Spent a couple of hours today with this tune looped in the background. Uniquely atmospheric with a strong underground feel.
A very technically advanced mod. You can kind of tell without even looking into the source, as what you hear sounds like something made with hardware, whereas it's a 4 channel mod.
Some speed changes, like the one between patterns 22 and 23, to increase the resolution of the sequencer.
Ganja uses a loop along with a volume slide to simulate a delay. Good use of note re-triggers.
One of those mods where the panning situation doesn't work against the piece.
I would also argue that such panning is part of the fun: that is the format and sometimes there's no way to resolve the situation.
But in this case we have the standard approach or drums being in one channel and the bass in another, which fills the whole panorama with the base lows.
The overall mix is very balanced. It's probably based on how the samples were created, but when looking through the samples, try figuring out which note is the "correct one". As is true with filter sweeps, many such pads are resonating, and you need to find a note that sounds perfectly. That's of course the note that Ganja uses here.
Such tracks are notoriously difficult to develop. In a way, a 4 channel format is helpful because it does not allow you to simply add more and more layers, but forces you to come up with breaks and sudden changes.
Ganja has a bunch of separate parts here, which are connected by the same overall tempo and filtered chord samples. The piece always keeps moving. And given just 31 samples, he manages to insert a lot of small details and fun sounds, like a part of a reverse drum loop, to make it more interesting.
A very cool tune. Very unobtrusive and great as a backdrop. But, as is the case with good ambient music, it's interesting enough if you want to pay attention to it.
I specifically love the underground feel it gives off. Very urban-like, very special.
A very special track for me, because when I got into tracking and then learned about demoscene history, I realized that when I was a kid in New York in 1993, this kind of music was being written. And I didn't even know!
Incidentally, another very important producer for me, Young American Primitive, had his album released in 1993 as well.
What awesome innovative music is being written today - and we don't even know?
Either way, it is thanks to this track that every spring I now have an inkling towards a bit of tracked music, because I remember myself in 1993, in spring, hanging out on a playground near a pool, while Purple Motion pens this amazing tune.
If you wanted to include a tune with a tracker, so that it can be used to teach people how to use it, many of Purple Motion's works would fit. Aquaphobia is no exception.
It has everything - from the more usual vibrato and portamento effects, to showing how to take advantage of the K command (which does both vol slide and vibrato).
He uses the classic key change, which is one of those tricks that a tracker makes really easy to implement. But in this case it feels natural and totally appropriate.
One thing that we, veteran mod music fans, might be forgetting is that this legendary 8 channel s3m employs hard panning, more reminiscent of the good old mod format. And yet, Purple Motion manages to completely hide that fact. The panorama is natural and is instead used to enhance the soundscape.
I also love the overall sound aesthetic: those nifty digital basses create a very bouncy groove, while not oversaturating the piece with low frequencies.
There are many ways to define demostyle. One way to look at it is 80s synth samples wielded to create music with a tracker. And as a tracker as a tool has its own very specific abilities and limitations, it shapes the result in a very particular way.
Aquaphobia has this interesting feel: clearly very 80s sounds, but the result is something fresh. Not anything you would hear written in the 80s and definitely not in the mainstream space.
A lot of the things PM does here are not necessarily groundbreaking as far as techniques go, but at each turn the decisions he makes benefit the tune.
For example, he expertly combines the bubbly synth with the digital bass in pattern 5, on channels 1 and 7. The former plays at octave 6, the latter at octave 5, and each is playing a different pattern. This simple track create busyness that would otherwise be difficult to achieve.
When he creates a delay for the lead in patterns 9-16, he delays it by as much as 6 rows, which then creates a lovely interaction between the notes of the delay and the actual lead, making the melody sound much more complex.
At one point, by the way, right at the start of the melody, you already have a delay, as if carried from the previous pattern. But the notes are F G A#, which doesn't match any of the note sequences in the lead. I wonder if this was a lucky mistake, since this sounds awesome, or if this was a deliberate decision.
