Jay Tholen - Vainglory EP release

Jay Tholen, the man I have fawned over as a musical genius for the last couple years, has an EP out. Blending his styles from experimental albums along with his chiptune side to create a strange journey through a crackling, strangely soothing world. Haunting vocals, and effective use of, well, effects, create a soundscape that is easily recognizable as a brand of music it seems only Jay Tholen can make. I could write quite a few things about my view of music, as shaped by this one man's fusion of narrative and music. Look at me going on again, this was supposed to be just a few quick sentences.

Well, one day I will write the 6,000 word essay that Jay Tholen deserves. Until then, I'm just going to listen to this EP one more time. Then probably listen to all the other Jay Tholen albums too...

Alex Mauer - Koalie is Dead album release

Originally due to be killed in 2010, Koalie has survived on the edges of the internet. Now, Koalie is Dead, and it's all because of Alex Mauer. Dig the ominous NES catchiness like only Mr. Mauer can provide. Great music to get lost to, whether in a dark cave, or the open sea.

C-jeff - Electric album release


Thanks to Pause, I have had my first introduction to one c-jeff, a chiptune artist from Russia. He has just released a three song EP that spans a globe trotting 30 minutes entitled Electric. In only three songs this album seems to span an endlessly changing sea of genres, styles, emotions, and ideas. From soaring jazz compositions to cavernous crunching riffs, all the tunes have so much emphasis as if pain staking thought went into each note written in every track. This might be because of the inspiration of this album, which may just put the music into a little more perspective.

The plot of Electric is the life of one man - from his naïve childhood, through happiness and darkness to the final light of heaven. This album is dedicated to memory of my father, Oleg Zhemkov, the great rock-musician whom I lost in spring of 2008. I miss you.

With that in mind, it's very easy to see this album as a sort of biography for a lost loved one. Each piece of work can conjure up a specific mood, and even specific feelings and memories.

Brilliant chiptunes meld with incredible guitar work to create an aural treat over these three tracks, and will definitely leave no one disappointed. This album, along with the recently released Kind of Bloop continue to forge a path in chiptunes that shows that chiptunes are diverse, emotional, and versatile. Despite critics claiming otherwise. Be sure to download this album from Pause and listen to the incredible compositions for yourself!

little scale - Dynasty release


Once again Pause netlabel releases another amazing chiptune album filled to the brim with intense sounds and incredible music. That album is Australian chiptunist little-scale with his EP Dynasty. The two track EP is a glitched out two track romp through the epic kingdoms of the past. Or as Pause describes it "little-scale’s ‘Dynasty’ combines the minimal with the progressive, exploring the use of sonic morphologies, complex textures and hypnotic timbres. Recorded from a Sega Master System and a NES."

The album is a simple two tracks long, but with each song lasting over five minutes each, the EP manages to cover a lot of ground. Dynasty 1 is the first song which has a very glitched out rough and ominous vibe to it. This leads directly into Dynasty 2, which sets off with the same ominous yet lighter tone, until about a minute in, where we reach the inner workings of the song and things take on a more ambient tone. This eventually leads to the upbeat ending. But this suddenly changes direction at the end and becomes a crazy wall of sound until just one beat is left standing until it fades into static.

As with all Pause released and everythint little-scale creates, this album is very much worthy of a listen.

iqtu - Rollie Poley Years EP release


Imagine taking all the serious business of preschool playground activities, now imagine adding a soundtrack to that. Where you would end up is probably pretty close to the new album Rollie Poley Years by iqtu. The 9 song EP is 15 minutes of relaxing melodies and smooth sounds. I could best describe the EP as nostalgic dreaming music. The songs move quickly between one another and the soft notes definitely give you that reminiscing feeling. Also, this one is especially a great album to listen to while writing I must say (since I am listening to it as I type this)! Definitely head over to Pause right now and grab this album, then just sit back, relax, and enjoy.

zan-zan-zawa-veia - mole soul ep release


Lately I have been falling behind on all the great releases over at Pause and am now trying to rectify that terrible mistake! I begin my bit of catch up with the mole soul ep by zan-zan-zawa-veia. The album is 6 adventerous tracks of simple melodic tones infused with glitchy sounds and textures. I think zzwv explains it best.

This cream of nine month’s work is a set of curious songs sung by a neglected NES, buried alongside the sounds of dinosaurs - progressive rock, the earliest game soundtracks, cabaret and other such styles left to hibernate. All six pieces avoid the immediate and mechanical, instead delving naturally into exploration.

