Friday, March 27, 2009

Nerd News in Brief

For the record, I have nothing of consequence to add to the recent "SyFy" debate. But that won't stop me from speaking my piece.

I mean, we all realize that this is a shitty idea, right? In a world where being a nerd is slowly but surely becoming an asset, the Sci Fi Channel wants to distance itself from the hard-line geeks that have kept the ship afloat for some 17 years. Whatever. That's a little insulting, but not so much as the network's complete and total misunderstanding of our culture as a whole.

I dunno, it just seems to be an odd approach even considering that disconnect. If SyFy wants to reach a broader audience, perhaps it should realize that nobody watches those awful goddamn original movies. That would be a nice start.
  • How Does He Breath?: My pal Beefy has a brand new EP free for the taking. It is entitled The Adventures of Beef Thompson: IN SPACE, and it's a collection of fun freebie tracks from the past year.
  • Like Darryl Hannah: In case there was ever any doubt, Jarod is the fucking man! He has made his amazing recording of Optimus Rhyme's farewell show available at Listen and cry like a baby as an era comes to a close.
  • MinMaxed: Also on the free music tip comes the debut solo album from Aussie MC The Ranger. 12-tracks strong and featuring the additional talents of T.y.T., Super Dragon X, DJ Snyder, Random, and Jesse Dangerously, The Cook-Up is an easy recommendation. Trust me; you want this shit!
  • Game On: There's also been a pair of interesting game-related releases getting some press in recent weeks. Antisoc hipped me to the Ocarina of Rhyme mash-up, and the great Larry Legend to Jesse Tugbout's 8-bit hip-hop medley.
  • Color me Depressed: On a related note, the latter of those two albums was recently profiled by a blog called ChristWire. Okay, maybe "profiled" isn't exactly the word I'm looking for. Defamed, maybe? Mischaracterized? Suffice to say that, as a native of the rural south, it takes a fairly impressive level of racially insensitive bullshit to phase me. This is it.
  • We Don't Serve Their Kind Here: Church was kind enough to turn me on to yet another free music find. It's a digitized version of a promo sampler from a funky post-grunge Star Wars rock outfit called Twin Sister. Cop it from Other Poison Devils.
  • He' s very Superstitious: Also from Church comes this little jewel: The Top 5 Geek Rock Stars. Frontalot and The Protomen made the list, as did some interesting selections from the mainstream.
  • In the Dork of the Night: Dorkgasm has a really nice review of the Nerdcore For Life documentary that is both even-handed and insightful. Give it a read.
  • Girls Gone Wild: Jason, of Geek Studies, found this chart that shows the virginity rates among students at Wellesley College. It is sorted by major, with the more studious seemingly tending to hold onto their v-cards longer. Let me spell it out for you, guys; if you're in Massachusetts, try and find a Wellesley studio art major. That seems like what we call a sure thing.
  • More Punk Than You: MC Lars was recently interviewed by the UK rockers at Trash Pit Magazine. Give it a look, and admire Lars's excellent Wesley Willis t-shirt.
  • The Last Two Are Lies: What can we expect from the new album from the lovely Marian Call? Weird instrumentation. Quirk. World music influence. Better production. Dogs and cats living together. Mass hysteria.
  • On the Free: Gugger Fane alerted me to the fact that the We Are Wizards documentary is now available for free viewing from Hulu. This is easily six kinds of awesome, and I all but demand that you check it out.
  • Game Music 4 Most: Reader Drystan Knight would like for you to turn your attention to Games Radar's list of 23 Amazing Game Soundtracks You Don't Remember. I'll be damned… I really don't remember some of those.
  • All Science, No Fiction: funky49 got some press for his recently released Rapbassador EP from his native Tampa Bay Times. Just follow the link, choose the March 20th edition and hit up page 42. There he be.
  • Maybe, Baby: funk also let me know that his previous release Starblazer will be featured alongside other geeky masterpieces in cdbaby's Nerdcore Hip-Hop collection beginning April 6th. From the forwarded message from cdbaby central: "The geek shall inherit the earth. Or at least invent his/her own brand of hip hop, reliant on clever wordplay and bitingly esoteric themes. You're about to get schooled." Get excited!
  • Insert Coin: If you are already excited about the second installment of Game Music 4 All's Here Comes a New Challenger series – and I truly believe you are – check out the GM4A MySpace for a sneak preview of the track "Untitled." It's so fuckin' cool it doesn't even need a title.
  • Coming to Your Ci-tay!: Random needs your help. The big man wants to tour the country this summer, and he's looking for venue suggestions. Give it some thought and then holler atcha boy.
  • OMC: mc chris has announced his tour dates for April and May of this year. He will be playing all over the goddamn place. You should go see him.
  • Chip-tastic: To wrap up this week, I present this great vid from our new friends I Fight Dragons (who will, I am told, be opening for DragonForce in Milwaukee next month!). It's a bit of a primer that explains how the band uses various controllers and videogame peripherals to perform their unique blend of electronic pop-rock live on-stage. Get enlightened.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Impromptu Awesome