The melodies themselves are fresh and very visual. The tune is called Aquaphobia, but sounds more like Aquaphilia!
Another reason why this tune could be shipped with a tracker as not only a great piece of music, but also a module you can learn from.
Notice how there's not a single spot in this tune where nothing happens. PM makes sure that at any given time there is either movement or an effect or a melodic phrase. Look at the patterns 1-7 that transition from the intro to the theme. It could have been a rather boring set of patterns, but PM fills every second with action.
The structure is also notable. A lot of demostyle music is written more akin to a soundtrack than a song, so you frequently get many different parts, as opposed to a verse-chorus scenario. Aquaphobia does obviously have a theme, but it's interspersed with variations and sub-themes.
Elwood's "Sweet Dreams" is easily one of the most popular and recognizable tunes to come out of the tracking era. Upbeat, epic and inspiring, referring to it as a masterpiece might be one of the few cases when it's not an exaggeration.
It's been a staple in my own musical upbringing, so I am honored to come back to it many years later and share my thoughts on it.
I think Elwood is one of those tracker composers where we focus so much on the brilliance of the end result and on his melodic genius, that we forget that his technical proficiency is actually incredibly high.
If you look through his modules and also watch them played in a tracker, you'll realize how comfortable Elwood is with all aspects of tracking: from variable tempo, to portamento effects, offsets and all sorts of nifty tricks.
And, apart from the signature leads, that one is more likely to spot in a tracked tune, the rest of his music doesn't give away its tracking origins. "Sweet Dreams" sounds very much like the mainstream music at the time.
But many of us know how to wield a tracker. The real jaw-dropping talent that Elwood demonstrates is his unique ability to know the potential of a given instrument.
Browsing through the samples used, I can't imagine a less inspiring bunch: poorly looped, bland and seemingly difficult to make sense of.
And yet, Elwood takes something like instrument 18 - a cheap voice sound - and turns it into a fantastic backing organ that he uses throughout the piece.
It is this sequence, by the way, that reflects the mainstream music of the 90s: notice how similar it is to, say, organ stabs in Haddaway's "What is love?" This kind of arrangement was pretty common at the time.
And it is this ability, to take samples that are unimpressive on their own and construct a convincing arrangement, that makes Elwood' work stand out.
Another part of Elwood's secret is the sheer amount of things going on.
He refuses to be frugal and throws in four separate instruments for the bassline, in channels 1, 12-14.
He has instrument 18 playing the chords, which he either combines or switches with the choir (instrument 4).
He offers very rich percussion, using the bass drum, the snare, a congas loop, claps and a couple of hihats, which together create this busy percussion feel.
And then you have the solos on top, to which he adds panned delays.
And he does all that while managing to keep the overall spectrum even and pleasant: the bass sounds are all different and don't overlap each other's frequencies, the backing instruments occupy mid ranges, the leads occupy higher ranges, and the drums, apart from the kick, lack strong low frequencies (although the open hat sample is actually quite bad and has a lot of mud in the lows).
Now, this doesn't mean that better decisions could not have been made.
I feel that the bass guitar in channel 13 is largely inaudible and could be removed. I was not able to spot any desired ghost notes that its presence produces either: you can see for yourself, by muting channels 12 and 14. The only thing it might be doing is adding a bit of a bass hit in the beginning of the pattern, since the bass in channel 1 is played on the offbeat. But in general, I think most of it could go.
Speaking of the bass, I think channels 12-14 don't contribute a lot in some places, and their removal might add more transparency to the mix. For instance, try removing these channels from patterns 19-25 and notice how the key change and the organ lead really take off.
But, all in all, this is an awesome and very inventive arrangement, a testament to Elwood's talent as a sound engineer, and his ability to take the little of what he has and turn it into a commercial-grade arrangement.
But, of course, the piece is primarily known for its melodies. So, what's the secret here?
