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.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Old and New

For the past week we’ve seen the continuation of established compos, and the launch of new ones. The World Warrior Remix Royale reached the voting stage for round 3 of the Hadouken Bracket. Both combatants pitted a Ryu theme against a Chun-Li one, but each resulting arrangement had its own distinct flavor: Ghetto Lee Lewis expressed a mellow piano groove backed by a beat, while Gario shook up the dancefloor and led this track with searing synths. People’s Remixing Competition 216 found a rescue in the form of a lone remix of the game Monkey Hero put up by Chickenwarlord, who admittedly created it due to the lack of turnout. 

The Sonic Zone Remix Competition began its recruitment period and planned to keep it open for two weeks, but interest was such that it locked at 32 participants in no time at all. SDCompo round 66 saw some revisions in its rules: the submission stage was extended to six weeks, and now allows the use of four VSTs – Synth1, daHornet, Crystal, and TAL NoiseMaker. At SolidComposer a new 3-hour compo cropped up by the name of “do what you do” stating its rules as not much more than that: "play music-you got three hours to do what you do".

LLCompo: Battle 13 spoke of the Illuminati, coupled with a description that effectively collapsed under the weight of its own conspiracy theories. The introduction for the night was narrated by WVI and s1rnight, who traded off top secret info about [REDACTED] only to be partially cut off by The Price Is Right. The regulars each had their own take on the theme, including MaxVdub’s “spooky” falling fifths progressions on guitar, PowerFail’s blues rock track “The Blueminatti”, and incorporator’s industrial track uniquely titled “illuminati”. Some new LLCompo entrants also appeared such as liquidwind putting on a chiptune spin while Clunkst made an intriguing suggestion to “Google illuminati backwards”.

JHCompo on Tuesday tried out some extended functionality by embedding a photo into the theme description; “Ancient Temple” was accompanied by a Mayan pyramid. skyndileg went to work sending his drones to do his bidding by way of a “Working Song”. At “Furg’s Temple" Clunkst put together quirky sonorities propelled by contant arpeggios. Maraki layered a soundscape out of various strumming takes, culminating in fast paced electronic frenzy. Clockwerk took some “Mayan Acid” and slid into a foray of ambience and hand percussion. Finally liquidwind directly referenced the assets of the photo for the round, thereby hinting at the fact that he had suggested the picture in the first place.

Thursday’s OHC lost its mind when it described the moment when one has lost perspective: a “Mental Breakdown”. On that note dusthillguy immediately uploaded his signature-style off-the-wall composition spanning 15 seconds. The listening party only became more random from that point as BrandonS talked about Final Fantasy II being amazing, and TheMisterCat formatted his lyrical text as a cumbersome scroll. The OHC organizer starla sent along a song of her own, backing her vocals with arpeggios and a glitch groove that would not be out of place in Tron 3. Trancient introduced a “NOHC” concept involving taking one’s own previous entry, polishing it and sending it along for a new listen. At the end of the night Jakesnke17 snuck in late with an ethereal soundbed and thick drums that was well worth the delay.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Composer Spotlight on Obtuse

Andrew Struve aka Obtuse has had a hand in musical communities for years, and has contributed his talents to quite a few projects. From his keyboard work to his live bass recordings, he has worked his skill and established himself as a standout performer. Obtuse has also seen himself delving into several styles of music through his releases including funk, trance and chip-infused tracks. He currently hosts the 8-Bit Power Hour on Arecibo Radio to showcase the various chip music of the world. I asked him a few questions about his past influences, as well as his current work and projects.  

Regarding his earliest exposure to music, Obtuse revealed that, “The earliest thing I can remember is having a Sony Walkman with a speaker and listening to my father's old Black Sabbath and REO Speedwagon cassettes. Black Sabbath probably had an influence on how I play a bass line. I loved playing Geezer Butler's bass lines.” He talked more specifically on his recent workflow: “Lately I use Reason and Famitrackerusually not together. If I’m stuck I just have to pick up my bass guitar and I come up with an idea. I usually start music with a bass line and some drums. I'd compare building a house with how I make music. I always start with the foundation and build up.”