Last night my friends Shael Riley and int eight (of Dual Core) rocked Bababudans in Cincinnati. At one point Shael put eighty on the spot and asked him to freestyle over the riff from Grammar Club banger "Balloon Flight." Thankfully, there was a camera on-hand.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Arm Yourselves

In polite society, one always concludes old business before proceeding to the new. It should come as no surprise, however, that I am not a member of polite society.

To put it more bluntly, I still have two reviews left over from 2008 that have yet to make it to post. What sucks is that these are reviews for two of the most interesting VGM albums of the year.

I know, I know; that kind of stuff is more in Anthony’s sphere than mine, but sometimes you have to step up your game.

The first of these "lost" reviews is for Confidential 2.0 by eclectic electronic duo 8 Bit Weapon. While most chip musicians tend to exist well outside the mainstream, 8BW has managed to garner much recognition via a series of shows and projects attached to such recognizable names as Microsoft, E3, Nokia and Disney, and founder Seth Sternberger has recently announced that Sony will be releasing 8 Bit Weapon’s A Chiptune Odyssey loop library later this year.

With all this high profile attention, one may be tempted to dismiss the band. However, after thoroughly digesting the album in question, I can say with certainty that the artistic output truly surpasses the hype. 8 Bit Weapon is that rare example where the interest - the "buzz," if you will - is wholly deserved.