One thing that strikes anyone who dives deep into the tracking scene is the immediate contrast between what one hears on the radio and what passes as a standard song here.
Setting all the stylistic and technical details aside, the big difference is actually song structure: instead of the standard AABA or verse-chorus forms, prevalent in pop music, a lot of the tracked music is more akin to soundtracks. This is not surprising, as a lot of the famous tracked works are actually soundtracks - for the demos.
This demoscene context exposed many of us to the music structure that might be quite alien to the majority of your musician friends.
If you think about Unreal 2, for instance, its structure could be described by something like A-B-C-B'-D-B'', where B with quotes are variations. This is because it's a soundtrack and not a song with lyrics.
And so, when we look at Elwood's "Sweet Dreams", it's dynamism comes from the fact that basically nothing repeats: its parts are connected by the chord progression, but everything else is constantly changing. His song structure could probably be described as A-B-C-D-E-B'-C'-B'', where A is the intro, B is the flute theme, C - organ theme, D - synth theme, E - break (which includes the synth theme and the piano), B' - the variation on the flute, C' - the variation on the organ, B'' - another variation on the flute.
Which means that at no point does anything truly repeat. In fact, it's even somewhat counterintuitive, because when you go back to the flute and the organ, my first impulse would probably be to just repeat them as they were. But Elwood makes sure that the themes are similar, but not exactly the same.
He also invests into transitions: his intro is laboriously constructed, he introduces tempo changes to build up momentum for the start of the melody. He approaches his key changes with the appropriate chords, which makes them more exciting, see patterns 16-21.
His key changes are also notable for being rather clandestine. He has two key changes in the middle: up between patterns 1-19 and then back down between 16-21. And I bet most listeners don't even notice, but they do benefit from the movement that these add to the piece.
The change in the end is, of course, made clear, but again, Elwood puts in the extra effort and introduces it with a beautiful transition in pattern 35.
And, I think, it is this series of decisions of going just one step further that eventually makes the tune into such an exhilarating journey: it grabs you from the start and never lets you go. There's no space for boredom, no space when a change does not occur. Even during the break he has little sounds fly around, while you're waiting for the synth to begin playing, see pattern 26.
I have to admit, though, that while this tune always inspired me, I never truly learned much from it. I think Elwood's work has this masterpiece quality to it, where the only things you see are the most necessary ones. It's like that quote from Michelangelo: "The sculpture is already complete within the marble block, before I start my work. It is already there, I just have to chisel away the superfluous material."
Elwood's tunes are these perfect statues, with the superfluous material completely gone. And with Elwood retaining the aura of mystery regarding his background and influences, we are simply left enjoying his work and marveling at the illusion of its simplicity.
In a way, it's strange to know that the influence of Elwood's music is confined to our small community. And yet, whole generations of musicians in the 90s and early 2000s at one point or another loaded up sweetdre.xm in a tracker and were blown away, regardless of whether synthpop is even up their alley.
"Sweet Dreams" is, thus, true to its name. It is the north star, that tells each one of us: just follow your dreams, because you have everything you need to create beauty, today and right now. Just like Elwood, who used these lopsided samples and a moving Excel table to create something that is so powerful, innocent and true...
Another masterpiece from the master of lofi hip hop on modarchive.
In terms of technical proficiency, this might be one of his best: zero indication 4-channel limitations apply to linus. Perhaps, his attitude is that so much great music was made with 4-track tape that there is no reason to fear the format.
The percussion here is captivating: not only the beat itself is good, but he also uses some creative mixing of the channels in order to get a really full sound, like in patterns 22-25.
And notice how the transition from this sound to pattern 13 is natural and doesn't make you feel that there is a problem, although a whole part of the drums is now gone: it just feels like part of a trippy journey across channels.
The levels are very good in this one. The balance between the bass and percussion is just perfect. None of the samples are louder or quieter than they should be.
Go through the samples in this one and ask yourself - what would you do with the same ingredients?
