Chip Bits: The Depreciation Guild – Spirit Youth

I first stumbled across Famicom indie rockers The Depreciation Guild way back in 2006 before the first Blip Festival and was immediately sucked into their absorbing, 8-bit infused shoegazey rock sound. While many artists drawing from the chip music world focus on a purist approach revolving around a favored piece of old school gaming hardware, this group used the retro bleeps and noise hits to drive a very different kind of musical vibe awash in reverb-laden guitars and subdued melodies. Their second full length album, Spirit Youth, showcases an incredible amount of polish and a substantive evolution in the band’s sound.

Listening to Spirit Youth, it’s clear the band has grown and undergone some changes over the years. Where their first album In Her Gentle Jaws showcased more of a raw, edgy sound that was bathed heavily in the pleasant sounds of the Nintendo Famicom, Spirit Youth ventures into musical territory situated on the poppier, safer end of the spectrum. The 8-bit sounds are frequently relegated to the background on most tracks,  leaving the listener wondering if there even there at times. That’s a bit disappointing, considering how prominently they factored into the earlier songs – something I enjoyed immensely about the band’s music. But the familiar 8-bit sounds do shine through the highly polished studio mix, and the songwriting remains as tight as ever.

It took some time to adjust to the melded sound, but Spirit Youth got it’s hooks in me soon enough. While the opener, My Chariot, immediately fired off an introductory barrage of NES synth arpeggios, it was the upbeat and melancholy bounce of Crucify You that first grew on me. Midway through the album, the melodic Sonic Youth-esque guitar licks in Trace blended nicely with the subtle downward synth drone in the chorus, making for another standout track. Through the Snow‘s urgent, driving beat and strong undercurrent of pulse channel noodling was equally appealing. Other songs filled in the gaps pleasantly, showcasing the band’s tight musicianship, meticulous guitar work, and ample vocal prowess. There’s not a dud among the lot, though the stylistic peaks and valleys between tracks doesn’t seem as stark as those found among the group’s prior work. 

Compared to In Her Gentle Jaws, The Depreciation Guild’s latest effort is a very different animal. It’s a big departure that perhaps plays it safe a little too often. Yet this follow-up album is a tightly crafted effort that I can highly recommend nonetheless. You can pick up a copy of Spirit Youth from Kanine Records.

New 8-bit Indie Tunes Free Download

Ok, I’ve been “chipping” away at writing and recording some new 8-bit indie rock tunes using my old school Game Boy DMG, LSDJ, and my trusty old six string. I’ve got three new tunes recorded at the moment for what will be my next full album, and I’m posting this here for regular readers to check out, download, and provide feedback on. These tunes don’t have names yet, they’re not necessarily the final mixes, and they’re simply the first pass at recording and mixing the tunes. I’d love to get some feedback on these few songs, particularly in how they contrast to the six songs on The Beacon e.p. (which you can still download for free, by the way, but I do like $3 donations for the effort). In any event, here are the three new songs for you to check out and critique:

Song 1 (download here)
Song 2 (download here)
Song 3 (download here)

Nintendo Power August 2010 issue Contributions

I’ve been a huge fan of NES cover band the Minibosses for many years now, and it was incredibly fun to be able to sit down and have a long phone interview with guitarist Aaron Burke a little while back to chat about the band’s history, the game music cover scene, and their future. While a portion of our interview was for research for Geek Beat Manifesto, I worked a fair chunk of it into a Community feature for Nintendo Power on the band’s 10 year innversary. That appears in the August issue on page 94. Also, my first Play Back piece remeniscing about the charm of Final Fantasy Adventure on Game Boy appears on page 84.

8-Bit Indie Rock: Download The Beacon e.p. For Free

Most folks who know me from around these parts are probably only familiar with my writing and video game-related work. Prior to making a go of being a writer, I spent many years as a musician playing in bands, putting out albums, doing shows, touring, etc. I don’t do much of that anymore, but I recently got back into writing and recording tunes while doing research and interviews for Geek Beat Manifesto. While exploring the ins and outs of LSDJ and Nanoloop, I also dusted off a few old guitars and started playing. Happy with the sounds I was making, I sat down and started recording everything. The result is my first instrumental 8-bit indie album, The Beacon, which I’m releasing today through my website as a free download. You can freely download all six tracks over at the album’s page here. If you enjoy the music, please consider making a $3 Paypal donation via the button found underneath the download links to help support future albums I’ll be writing and releasing. Please feel free to pass around the linkage and spread the word. Thanks for listening.

Chip Bits: Norrin Radd – Anomaly

Throw down some change, because I’m about to pick that shit up! Many, including myself, have attempted to marry chiptunes with the aesthetics of heavy metal, but I’ve yet to hear anyone fully master those untamably unholy sounds quite like Norrin Radd. No, not the Silver Surfer. The other guy. The product of four years of hard labor in the depths of some presumably warped trans-dimensional intergalactic hell, Anomaly is a dark and brooding concept album of chiptune metal that slams down the hammer of Thor like nobody’s business.

I’ve been to hundreds of metal shows over the years – witnessing everything from the blackest, darkest, most twistedly evil shit to some of the goofiest spoof grind bands ever – and Norrin Radd manages to nail every style in the broad spectrum of heavy metal in classic NES style almost effortlessly on this album. Blast beats, ultra heavy breakdowns, epic wailing solos, demonic growling vocals run through the DPCM channel, crazy technical tempo and rhythm shifts: it’s all there…and it’s brilliant. Excuse me while I form a circle pit and kick stuff around my office. Experience this amazing work of metal epicness by downloading it here.

New chiptune / guitar indie project / free music

Just a quick note. A few demo recordings of a new instrumental indie-rock-esque chiptune project I’ve been working on are now up on 8bc under the Foecrusher stuff. Though this is a separate project that will eventually be available in an album form, I wanted to get the first few tracks up to get feedback and share the tunes. This first batch of tracks were made with Nanoloop 2.3 running on a Game Boy Micro and added guitars that were all dubbed on an digital 8-track. The second wave of tunes after I’ve done a few more with Nanoloop will use LSDJ as the base chiptunage. There are three songs available, unironically titled Song1Song2 … and Song3 respectively. Feel free to stream or download them and leave comments. I’m really happy with the way the audio quality came out. I’ll post more on this here as the project continues to develop.

Feature: Checking in from PAX East: New Location, Same Love


“For anybody unable to afford the trek across country to PAX Prime every year, the announcement of a separate East Coast PAX was welcome. I can also imagine Boston business owners in the area near ground zero welcomed the news with excitement, expecting to cash in on the sudden crush of business. Some nearby establishments placed signs, like baited lures, welcoming attendees in clever ways. Others seemed genuinely puzzled over why their clientele suddenly made a rapid shift towards the geekier end of the spectrum. Whether it was ready or not, the city of Boston was host to a gamer influx of truly epic proportions.”

Check out the full rundown here at Ars Technica.