A Square Meal: ‘カワイイチップチューン VS カッコイイチップチューン 対決コンピレーション’ (Cute VS. Cool Chiptune)

Originally posted on the ChipWIN Blog on March 17th, 2020.
Edited by Dan Butler & Brandon L. Hood.

Confrontation is, occasionally, inevitable. Most of the time, however, we can learn from our differences and enrich our own perspective. In some cases, even highlighting these contrasting elements can be a good thing. After a spectacular showcase compilation last year, しのりゅー brings to us yet another incredible release that showcases this pixelated dichotomy. For this chapter, 56 artists explored the contrasting themes of cute and cool in their own unique styles. So let’s take a look over ‘カワイイチップチューン VS カッコイイチップチューン 対決コンピレーション’ (Kawaii Chippchūn VS Kakkoii Chippchūn: Taiketsu Conpirēshon), released through novtos.

Cute Side

‘Gravity Transpose’ brings in a soft and mellow atmosphere topped with the marvelous sparkle of excitement inherent to discovering new things, and all of this in a somewhat progressive adventure. The lightness of the bells that exposes the main motif serves to counter the heavy bass in the bottom, which enhances the feeling of floating. One of the highlights of this piece is the way さしゅ (Sashu) manages motion. At first, it could seem like the whole work is static, but as the track moves on, adding new elements and melodies to the landscape, we can appreciate the overwhelming details put into its slow motions. It’s just breathtaking.

Cuteness comes in all shapes, colors, and sizes; this time, asinago shows us a wilder —yet still pretty charming— side of it with ‘アーマード少女’ (Armored Shoujo). The bold tone of the track makes itself apparent from the start with a fairly mysterious introduction which develops the sensation of decision and courage as it advances. The manipulation of the vocal samples adds a touch of genius and is the cherry on the cake. That element is used as a key piece to build and release tension between the different stages of the work, but also because they allow the listener to easily relate to the song and stay focused during the whole metamorphosis of the piece. The harmonious conjunction of sounds and adorable vocal chops along with the overall tone is brilliant. On the surface, one could argue that this is a cold, impersonal track, but a closer inspection will undoubtedly reveal an experience filled with genuine power and strength that speaks directly and frankly to the listener. Definitely a piece you don’t want to miss!

The high energy and good vibes of wool pool’s ‘Confetti’ are infectious. The catchy melody draws a lovely theme over the bouncy, panning arps, pushing the song to a constant development. It takes little twists, in both harmony and melody to make it a little bit more than just ear candy. The positive effects of cute music are undeniable and, in this case, the slightly upbeat rhythm and happy melodies —as well as the characteristic ornamentation that adds an extra touch of charisma— almost make a hyperbole of them. For this song, multiple doses are advised

The Cute side features some well-known, previously-featured contenders such as scythe2PcolorBreezeSquadCornetTheory, and しのりゅー, who once again made a solid track filled with all the dainty characteristics of his work. Of course, I’ve only featured a small few of the artists involved, but everyone did a fantastic job! This will surely help all of us to appreciate the many forms cuteness can take, from the high speed, high contrast sounds to the more calmed pieces with a chanting allure (I’m looking at you NASA). That said, there’s still another side of music to discuss, so please stay with me!

Cute Side

Every album has its gems – and ‘Lonely Girl’ plays that role in this one. While it might seem that jazz is kind of commonplace in chiptune, new tracks always seem to appear and challenge that perception. Beyond the global laid-back sensation and colorful chords, ゆん manages to put together a delightful combination of a silky progression and strong motifs that tastefully navigate over the accompaniment. The different textures provided by the percussion are quite stylish. The usage of panned hi-hats not only emphasizes the swing components of the piece at the time, but also enriches the body and complexity of the rhythmic pattern. If we add the tiny details in the background, the clever voicing of chords and counter melodies, and the catchiness factor of the main melody to the formula, we have, indeed, a banger.

Chip and vocals are always an out of this world treat. However, KΛRΛKURI takes it to the next level with ‘宇宙飛行士A’ (‘Uchuuhikoushi’). The absorbing beat takes control over the track, granting an enigmatic feeling that leads with a hypnotic cadence. The rawness of the noise percussion and the strong, classic kick augment the warmness of KΛRΛKURI’s voice and make the listener stay focused and expectant – which takes us to the next point. The direction and prosody of the vocal part are mesmerizing; it’s almost like a whisper, but with a captivating decisiveness that makes it impossible to ignore. While it’s desirable to understand what a song says to boost the experience, I’d highly recommend you to listen to this song, even if you don’t understand Japanese. Good music is good, no matter the language.

Overcoming the technical restraints intrinsic to the Game Boy requires creativity and vision. This is especially true if you are aiming to make a full, cohesive song with a vast range of instruments and perfectly defined sections and transitions. Given his technical expertise, it’s not a surprise that sdhizumi managed to create a flexible piece that evolves constantly, blending rhythm and melody to engage with the listener and create an energizing aura. Just as when I listened to his music for the first time, sdhizumi amazed me with this song. The sound design is impeccable as well as the song structure. Thanks to the masterful use of the tension and release principle, the different parts interacting with each other in a fluid conversation make every transition natural. Probably one of the aspects that I find most amazing is the use of different kicks for different sections. ‘Tsugihagi Warrior’ is a marvelous piece that not only will make you move, but will also stay in your head for a good while after it ends.

On this side, we can also find some music by あみる, who this time offers us an interesting closure to ‘キミと果てなきアドベンチャー!‘ with ‘*キミと、最果てのアドベンチャー。.’ The song is a vigorous take on some themes from last year’s piece and is spiced with the unique, progressive touch that only あみる has; I hope we can hear more from them this year. I also want to mention the participation of yukkeromVirtual BoysCANTAX, and AsukiSun – who are just a small representative group of this side. This half is full of great musicians showing us how cool chiptune can be. The different takes on the theme exposed on this compilation bring to light the multiple faces of chiptune and how diversification is necessary to achieve a proper balance with quite remarkable results.

While the album is certainly not about which side is ‘better,’ it is definitely about how the listener has the last word. The little reflection that comes with these kinds of works arealways admirable. The juxtaposition of two apparently opposite concepts within the same fieldーin this case, chiptuneーdemonstrates how diverse the scene can be and how there will always be something for everybody. I like to think that, most of the time, there’s something cool in the cute things and vice versa.

Lastly, I want to give a shout out to しのりゅー, who not only organized the whole compilation, but also was in charge of doing all the mastering work. Uniting like-minded people to create a reference for your national scene and coordinating to create a well-rounded compilation series is not an easy task, but you did it gracefully. Since both albums are available for free download, I want to give a massive thank you to every single one of the artists involved. You guys = WIN!

Thank you so much for reading. See you next time!

novtos: Bandcamp
しのりゅー: Twitter | Soundcloud

さしゅ: Soundcloud Twitter
asinago: Soundcloud Twitter
wool pool: Soundcloud Twitter

ゆん: Soundcloud Twitter
KΛRΛKURI: Soundcloud Twitter
sdhizumi: Soundcloud Bandcamp Twitter

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