With an explanation like that it's no wonder this album is such an odd smattering of music. The album is definitely better for it though. You can hear the influence of old game soundtracks with the infusion of small catchy riffs that will have you feeling like someone is playing a classic NES game of your youth off in another room. As with all Pause releases this one seems to bring something new to the table and is an interesting listen to say the least.

alex mauer - Vegavox 2 album/cartridge release


What can possibly be said of alex mauer? Both an amazing chiptune musician, and artist alex mauer has released his new album Vegavox 2 via pause in both mp3 and nes rom cartridge format for free download (link to download here). Not only this, but for the big fans and collectors, alex mauer (with coding by nocarrier) also saw fit to make this his third album to be released on an actual Nintendo Entertainment System cartridge! For $30 the limited edition one of a kind Vegavox 2 album will be yours to place into your NES and rock out with the lovely on screen graphics and effects. For a taste check out the preview below.


Now as for the actual music. It's of course stellar to say the least. Kicking off with Zenith the album comes with a space age tune but the following track Floating Point has us searching through a deep dark cave. Gravity Hill brings us out of the cave and into a dangerous forest, and from there we arrive at the Law of Cosines, which is the boss battle if there ever was one! The album is quite on the short side but doesn't suffer for it. As mentioned the music will take you on a catchy trip from one land to another and you will enjoy every beat and pulse of it!

II release double EP from Phlogiston

Chiptune netlabel II have just released Nectar by Phlogiston:

Nectar is essentially two EPs in one. Croqel Adventure is the semi-sequel to Croqel - continuing the tradition of short, fun and pure NES tunes. Heat takes you back to an 80s vision of the future; you’re given a tour through a vast dystopian city where high tech low life roam the streets, and the differences between man and machine have been washed out.

The first half of the release, Croqel Adventure, features 10 tracks, while Heat features 5 tracks, 1 of these including an appearance from the Phlogiston band. However, Phlogiston has caused a bit of controversy by deciding to release these tracks in FLAC format only - no MP3 versions are available. Read his reasoning for that here, and perhaps contribute to the discussion.

Interview with Eirik “Phlogiston” Suhrke and Rich "DisasterPEACE" Vreeland of Pause music netlabel

Recently I had the chance to talk to two amazing artists Eirik “Phlogiston” Suhrke and Rich "DisasterPEACE" Vreeland who on top of making music and art, have collaborated to bring us the Pause netlabel which is dedicated to bringing the world amazing and unique chiptunes, and more recently incredible game soundtracks as well through their PLUS moniker. For those who have yet to check out II, head over to their site right now! I myself have downloaded pretty much every album off their site and enjoyed every single one immensely.

So read on and find out what these two hard working folks had to say about their site.


What made you decide to create your own chiptune netlabel?

Rich: Eirik and I felt like we were part of a niche of artists that didn't really have an outlet at the time to express ourselves, so we sought to address that problem by starting a label.

Eirik: Yeah - we had both been part of several different netlabels/ communities, and wanted more of a permanent home for the lot of us - so we made one.

What do you think sets you apart most from other chiptune labels?

R: I think our label seeks to associate itself with a particular type of sound, probably more so than some of the other prominent chip labels. 8bitpeoples for instance tends to have a more all-encompassing catalog with a much broader variety of artists and styles, and I think that's probably their strong suit. They're a much more active label with a larger reach and fanbase, so it's the perfect introduction to 8-bit music. We're definitely less hands-on, leaving things up to the artists a bit more.

E: I see Pause as a band / demoscene group or whatever you'd like to call it, as much as I see it as a label. I'm not sure about other labels, but we're just a small group of musicians/friends who decided to create one collective outlet for our creativity. I guess there's no point in pinpointing exactly what it is.

When you started your label, what were your initial goals and ideas for what you wanted out of your site?

R: We initially wanted Pause to be a team of musicians who exclusively released all of their music on Pause, essentially to use the site as a homepage on the web. It was going to be the place for this small group of artists to have all their music either available or linked to, blogs, and all sorts of information that people might care about. Ultimately we decided to go for a broader variety of releases and pass on the team idea, at least for the time being.

E: The idea was that we'd get more exposure if we made one website instead of as individuals. As Pause grows we get new ideas and set new goals. I guess now one of the main goals would be to find ways to generate some income, so we can treat our fans to more merchandise, gigs and what not. But for the time being, Pause is still just on the hobby level.

Have you met any of those goals? Also, is there anything that has come as a surprise in running your site, such as press, reception to certain albums, etc?

R: The reception has been overwhelmingly positive, which has been great. I suppose the biggest surprise has been the amount of work required to be serious about running a label. Our style has traditionally been pretty casual, despite being serious about the music we release. If we dedicated more time to Pause we probably would be in better shape than we are now!

