-time strategy game for participants to remix. The lone entry came from sggod89, who delivered some moody rock building from one one of source material’s riffs. Not to be outdone by PRC 217’s slim turnout, OLRmageddon LIX had zero entries despite the enticing Batman-related theme for the month. Dwelling of Duels in April had its Free Month that allowed contestants to remix any game they desired. As a result the round covered a wide variety of titles including, as it so happens, Warcraft II.

LLCompo: Battle 15 again yanked its theme description from the dictionary: this time it accompanied its “Crime” with an ASCII rendering of a holdup. Kay Karaday’s introduction narrated by WVI seems to take place in a prison cell judging by the harmonica backing, although it gives way to 8-bit. Bipolarbear made the most of the situation, writing a song about being shot dead from a failed robbery. sonicmax managed to record would-be thieves stealing his piano, and uploaded the results. Perhaps the most cerebral entry came from johnny bigoode, who imagined that his laidback ambient groove would be perfect for “a heist in a hyped LA lounge bar”. 

JHCompo on Tuesday found its way into a “Processing Plant” for the night and urged the contestants to escape. Clunkst got lost, but did find out the “Secret of the Hot Dog”, which has something to do with chicken. chunter on the other hand got trapped in a “Synth 1 Plant” and thus created his song exclusively with that VST as his instruments. rwarman007 brought things back to the realm of hot dogs whilst delving into the factory of the mind. reaby similarly asked “Hotdog, Anyone?” and got swept up in wind effects before laying down the electronics. At the end of the listening party liquid wind encountered pickaxes and chiptunage so pumping that it clipped. 

Thursday’s OHC had its disco fever theme pasted verbatim from the person who suggested it, and thus the phrasing does not follow the usual format of compo descriptions. As a terminal illness, the fever gave entrants ample wiggle room to interpret it. CJthemusicdude informed the audience that since someone had won his trivia contest last week, he remixed a medley that winner’s previous entries. The first conventional entry of the night came from seventhelement who referenced the Bee Gees, but presented an original electrodisco track. blastron’s track was one of the first in the round to emphasize the terminal aspect of the theme, with “One Hour Left to Live."

A slew of disco-titled tracks followed, including “DICKSONITE” by Zovi, “Short Disco” by TheMisterCat and the thought-provoking “Disco at the Beach” by Misael.K. At one point it became clear that the organizer starla had left the round without an admin, so Misael made a point of clarifying that his later track "Chicken Popsicle" was actually a collaboration between Trancient and munchi. Wrapping things up was my own take on the theme: a cover version of Joni Mitchell's "Big Yellow Taxi", because you don't know what you're got till it's gone.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Home Again

This past week marked the final round of the World Warrior Remix Royale, which pitted contestants against each other in the name of Street Fighter remixes. Round 3 of the Shoryuken bracket brought in an entry by DusK, who gave the material the heavy rock treatment. The Sonic Zone Remix Competition was in the process of setting up its tournament, giving out the roster spreadsheet and encouraging future entrants to enjoy the Remix Royale in the meantime. In the realm of SolidComposer the “do what you do” compo promised a very relaxed approach to music making, and perhaps because of this the number of entries remained at zero.

LLCompo: Battle 14 elevated the participants to “The Sky” and provided a dictionary definition of the heavens above. Kay Faraday uploaded a “Captain’s Announcement” in which WVI mumbled through the speaker system about the plane’s imminent crash. The round featured its usual regulars: Tilde entered co-op mode with Underscore for a fusion of chips and strings; blink364 served up trance, hard drums and an assortment of blips; Saif presented his characteristic metals stylings. A number of tracks expectedly contained “sky” in the title such as Delphinus’ “Up in the Sky”, MKC’s “Skymall”, and intense intents’ rather imaginative “ssssskyyyyy”.

JHCompo on Tuesday unintentionally continued the Cast Away-like storyline of LLCompo by taking a raft on a “Moonlit Ocean”. Clunkst went so far as to call his composition “Wilson”, which he jotted down on paper during class beforehand. swordofdestiny made some magic using the applause sound from FL Studio amongst ear-catching chords. Tomapella’s provocative “Raft Porn” takes a gentle groove of synths and floats it over an ambient beat. Clockwerk made his way to Oahu in reverse and breakbeated along with an array of glitch effects, thus proving that the ukulele can in fact get the party moving.

ShinyBoom slung back on his “Electric Caustics” for a moody, eclectic mixture of electronics while liquid wind evoked a distant choir and bells for his “murmurs of the moon”. At the end of the night skyndileg sent up a stirring speech in tribute to a fallen vessel, which was particularly poignant given the recent re-release of the film Titanic. The ensuing voyage was such that it caused SonicThHedgog to experience the same “Night” thrice: his track that melded dance rhythms and rock guitars was short and fun enough to warrant being listed three times due to an upload error.

Thursday’s OHC tightened its wheels securely to the frame and prepared for a “Driving Competition”. LOLitslewis started things off with a “Genre Defining Intro” in the style of Randy Newman, whom coincidentally the organizer starla is not fond of. The round thus roared off into the late hours with JackShine’s return to OHC after several weeks joined by a pack of bees, and Zovi sending up an equally stinging wall of sound. After General Mumble unmentionably titled track and JackTHerbert specifically telling the audience “Don’t Listen to This”, CJthemusicdude turned the compo on its head by providing a game show quiz as his entry, running at 14 minutes.

The round featured its share of weathered veterans: Chickenwarlord had to suffer a fire alarm going off for most of the time allotted; Arcana turned on his Xbox 360 for a racing game backed by his own arpeggio-filled dance track; DDRKirby(ISQ) stunned the crowd once again by doing a dual homage to A-zu-ra and starla; and Bren produced his fabled brenchords that never fail to disappoint. Probably the most standout take on the theme came from sci, who broke the fifth wall by making an entry in which he hangs back to listen to the other entrants: in “The Drive to Compo” he simulated the music styles of Zovi, DDRKirby(ISQ) and dusthillguy.