I guess you can say that about a lot of good artists who work in the same genre, but as Linus is one of them, I am endlessly fascinated by how he can take a couple of samples and milk them into a satisfying lofi hip-hop texture.
He basically uses 4 samples here: two variations of the ethnic string instrument, a droning sound, similar to a bowed string and a voice sample. But what a delight!
Finally, like in many of his compositions, everything constantly evolves. At no point you are bored. The piece retains its slightly delusional demeanor, as if you are stuck in a semi-realistic dream. IN the description to the tune, linus asks: ambient-hop or just weed inspired crap !?
Another excellent work from linus. Each time I listen to his work, I keep forgetting these are 4 channel mods. The ease with which he seems to construct these is short of magic: it's as if he doesn't even need more than 4 channels!
This is 10/10. Linus pulls out all the stops here.
First, the piece is visually fun. I honestly don't understand what he's doing with all those pattern loops: it looks fun visually, but there seems to be no musical reason for this.
If you watch pattern 2, there's a pattern loop, but if I am reading this correctly, it doesn't do anything: he has F06 in terms of ticks, and then he sets a two row pattern loop, while setting the amount of ticks to F02 and F04, which add up to F06.
This means that there is a fun visual glitch, but the musical effect is completely the same. In fact, I even tried setting two notes on each row and then removing the loop and the speeds - and I think the sound is identical.
He's got a lot of those. I must admit, it's really fun to watch, gives you this visual effect of vinyl scratching.
The samples have a lofi feel to them, but don't get fooled - they are high quality and you're getting a really confident sound here. That's at least part of the reason why this doesn't sound like your typical mod.
The panning has linus' signature naturalness to it: you don't notice it at all. He also uses it to his advantage in ways I rarely see in other mods: he would have a beat in one channel and then have stray snares "run away" into another channel on occasion, creating this lovely delay effect.
There is one flaw: sample 21 has a bad loop which creates a very audible click. It is possible linus intended this as part of the vinyl crackling he employs, but the click is a bit too loud and I would have preferred it to be quieter.
Linus' ability to develop these sampled compositions is flawless: it never gets boring.
The secret here is constant movement: nothing stays the same. Things fade in or fade out, drums stop, the restart.
But interestingly enough, starting pattern 33 linus gets this very loud and repetitive part going. I imagine this would actually be a great bit for the dance floor, when everybody goes wild. But as a listening experience it's a bit dull. I do love everything before that.
Because of the way the tune concludes, I think this might actually pretty cool in a club. Very impressive drum work and groove. The droning samples eventually explode into a frenzy. A great addition to my collection from the master.
A magical atmosphere in this one. An expertly done chillout tune, a mashup of longer samples and one shot ones. If you needed an infusion of creativity, this here is definitely the right drug.
You don't need to go far. Pattern 1. The tune starts with what should be the ending of the previous pattern - like, when you start a piece with a turnaround of a chord progression.
But linus opts to set it in the same pattern. He then uses an EE2 command in one place to delay the pattern by 2 rows and then an E60-E61 for a single pattern loop.
This allows him to compensate for the delay in the beginning and arrive in time for the second pattern, which now begins properly, at row 0.
There's also a bit of a mystery for me.
Linus uses the standard Set Speed command change in order to get the beat to shuffle, by doing F08 F04 F08 F04.
If you look closely at pattern 5, on rows 32-36 he suddenly uses different speeds: F01 F0B F02 F0A. I am not sure why he opts for this, since 01+0B, 02+0A and 04+08 all make up 12 ticks. So, there should be no difference. I tried replacing this with 08 04 and could make out no difference. So, not entirely sure what's achieved by this.
As usual, a clean well-balanced mix from linus here. Natural panning, entirely sidestepping the awkwardness of the format's hard pan.
Sample 16's delay loop is slightly out of beat. I would say it sounds fine and could be intentional, because in many other cases linus doesn't fail to make the delay sound exactly on beat.
The sample chord sequence is absolutely mesmerizing.