E: Yeah, note that Pause is still just on the hobby level, so there's only so much time to devote to it. One thing I came up with back with the initial idea for Pause was Plus, and getting that one up there was certainly accomplishing a goal.

Has their been any runaway hit albums on your site? Any album or artist that has done surprisingly well?

R: Actually one of our PLUS releases, the music from "Immortal Defense", is far and away the most downloaded album on the site. We count over 7,000. The Pause compilation "Heartcode" is second at almost 3,000. Among regular artist releases, Animal Style's Gameboy Madrigals and iqtu's Embarrassing Triangle seem to be the two most popular releases. Naturally over time our viewership has increased to somewhere between 100 to 300 unique visitors a day, so the more recent releases are getting more downloads than the earlier stuff.

E: I was very suprised with how much attention Heartcode got. We didn't promote it anymore than our other releases, but for some reason I saw it popping up all over the place. I guess it shows that if we put together a tight release, people will check it.

It seems this site came to fruition around the time of the demise of former chiptune netlabels Megatwerp and Betamod. Did those sites have any impact on the artists on II or the forming of the label, or was it just coincidental timing?

R: I think Betamod went under after we had already started, but Megatwerp definitely had something to do with us starting Pause. Eirik and I had both released material on Megatwerp, but I think we just had different ideas about what we wanted to do and release than what they were doing.

E: Like Rich said, we had both been through a few rounds with Megatwerp, and then there was ChipCache whiich died pre-birth. I remember having alot of ideas that I contributed to both those labels, so in the wake of them it seemed like a good idea to just make my own label instead. Seems Rich had the same idea. I honestly don't remember Betamod - but the name sounds familiar now that you mention it.

How did the Plus portion of II come about?

R: PLUS was actually Eirik's idea, and I totally agreed that'd be great to have a section dedicated to releasing Game Soundtracks.

E: Having been involved in the indie gaming scene for a number of years, and having enjoyed quite a few soundtracks from indie games, I just couldn't see why there wasn't a central site for that stuff. So when we made Pause I immediately throught that I wanted a section for that as well. Obviously I wanted to do it so there could be a home for my game soundtracks, as well.

How did you come up with and decide on the name "II"? Does it have any particular meaning to you or the site in general?

R: We wanted something iconic, laconic, easy to remember, but also musically relevant. Ultimately we've decided to go with Pause though, mainly because people don't seem to be smart enough to figure out that the two II's mean Pause. It's not really their fault though, people spread the domain out as being iimusic.net (which it is) and people as a result lose the intended meaning.

E: We also had some fun ideas for plus, like having it be Play, and write it >, so it would go next to the II like on a VCR. I think we also toyed with the idea of calling it Equal, written =. Tilted II, get it? But yeah, ultimately all of this stuff is too gimmicky, and people don't get it anyhow.

For musicians wondering how to become part of your label, what is the criteria you look for in an artist and their music?

R: Our criteria is simple. Do whatever it is that you do, and do it well. And if we like it, we'll release it! Eirik and I have different litmus tests for quality and so on, so we don't always see eye to eye. But generally one of us will succumb to the other if they're absolutely in love with an album. If we both like it but aren't crazy about it though, we probably won't release it. We try to keep a high standard so that the things that we do release are really great. At least, in our biased opinions. And we ask that people send us finished or close to finished releases so that we know exactly what we're working with.

E: I always try to be as strict as possible when deciding upon what to release or not. There's so many netlabels out there, so in order to stand out I think you need to set the bar pretty high. But please do send us demos - we do get ones we really like from time to time! Our compilations are also a good way to get a foot inside. Just recently with the Sea of Ice comp we came into contact with ZZZV, which now has one EP out on Pause.

What are both of your duties in maintaining II music?

R: Traditionally I've been in charge of most of the web maintenance type stuff. I built the website, and usually post the album releases and finalize the album artwork. At some point though Eirik learned how to do that stuff too so now we both post to the blog and add releases. I've also generally prepared the releases, and come up with the track orders for the compilations. Beyond that we do pretty much everything 50/50. PLUS is Eirik's baby though, so he handles that more than I.

E: Like Rich said, he definitely used to be the boss. I was coming up with alot of ideas, and maintaining contact with artists, but Rich was doing all of that hard work. This was because he built the website, which I wouldn't know how to do anyhow, and once the site went online
I was without internet for a few months, so we got off a little unbalanced. At some point Rich decided to focus on school and his own music for a while, so I ran Pause solo for a couple of months. I guess it was then I realized how much work he was putting into it, and I think we've been equals ever since he decided to come back and do it with me again.