He first learned about composition competitions in the fall of 2009, when an enthusiastic participant announced that one was about to start. From that point the concept of compos was compelling to him. As Obtuse explained: “I was drawn to them because there was a theme that gave me an idea of what to base my idea around. I also loved the time limit.” He later started his own short-lived orchestral compo, mainly the purpose of improving himself in that area of composition. Inspired by participating in the Doubles' Dash Compo, he also launched a one-time Super Smash Compo encouraging participants to team up for cooperative music making.

In competitions Obtuse is known for writing funk music both as a solo artist and in collaborations. A small running gag occurred when he implied that his grooves consistently prompt his co-writers to pen sexy lyrics. More recently he has put out a trance album and has also experimented with 8-bit tunes. He elaborated on these shifts in style regarding his output: “I love all types of music. I don't find much difference between genres. The notes are just played in a different way and the song is arranged differently. All genres are fun to play. As long as you can speak the language of music, no genre is off limits.”

At MAGFest 2012, Obtuse was part of an Arecibo Radio panel along with several other hosts. As he described the experience, “It was one of the first times where most of the Arecibo hosts were together in one place talking about what they love. I love doing my radio show on Arecibo Radio. I have to work to find new music for my listeners to check out. This forces me to keep up with what is happening with the chiptune scene. I love the feeling when someone tells me about great music. I like to pass that on.” He continues to host the 8-Bit Power Hour at

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Stunning Truth

This past week was home to a multitude of compos, bringing artists together and promoting growth for all those involved. The World Warrior Remix Royale reached the voting stage for round two of the Shoryuken Bracket, bringing out a trio of Street Fighter remixes. DusK rocked with an undertow of ambience; Main Finger paired double bass with heavy funk beats and scratches; and Sir_NutS stuck to his 80s electro vibe complete with accented piano chords. The end of the week promises to bring further fun when the Sonic Remix Competition begins, considering the many beloved compositions of the Sega franchise. held a number of competitions and showed a bit of innovation in a strict sense of the word. For the Chiptune Battle Challenge, Entrant A creates a tune that the Combatant B battles by playing off of that initial musical idea. The resulting track is then countered by Entrant A and so on, continued in brackets. This compo concept was innovated upon with the creation of the Weekend Battle Challenge, taking it further by incorporating themes for each battle, suggested by others and thrown into a hat. The organizer took pride in the fact that the Challenge uses an actual hat and actual strips of paper representing themes.

LLCompo: Battle 12 imbued the week’s “Dungeon” theme with the spirit of Easter this past Sunday by way of an ASCII bunny. As usual the listening party’s introduction was put up by Kay Faraday and narrated by WVI. The round was welcomed by its gang of regulars including Saif’s guitar noodling, PowerFail’s session of metal and WVI’s own lo-bit pop. As the pleasantries wrapped up, a technical snafu occurred causing one entry to appear twice: Jerkwater’s pulsing “MindDungeon” is perhaps one of those dance tracks that should be listened to more than once. 

JHCompo on Tuesday guided everyone “Home at Last” for the night and eased them to relax. Clunkst worked the piano and chimes to a set of harmonies befitting the title “the land of perpetual excitement”. irrelevnt fell asleep for half of the compo, but managed to put the remaining 60 minutes to good use for an acoustic guitar and vocal entry. Kay Faraday went into “Korby’s House” punctuating familiar synth stabs with silence. After running into trouble uploading his track Clockwerk presented his six minute long foray into IDM leaning toward break beats. Finally SonicThHedgog entered as a distant last, and urged other entrants guess his source material.