Linus says that he had created the samples himself. But, honestly, even if he would take them from somewhere, coming up with the resulting tune based on what he's got is not a simple task.
He employs a lot of very creative transitions. For instance, notice how he has the main theme in channel 2 and the delay in channel 1.
Then, in pattern 0 he introduces the voice sample, which, obviously, takes up space. But instead of removing the delay for the sake of the sample, he removes the main line, leaving the delay lingering, which creates this fantastic ducking effect. And then in the next pattern the chords return to full force, as if going ducking back. And because of the hard pan of the mod file, the chords sort of fade back in. It's a small thing, but adds so much to the tune.
The bassline is sublime.
Probably, my favorite from linus so far. The mood here transcends reality. It's a whole world created by just four channels and some samples: glorious!
If you like linus' "Stoned Again", "Stoned Immaculate" is not going to disappoint. The removal of mod limitations does not stifle linus' ability to create a convincing world with just several notes and a chill breakbeat.
16 channels used, mostly one shot samples. And lots of cowbell. No, literally! If you wanted cowbell, you won't be disappointed.
Expertly written bassline, which is the basis of the whole tune. It uses two separate samples which double the sequence in channels 5 and 12. Channels 4 and 6 are the delayed signal of channel 5.
If you solo those, you'll notice that starting pattern 11, channel 5 is cleared out. And leaving just the delayed sequences along with the bassline in channel 12 sounds very interesting. Unfortunately, you cannot really hear that in the overall arrangement, but this could have been used in a less busy place in the mix.
A very clear mix. Proficient use of panning to create a wide mix. He also uses vinyl crackle in channel 16 to give the mix that special flavor.
The levels are excellent. If you solo channels 1-3, you'll hear how wide and transparent the drums are. And it doesn't involve any dynamics, all the notes are largely at the same volume.
One nitpick - instrument 14 (sample 23) has a delay/loop effect that doesn't match the tempo. It sounds fine in the intro, but you can hear it not synced properly in the middle of the tune.
The strings that start in pattern 5 is an example of how linus is capable of taking a minimal setup and creating mood. This is a tune with attitude, with a very underground feel.
I am, unfortunately, not a fan of a pad that begins in pattern 11. Felt a bit formulaic to me and a little too imposing. One option is to maybe simply make it quieter. I tried reducing the volume by 50% and it was somewhat more interesting.
But I also think the sequence itself might have been less concrete. Instead, it sounds like an annoying loop. It's not horrible, but just took me out of the mood.
A nifty underground tune. I strove for music like this in the 90s/2000s. And even today, this definitely works for me. Very creative and special.
This reminds me of Roskow Kretschmann's work. A very ethereal chillout tune that boasts ultra high level of skill and completely hides the fact that it's a 4-channel mod.
If you were told this is a 4-channel mod, you might assume that this is mostly a loop mashup, because it sounds so good. And you'll be awesomely surprised when you look at the file.
You would see bits of samples that are then assembled into this amazing texture. Carefully planned and then painstakingly tracked, this shows a level of creativity that seems alien.
In fact, I am keenly interested in how these modules are written: how much of it is planning and how much of it is playing around with what you've got. I would certainly be struggling to produce something intelligible out of the samples presented.
A relatively standard trick, but I still marvel at how linus uses a loop and a volume slide to simulate delay. Such a simple idea and a very convincing effect.
I also love how he uses pattern jump effects to simulate a vinyl scratch - this is when looking at the mod pays off!
You are getting this wonderful lofi quality from the piece. Everything is crumbled and there is some crackling effects in the samples. Yet, the sounds are loud and crisp. It sounds like a really well produced record.
Another notable thing here is how linus manages to use the panning of the channels: it seems seamless and completely invisible. mod files frequently present this challenge of what should go where so as to present a balanced mix. "Stoned again" sidesteppes this problem completely: the panorama feels natural and all the jumps between channels, even when it's the drums, feel intentional.