What do you tend to look for in artists who release albums or hope to release albums on your label?

R: We try to look for people who have their own unique voice, who would contribute something new to the catalog, at the same time, adhering to a certain level of quality.

E: Honestly, it just boils to "do I like this or not?". Sometimes we get demos that I can tell are really well made, but are not in a style that get's me excited, so we might not put it out - unless Rich digs it.

What future releases do you have in store?

R: We always have something coming up! I'll be releasing my next album "Rise of the Obsidian Interstellar" by the end of the year. We also have Nonfinite's next album coming out soon, and Eirik also has something in the works which maybe he can talk about.

E: Yeah there's some Phlogiston coming up, too. I haven't been to active when it comes to releases, because I've been trying to focus on my soundtrack work, but there should be something soon.

What advice do you have for anyone interested in starting their own netlabel or looking to get their music on one?

R: I would definitely say that make sure your label is addressing needs, whoever's or whatever needs those may be. Secondly, have fun! As far as getting music on a netlabel, promote yourself as best you can, get on myspace, twitter, all those good things. And it never hurts to send demos to netlabels of course, and/or make friends with people who run labels.

E: Like all big stars say; Just believe in yourself and keep working and you'll get there. No, what do I know.

Anything else you would like to add?

R: Keep checking in for new releases! We have a few good ones coming up and are currently working on improving the site with new/revised features.

E: A big thanks to everyone who's supported us with Pause and before that, so far!

-----

Once again I would like to thank Eirik and Rich for their time. I once again urge everyone to check out the site at iimusic.net! As I have been doing lately as well I would like to end the interview with a music video. This is not exactly related to II but includes music by Rich Vreeland. The video is a trailer for an upcoming game called High Strangeness, and I think the interesting artwork alongside the DisasterPEACE tune seems to fit the idea of II. so enjoy the video!

Sea of Ice - II compilation release


Just in time for a winter release (although my post about it missed that boat) comes the Sea of Ice compilation from II (pronounced "pause") netlabel. The album is 13 amazing songs from some of the finest names in chiptunes. All the songs are quite amazing and invoke the spirit of ice and snow and frost incredibly well. The album also boasts so many great artists that I have to list them all. Check out the tracklist.

  • Disasterpeace - Bird Season
  • ok ikumi - white plains 96
  • The J. Arthur Keenes Band - Stoic
  • Fighter X - Winter Death
  • Evil Wezil - Icebreaker
  • Zan-zan-zawa-veia - Khei-moni
  • Animal Style - Ancient Accumulator
  • µB - ice flower
  • iqtu - ice palace dub
  • Derris-Kharlan - Shiva
  • temp sound solutions - the last of all that lasts
  • failotron - hullamzoret
  • oxygenstar - the lazy gnome

Of course the compilation is also absolutely free to download, and I hope each and every person reading this heads to the album page and does download it, as it is a very ambient and soothing take on chiptunes that can't go underappreciated. The netlabel II is constantly making me reassess what chiptunes are and can be with every one of their releases, and this album is no different.

Videogame Orchestra - RIOT EP release from II


Brilliant chiptune artists and all around fantastic duo Videogame Orchestra have released their latest EP through the II (pause) netlabel. The new album RIOT is 8 tracks of glitched out lo fi tracks out of Greece. Videogame Orchestra's crazy glitches and breaks keep in line with their II debut from last year, and continue to show the groups skill at various genres within chiptunes. Armed with only a set of Gameboys and an Atari 2600 these guys bust out some crazy tunes that will get your heart racing. As I am a big fan of both II and Videogame Orchestra I am extremely happy when these two paths converge and such an alignment is sure to create something incredible! As such this album is nothing short of amazing for all the glitch fans out there. And for those of you who aren't down with that crazy glitch sub genre of chiptunes, this may just be the EP that wins you over. So head on over to the II release page and give this album a try!

II release alex mauer's Lo-Gear

Head on over to iimusic.net and download a new release from alex mauer for free!


From the grave of a former chip label is resurrected Alex Mauer’s Lo Gear — the soundtrack to his arcade game concept from 1991. Similar to his Blast series, Lo Gear creates a vivid atmosphere for a child’s make-believe videogamescape through minimalistic music, textures, and sound effects. All due accuracy and nostalgia of the time period are captured in Alex’s composition tools — a PC-DOS AdLib tracker and a Sound Blaster 2.0 sound card with Yamaha’s OPL2 chip. This album features the voice talent of Shawn Phase, historically encrusted in the Texas Instruments LPC10 speech codec.