Don't believe me? Read on.
  1. "Times of Lore Intro (Remix)"
    Confidential 2.0 opens with a track from the original Confidential 1.0 release (circa 2003). This short, drum-heavy attention-grabber is hard to resist, and it makes the perfect jumping off point for the album to follow.
  2. "Neuromancer Ending (Warhol Edit)"
    "Neuromancer Ending (Warhol Edit)" is another carry-over from the original release. Through the expert use of stereo panning and a totally solid groove, this one makes for another accessible chiptune. It's cerebral without being exclusionary, and serves as further proof that SID-based music can be just as engaging as any club cut.
  3. "M.U.L.E. (Bitblaster Mix)"
    This third track also harkens back to Confidential 1.0, but it’s a sharp, danceable number that’s somehow simple without being simplistic. The melody is instantly engaging, and the overall dynamics of the track makes it an early high point.
  4. "Inspector Gadget (GOGO Mix)"
    This glitchy, frenetic meditation on what is certainly one of the most iconic television melodies forever engrained in the psyche’s of those in their 20s and 30s, "Inspector Gadget (GOGO Mix)" respects the source material without ever hesitating to bring in original elements. As the first of 6 previously unreleased remixes to grace Confidential 2.0, it should serve to elevate the album even to those familiar with the its former incarnation.
  5. "Crazy Comets (Orbital Decay Mix)"
    Alternately dark and chirpy, "Crazy Comets" may alienate those seeking lighter musical fare, but when it kicks in at the 47 second mark it is an undeniable disco juggernaut. At almost 5 minutes in length, this classic still manages an elegant wind-down that leads perfectly into "Chimera."
  6. "Chimera (Miles Mix)"
    With "Chimera (Miles Mix)" and its predecessor being the only songs from the original Confidential that still retain their relative placement, it is no surprise that the two work so well together. This song recalls the best of 80s electronica, with elements that smack of retro jazz-house and yet somehow possess a futuristic, almost otherworldly musicality. Smooth but sharply punctuated, even five years after its debut, this song is still a highlight.
  7. "Spy vs Spy II (Drunk n' Basement Mix)"
    Originally released on the back-end of Confidential 1.0, this track wraps up the first third of this album well. While minimalistic and slightly ambient, it also harnesses a sense of urgency. It tells the listener that the journey is far from over.
  8. "Bards Tale II - Sanctuary Score (Ybarras Mystic Mix)"
    Ably capturing the spirit of classic gaming, this mix is a loving tribute to the soundtracks of old. The heavy emphasis on deep drum sounds, however, lets us know that the song is no simple piece of background music.
  9. "Defender of the Crown (Royalty Remix)"
    An easy favorite of mine, "Defender of the Crown (Royalty Remix)" has a similar spirit. It is expertly rendered, but, sadly, a bit too short.
  10. "Movie Monsters Game (Disco Terror Mix)"
    This throwback to Confidential 1.0 marks a distinct change of pace. It sports a far more dissonant melody, but is not without its merits. It can be summed up as elegant yet challenging.
  11. "I.G.U.S.T.R.A."
    This new addition offsets what could have been a slightly too lengthy intro by expertly employing a drum track to create emphasis. Its warbling lead is undeniably rave-inspired and makes the song strong enough to stand proudly next to any piece of more traditional house music. Herein 8 Bit Weapon plays with voicings and genuinely crafts something epic while obviously relishing the task at hand.
  12. "Commodore C64 (Bit Blitz Mix)"
    The old school minimalism of its early measure give way to a crushing dance groove. Another easy high point, "Commodore C64" summarily squashes any criticism of chip music (and, for that matter, broader electronica) as un-relatable or distant. 8 Bit Weapon’s mastery of tempo shines through, and makes for a most enjoyable track.
  13. "Boulder Dash (Dubby Dirt Mix)"
    Another exclusive, "Boulder Dash" is cool and mellow, if not particularly dubby. It’s got a simple, delicate power, though.
  14. "Acidgroove (Orchestral Mix)"
    With a frenetic drum push and a fantastic build, this track combines very organic sounds with those that are undeniably artificial to great effect. It’s eerie and surreal - I described it in my review notes as "like a nightclub shark attack" - but also robust and compelling.
  15. "Arkanoid (Bonham Beat Mix)"
    This dirty, chippy masterpiece demands much of the listener, but the discriminating ear will find it well worth the effort. As tight, dense and drum-heavy as the title implies, don’t discount the ability of its lilting lead (which is, oddly enough, way in back of the mix) to add extra depth.
  16. "Mars Saga (MrJetlands Slow Jam Mix)"
    Very laid back and almost sinister, "Mars Saga (MrJetlands Slow Jam Mix)" is a relatively slow and steady head-bobber.
  17. "Defender of the Crown (On the Romance Tip)"
    Sharp and sorrowful, this mix features what could arguably be an annoying high end. Still, I find it well-balanced and infectious.
  18. "Times of Lore Title (Epic Hendrix Mix)"
    This song is, as the title implies, epic. A 7-minute opus that takes us from the wind-swept plains, to bustling city streets resplendent with movement, into the undeniable danger of a subterranean dungeon, and ultimately to the eye of a raging (yet somehow doleful) storm, it is an amazing piece that serves as one of the finest closing tracks I’ve ever experienced. Notice that I didn’t say heard; I truly mean experienced.
From start to finished, Confidential 2.0 is an inspired, thrilled-packed ride. Though not necessarily for non-chip-heads, it features enough undeniable gateways to this peculiar world of electronica to keep even the more hesitant properly placated. For true fans of VGM, however, there is truly nothing to dislike about the album.

It is alternately simple and complex, accessible and esoteric, but it is never disappointing.

Though this tardy review means that many have already purchased this release – and are, no doubt, anxiously awaiting its follow-up – Confidential 2.0 is an easy recommendation for even the most discriminating fan of SID-based electronic music. It is available via both iTunes and Amazon MP3, which puts it well within the grasp of all interested parties. And if I can impart one piece of wisdom to you as I close out this post it is that each of you should rightly be interested.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Podswap 09 - Fool Me Once, Shame on You

For those of you still interested, let me just put out a friendly reminder that Podswap 09 is set to go down like so many tons of bricks in just over a week. So, if you'd like to expand your podcast audience (while simultaneously fucking with your regular listeners), pair up with a fellow podcaster and trade shows.

This can be as simple as recording your regularly scheduled podcast and then merely swapping file and feed links with your partner, or as delightfully convoluted and literally trading hosting duties. That all important decision is left up to the individuals, my beloved compatriots. I trust your collective judgment.

And let's face it; the worst than can happen is nobody else plays and I end up swapping podcasting duties with myself. In which case, wackiness will surely ensue.