The tune is pretty short and in theory could have been longer, but with what it's got, there's not a single boring spot.
Even the key change, which is sometimes done as a relatively lazy way to introduce variety, is handled creatively: see pattern 6. He begins to trigger the sample every 16th note. And this is where you can also hear the sort of intentionality to the drums changing channels: just the way the tune is written makes it feel like a trick. And it does introduce novelty, something I haven't experienced in mod tunes before. In most of them this sounds awkward and like an unfortunate limitation of the format. That linux is able to use it so flawlessly is truly impressive.
I have never been stoned, but I imagine that this is how it feels.
Seriously, though, this is an excellent commercial-grade quality chillout tune that will stay in my collection. Some breathtaking skill here. If you need inspiration to do some tracking, fire up this tune right here.
I was also trying to get the date of this. But due to "linus" and "voodoo" being ubiquitous in other contexts, I was just not able to find anything. This sounds like early 90s, but I would still be curious to learn. This was definitely innovative musically and I wonder what linus used to produce these samples, since he says he created most of them himself.
I am not sure whether this is meant to be related to Evolution 002 parts 2 and 3. Evolution 002 part 3 was written in July of 1998 and this tune in December of 1998.
But stylistically it's very different. I also find it less interesting melodically and it's arrangement is definitely less sophisticated.
This is where Michal's tendency to rely on non-dynamic passages comes to bite him: the beginning of the tune is underwhelming. The unnatural guitar is robotic and boring, which is quite unfortunate, since this has potential and the chord progression offers many transitions to an interesting story.
His ability to put together convincing arrangements is demonstrated in the second part and I really enjoy the tribal beat and the way he uses panning to give it nice movement.
The mix itself is fine. The strings are a bit too loud for my taste, but this is a stylistic choice.
As noted earlier, I like how he employs panning for the drums in the second part.
But in terms of the mix in general, the only things I can say are trite: it's fine and exhibits no special problems.
As usual, though, Michal does offer something beyond the premise: the second part is a glimpse into the true potential of this tune.
Unfortunately, after a very promising transition from the slower part to the tribal arrangement, more reminiscent of his other electronica tunes, he fails to follow it up with any exciting melodies, instead opting for single long notes.
And this is where, as a fan of Michal's music, I can try to be maximally charitable and suggest that perhaps I get where he was going with this. But writing epic new age tunes in a tracker, in the absence of proper reverb and delay plugins is tough. He probably wanted this to be more of a tune that sets a mood rather than tells a story, but the execution simply doesn't live up to the setup.
So much so, that I sometimes wonder if this is even a finished piece. Still, I enjoyed being surprised by the second part.
This tune is bet listened right after Evolution 002 part 2. Unfortunately, we don't have Evolution 002 part 1. Not on modarchive, anyway.
This is a mix made up of pretty much the same components as Microworld and Far and Away.
There are a couple of moments in the mix when overly long volume envelope tails introduce a bit of dissonance. It's hard for me fault Michal too much for that, since I think the intention here was to create an illusion of reverb and that's tough to do with envelope tails: you lose quite a bit of control. Still, I think the dissonance at pattern 22 is a mistake. Maybe it's even a wrong note places somewhere, although I wasn't able to put a finger on one.
Michal demonstrates the same Elwood-like ability of putting together a transparent mix, while infusing it with a plethora of detail. And, just like in case of Elwood, individual elements sound pretty unimpressive, but putting it all together somehow works. Patterns 16-19 is a great example of that, when instruments in channels 29-30 add this nice effect, but if you solo them - they don't sound like anything.
I also like the touch of adding sounds of nature for a few seconds in the beginning, blending it in and then never using it again. I think this is a nice touch and a completely correct decision: it gives you enough context and then letting the music do its job.
Before I sing praise to Michal's signature voice leading here, I have to confess that the bit in pattern 6 always reminded me of the Brinstar theme of Metroid on NES. Obviously, very different tunes, but just a funny thing I wanted to mention.