EvilWezil self titled album release

Make no attempt at adjust your quadravisions. This transmission is received every channel. Allow me to make introduction myself. My name is Evil Wezil. I have kidnapped your precious supermodel-president, Summer Sage. I will terminate her existence if five million giga-yen is not delivered to non-traceable cyber account in five day. If any rescue attempt, bombs planted will detonate in Technotokyo, Neo York and London 2. Do not attempt to defuse bombs. Do not attempt rescue. Evil Wezil cannot be stopped!!!

Well, it's clear he can't be stopped, so your only option is to head over to the appropriate II (pause) page, and download this amazing free album, unless you want Summer Sage to be no more!

II releases Heartcode compilation

Joining forces to bring you something worthwhile. Something from the heart.

So what happens when you take some of the best chip musicians around, throw them all together, and add a little bit of old fashioned love to the mix? You get Heartcode! The newest compilation from II (pause). The album is pretty much a list of some of my favorite musicians around! We've got Alex Mauer, Animal Style, disasterPEACE, Norrin Radd, Phlogiston, Shnabubula, Temp Sound Solutions, and finally XOC. With a list like this do you really have to wonder how great it is? You should just feel it in your very heart. Not to mention, like most II releases, this one is 100% free for download, so head over there and get it!

IQTU - Embarrassing Triangle album release


I am just going to let the creator speak for the amazing album Embarrassing Triangle. For two reasons. One, I couldn't say it any better, and two, I'm lazy. Just go download this amazing new release by IQTU from the ever amazing II (pause) netlabel for free!

Ecstatic yet laced with irony, Embarrassing Triangle is a lush album that sparkles, twists, and grooves. Thick layers of synths converge over the pliable chords and melodies, while puttering drums and thick bass hold down the constantly evolving grooves. These songs are more developed than iqtu’s previous work, and the album resonates with the flavor of triumph and experimentation.

Tracklisting
01 lemme
02 embarrassing triangle
03 aiken
04 endotrophic bulbs
05 toast for life
06 lost and gone forever
07 mack the knife
08 oh joyful day
09 pink poetry
10 starbright
11 marshmallow magic
12 ecoleph
13 you cramp my style

Gameboy Madrigals by Animal Style

Early composers of the madrigal used only two to three voices to create counterpoint. Realizing the opportunity for reinterpretation through the gameboy sound chip, Joey Mariano set out to create a body of chiptune madrigals inspired by early RPG games, Japanese folk melodies, and masters of the madrigal such as Francesco Landini. A definite departure from his traditional approaches, Animal Style’s Gameboy Madrigals release strives to create a mood relying on melody and counterpoint instead of an ever-present, never-ending, bleed-your-ears-dry dance beat.

Chromelodeon - The Final Recordings album release


One of the most beloved and amazing bands in VGIM, the legendary, indescribable Chromelodeon, have finally released their final album online. The appropriately dubbed The Final Recordings is now available free at II (pause) for the many many fans who were unable to secure one of the only 100 physical copies at their final show very near to one year ago.

Hurry up and download the album here! You owe it to yourself to listen to this album. It is every bit a part of VGIM history if there ever was any. You will not be disappointed.

Temp Sound Solutions - Xylox album re-release


one of the most amazing musicians in the VGIM scene, Shawn Phase, has remastered and re-released his classic Temp Sound Solutions album Xylox. The album is available in both free MP3 and the purchasable Lossless FLAC versions from II (pause). The album is amazing and deserves a listen from everyone. The original album was released originally nearly a decade ago in 1999. This album is definitely a step back in time, but still amazes none the less. So enough praise, head over to II (pause) and grab this album right away!

Album art by Shawn Phase and Rich Vreeland.

Shnabubula - Controller 1 album release

Take a journey across the face of an old NES controller. Each button has a story to tell if you’re willing to listen. Some of them have been forsaken by their fellow buttons while others are living the good life. Come listen and find out what goes on inside your controller when you’re not around.


Damn, what could I possibly add to that description? Coming our way from the folks at II (pause). This album is intense and has some of the most amazing riffs, hooks, and beats I have heard in chiptunes, brought to us by the incredible Shnabubula. I have been anticipating this album for a while since I've been hearing so much praise for it from the man, Shawn Phase, who produced this fine record. This album is 7 tracks long and free to download so go download it right now!

Artwork by Francis Coulombe

[UPDATE] The more I listen to this album, the more I love it. In fact, I have not stopped listening to this album since I started listening to it. Every person who reads this should download it immediately!