Yakuza Finally Finished!

It took a while, but the wait was worth it as I think it is our best mixed song so far. Yakuza is one of the darker songs off the album but one that we find hauntingly catchy. It is, so far, the only song on the album in 3/4 time and that uses the NES, OPL3, and SID chips within the song. The SID and OPL3 sounds were from a SammichSID and SammichFM respectively. We wanted to include the GameBoy but when we first started writing the song we didn’t have all the stuff needed to make and record music on it and found that it didn’t sound quite right (we were trying to shoehorn it in and it just didn’t work).

In any case, you can listen to and download the song in various places (such as SoundCloud, on the album page as well as most of the links on the right). You can purchase a high quality version of the song from BandCamp as well as pre-order the entire digital release of the album there if you like.

For the lazy, here it is. Right here in the blog post – thanks SoundCloud, we love you!

[soundcloud url=”http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/18117077″ params=”show_comments=true&auto_play=false&color=340080″ width=”100%” height=”81″ ]

The Allure of Vinyl

We are probably only about halfway through recording our latest album or so but I am already thinking about how to release it out to the world. We know we are going to do a digital release and will likely release the individual songs freely in some form. Higher quality versions maybe for donation (whether or not that donation can be $0 is still up in the air). We also talked about doing a run of CDs.

The thing is, CDs are boring and low quality anyway. Our album is not exactly the best example of dynamic range given than there isn’t much range to be had from our chip-synths, but CDs, just, bleh. If it were between iTunes and CD, I would go with the CD but we are already going to be releasing our songs in 24-bit/96kHz which is already well above both mediums. So, to me, a CD is pointless. But vinyl?

A friend of mine who is into vinyl and I were talking and he made an excellent point – a vinyl record is about the album. While our songs sound good outside of the album, we really liked the idea of telling a story not unlike what you would find in an NES game. So, for us, the album is still somewhat of an important idea. Beyond that, yes, there are audio differences – whether vinyl is better or not is beside the point. It surely won’t be better than our master, but would our music naturally sound warmer by being carved into grooves? I honestly don’t know but would love to our album on vinyl myself to find out.

I do like the idea of vinyl as a collectors item. I have thought about a lot of crazy options for the special edition version of our album, but this is perhaps my favorite idea. The issue for us is definitely cost. Doing a full LP could run us probably around $1,000 dollars. We’re a small band and $1,000 could buy us some very very nice gear that we don’t currently have. While I don’t expect to recoup all the costs of doing a small run of vinyl, to make it justifiable, we would need something.

I am not sure what we will end up doing but my thought is to sell the special edition of our album, in whatever form we decide, for around $20. WIth that comes a copy of our music in digital (and maybe analog) form, copies of our masters in the form of Ableton Live packs which include the original FamiTracker and LSDJ content, a non-commercial license to remix and distribute your derivative work (if you wanted to do something commercial, just ask us), and perhaps print copies of some of our artwork.

I’m a collector and as a fan of any band, I really like to have something unique and memorable about the band. I kick myself for not buying Pendulum’s latest album (Immersion) when it was available on vinyl (now I can only find the remixes off their store). It’s my extra donation, if you will, to the cause, but also something for me. Vinyl is that, and then some. So for me, it’s something I’ve been pondering about for a long time just as an enthusiast. How about you? Would you buy vinyl in a digital world? I put up a vote topic just to see what our fans thought. It’s on the bottom right side of the page of our website. Let us know!

The Genesis Machine (teaser)

Lately I have been wanting to try my hand at Little Sound DJ, a native GameBoy tracker to see if it might make a worth addition to our arsenal of chiptune hardware. Quite a few chiptune musicians seem to use it and it has a few differences from the NES in terms of sound.

Early this week I ended up getting enough parts in the mail to start playing around with things and ended up making a neat little song that uses both the GameBoy and NES (actually FamiTracker since I was sort of lazy and haven’t yet exported the sound out to the PowerPak to record it properly):

[soundcloud url=”http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/16770956″ params=”show_comments=true&auto_play=false&color=340080″ width=”100%” height=”81″ ]

The song is really just an idea, but it already has a name: "The Genesis Machine." No idea if this will end up being on Chipsurf Pipeline or not but it is a neat little track just the same. You can definitely hear the differences in the audio produced by the GameBoy versus the Nintendo. In fact, I tried making the song using the MMC5 NES mapper for the extra square channels and it didn’t sound at all the same.

This song was a good test to see how involved using both the NES and GameBoy would be. Right now, they are not synced to each other at all, so I cannot hear both parts of the song at the same time without first exporting them out to Live. It makes things a bit more challenging but also more inward – I have to think of the song more in my head before putting it down and, in a way, that is a benefit. I do plan on building the ArdunoBoy so that I can sync the GameBoy via MIDI. I have tried doing that before in FamiTracker and didn’t have much luck. Though a solution to that problem is to get a MidiNES, I tend to prefer the workflow of FamiTracker. I could simply control MidiNES using Renoise if I wanted to keep a tracker-style interface but all the tracks we have composed for Chipsurf Pipeline use FamiTracker. Really, my problem is solved if FamiTracker had more sync options, or even rewire. Then I could compose everything at once and simply have to output the results to an NSF file and dump it on the PowerPak for a final recording run.

In any case, the GameBoy is indeed a worthy addition to my arsenal. Turns out my particular GameBoy is one of the first runs and has issues with the wave/digital output. So I haven’t been able to use what is arguably the coolest feature of using the GameBoy but I have another GameBoy I just purchased off eBay that should work nicely. After that, it’s modding time!

Symphony of Vengeance Ready For Mastering

We have finished the arrangement of Symphony of Vengeance and it is now ready for mastering. That in it of itself is a time consuming endeavor, mostly due to having to record out the NES audio into separate tracks. This is where we take a bit of license over using the standard mono out of the NES since we need to balance out the audio with all the guitar parts. Plus the standard mono out is super noisy. Tim was able to get around most of this by creating an audio mod he called the NESA. It is basically a CMoy-inspired amp designed to safely and cleanly route audio off the 2A03 chip directly. The results are awesome and it still is in the spirit of all that is the NES – the only audio work we do is to adjust volume, panning, and sometimes add a bit of reverb. Everything else is direct off the NES.

Symphony of Vengeance itself is a rather dark song depicting an epic, revengeful battle, our character has to endure in order to avenge the death of his loved-one. Though dark, it still has some pounding an energetic moments with twists and turns along the way. We are not yet sure if we will release this song before the completion of the album itself, but we think the wait will be worth it either way!