Michal manages to keep the melody going over steady chords and keep it interesting - just like I outline in my reviews of Microworld, Far and Away and possibly other tunes of his.
I particularly like the sciency feel to the whole thing. The major transitions in patterns 13 and 21 are a fun twist and give this tune such a unique feel!
In Michal's usual optimistic melancholy optimism certainly wins in this tune. It's thoughtful and grand.
I wonder if the End of Evolution is meant to be a final for this series or is a completely separate tune. The reason I am wondering is because stylistically it is quite different and is also much simpler in its execution, especially in the first half.
Either way, Evolution 002 part 3 is an exciting tune and will forever stay in my collection of Michal Wilczynski classics.
An optimistically melancholic tune, with Michal's signature melody-leading and arrangement style.
As many other Michal's tunes, it's not approached as a tracker tune. It instead tries to sound as something made with hardware synthesizers or something you would make with a regular DAW today.
A very natural composition, which doesn't give away too many of its tracked underbelly.
Just like in Far and Away, a bit too high on the mids. I think the intention here was to create a reverb-like effect, which was not directly available in any trackers at the time. Using volume envelopes for that does achieve the effect, but only at the cost of less control over the mixing.
The selection of the sounds themselves is nothing short of awesome.
His choice of using the choir for the chords is impressive for two reasons: the quality of how he handles the choir and how it manages to sound completely natural to the composition.
This very well could be an introduction to the album: a slowly pulsating piece, like a slowly blooming flower, epic and solemn.
This should be listened to as part of Evolution 002 part 3. Together, these tunes make up an excellent EP. It's possible to connect these tunes to several others in Michal's portfolio which would form a perfect album. I would say, Far and Away and Microworld should definitely be part of that album, as well as Eternal Travelers.
A master of this style of electronic music, Michal pulls out all the stops here. But you do need to get through the first six patterns. The 7th pattern will suddenly turn around what sounded like cheesy major chords and infuse Michal's signature optimistic melancholy and a bit of sciency feel that comes not only from the title but from a number of plucky sequences in the tune.
The tracker does everything Michal wants it to. In a sense, many of his compositions don't sound like they are made in a tracker. If he went on to continue writing music, of which, however, I was able to find no evidence of, he might be very comfortable in any modern DAW.
Even the way he wields the usual pitch slides is more reminiscent of mod wheel playing on a synth than the way it's done in chiptunes.
A very clean mix here. Great panning work, having all elements sit in their own space, providing great clarity.
In fact, one thing I'll say is that if it's your first listen, you won't even realize how many things are happening at the same time. This actually reminds me of Elwood's tunes in terms of arrangement complexity: in order to get what you hear, you need to put quite a lot of things in and make them all work together.
Michal's signature melody-leading is this trick that I've seen only him be able to pull off: he manages to capture your attention without major key or chord changes, with the melody developing over a relatively unchanging chord sequence.
In a tracker, notice the move from pattern 6 to 7. In theory, it should sound dull, but it doesn't. And also manages to prepare you for the reinvigorated lap, starting at pattern 12.
Pattern 14 introduces this characteristic second melody over the whole thing, just when you thought that there's nothing else to paint here.
And even more in pattern 21!
Also, notice how patterns 5, 12, 14 and 21 comfortably repeat without you even recognizing it, simply because it fits the logic of the melody.
One of my favorite compositions by Michal's and one I keep coming back to. It's unique and in my microworld it's among those other electronic music classics.
Finally, we're entering a personal territory. Sooner or later, any music connoisseur faces the bit that they are unable to judge with the same objectivity, unable or uninterested to dissect with the same diligence.
Michal Wilczynski is probably one of my favorite tracker composers and one whose music is not getting old, even as I am getting older.
The fact that he is not at all known in the scene hasn't escaped me either, but here we are.
What makes this piece unique for me is that it's whole power lies in the melody. You could argue that not much is happening in the tune in terms of dynamics: it's bassline drones on, the lead's presence is always the same, it doesn't exhibit any fancy effects.