Thursday’s OHC prompted contestants to look back upon the past with its “Reflection” theme. Fusion2004 started things off by reflecting on a chipified chord progression and asking listener to guess which one it is. A slew on entries followed, a great deal of which mentioned reflections and mirrors in the track title. One that differed from the pack was Starshine’s inexplicably titled “pepperoni” that goes from mellow electronica to flat-out rock in less than a minute. sci chose to reminisce on past compo experiences while Arcana noted that his previous submission was labeled “reflection.mp3”. At the end of the night Beat Match replicated the chords from a Deadmau5 song and produced dubstep with increasingly abrasive gain, ironically revealing “The Stunning Truth” just as everyone went deaf.

Friday, April 6, 2012

The Nyan Games

Double’s Dash Compo 14 continued with its new rule of adhering to a theme for participants to follow: In addition to collaborating with a songwriting partner that night, entrants had to write a song about intimacy and closeness. The two teams each tackled the challenge from contrasting perspectives: “Wishy Washy Relationships” is sexually explicit while “Hugging Time” dealt with brotherly affection. SDCompo also completed its 65th round with a handful of submissions adhering to the samplepack and tracker requirements established on the site’s rules. Battle of the Bits had a fair amount of competition activity over the last week as well, including a “KLINK” battle based on a pack, and a “Spring Tracks” compo forbidding cover versions of any kind. 

People’s ReMixing Competition 215 fared well in terms of remixes submitted, with three entries. For the round two Phoenix Wright source tracks were selected, and contestants were encouraged to rearrange both. JerryTerry intended to remix only one, but settled on an amalgam of both by starting off on mellow piano and building to a degraded electro beat. For his first remix Darren Schwinghamer tacked the material with an orchestral spin, which proved to be more difficult for him with software than using the acoustic instruments. A wild Chickenwarlord appeared and worked out a quick entry due to time constraints, introducing a new set of lyrics. 

OLRmageddon LIX featured “Batman” as its theme and had the additional stipulation that entries include a self-made drawing of a villain conceived by the entrant. Thus the music and the drawing would be voted upon separately. Dwelling of Duels had its jingle month that focused on the shorter video game tunes of the world, and perhaps as a result the turnout was smaller than usual. The Street Fighter compo World Warrior Remix Royale began the voting stage for round two of the Hadouken Bracket, which had remixes from Ghetto Lee Lewis and OA leading to a close vote. On Sunday LLCompo Battle 11 fell upon April Fool’s Day, which was acknowledged in the description but was otherwise not a part of the round’s “Anime” theme.

JHCompo on Tuesday took participants on a perilous journey as “The Messenger” to deliver a package on time. SonicThHedgog preceded the festivities with a JHC advertisement of his own creation on his SoundCloud page. With a bed of synthesizers, MandraSigma sent his bad news successfully and ended on a tempo slowdown. Shadix made his “Interstellar Distress Call” braving a bevy of asteroids, cosmic strings, and other things that are probably in space. SonicThHedgog made a 911 call by way of ambient electronics and some familiar video game sounds, followed by some electronic. Finally Duosis delivered late and pitched some sample-loops to set a mellow mood lasting a little over a minute. 

Thursday’s OHC brought back the ghosts of days gone by with its “Haunting Past” theme. Unlike the last few rounds, the night was without an introduction by The Stuff of Legends. Instead the listening party started off with “The Haunting White Boy Rap” by LOLitslewis putting together sub-bass, a drum machine, self-deprecating lyrics and a Nyan Cat exit. A number of newcomers joined OHC, including Gottvich with gritty ambience and blastron using copious amounts of reverb. The round was also home to longtime veterans: Arcana's submission made use of strings and oboe; sci bounced along the dancefloor with vocal samples; and DDRKirby(ISQ) fittingly sent along a re-imagined Kirby’s Adventure tune. At the end of the party the_lulzorz disqualified himself when he indulged in a “Nyan Hop” bathed in breakbeats, thereby creating a bookending effect.