But here's the thing: it doesn't need to. The fact that the chorus is outlined only by the strings that begin a melancholy duet with the lead sends chills down my spine every time.
The verse-chorus structure is followed by a second part that changes the tempo of the beat. Michal is not lazy here: this is a completely new development, opening up the mood and moving it to a lighter yet somber tone.
It's not perfect. Too many mids, too many things happening at the same time. But this creates many happy coincidences. If you open it in a tracker and explore, you'll realize that there are a number of important ghost notes, created by the frequency similarity between the bass, the lead and the strings.
In general, it's very well mixed. And, given the frequency distribution, you would expect major problems. Having said that, I am less objective here and, strictly speaking, the mix could have been better. And might have appealed to more listeners.
Stylistically, this is very similar to Jarre. The bassline is almost identical to Oxygene part 4. The general choice of sounds alludes to the same era.
Similarities end there, however. Michal's melodies are unique and recognizable. To the point that when I tried searching for his current whereabouts and stumbled upon a musician with the same name, I only needed to listen to a couple of his compositions to realize that it cannot be him.
Far and away shares stylistic similarities with a number of other compositions by Michal, which could comfortable form an album: Evolution (parts 1-3), Microworld, Prayer to Air.
In my opinion, Michal Wilczynski's works could have been classics. It's not clear to me if by the time he wrote these, in the late 90s, this could be a mainstream thing. But then again, Jarre's own Oxygène 7–13 was released in 1997.
This tune in particular is very special to me and connects with me on a level that few tunes do.
Meticulously planned and masterfully executed, this funky mod is a testament to Virgill's skill as a musician and as a tracker expert, who makes it looks easy and effortless.
Two things amaze me about this mod.
First, Virgill's conscious usage of the L/R channel dichotomy. Mod musicians have obviously always been conscious of the hard panning of the format and had to make sure that they distribute their instrument in a way that makes sense.
But Virgill does more than that here. He takes advantage of it. In pattern 15 he begins a copy of the sample being played in another channel to move the sound into the center, right before having it go back to where it was, but now compensated by the full arrangement. An incredible fade in effect that adds energy immediately.
The use of a one shot snare in pattern 16 to underscore what's happening in the loop infuses the whole thing with a level of naturalness and groove. It's a small thing, but I find it incredible.
Second, the way longer samples are used.
When people read that "samples or loops were used in this mod", even if the samples are original, the impression is like "Oh, so they just put several notes one after another and no skill was involved".
And in some mod pieces that is, unfortunately, true (which is not to say that uing a tracker for sequencing was bad, just not that interesting for further analysis).
But in many other cases, it's not. Knowing the limitations of a mod, combining one-shot samples with loops is a skill that not many possess.
In fact, here you don't even have full loops. You have bits of vocoded guitar solo, bits of drums along with one-shot samples, and bits of drums mixed with the vocoded voice bits.
Virgill then uses a combination of one-shot samples and offset commands to glue together an incredible lead. Look specifically at channel 1 of pattern 8, how he combines samples 1 and 2 and jumps around them with offsets.
And not to mention the rest of the good stuff, like expert voice leading, portamento, volslides and vibrato, all giving life to the solo.
The sampling here is immaculate. Virgill clearly wrote the piece first, probably using hardware, then sampled it.
If I would have heard it in 1998, I would've lost my shit. I rarely hear such impressive sound quality even today, honestly.
This piece sounds less like something written for a demo and more like a funky standalone song.
I love the restrained energy of the drums, how dynamic everything is, with occasional snares and bass notes suddenly popping out.
A wonderful playful experience, totally love it!
Modarchive's template has this last block called "As a piece of music, does it work?" that I'm always a bit iffy about, because in the majority of cases it forces me to simply repeat everything I had said before. Or write something bland like "Yes, it does work as a piece of music".
Let's instead respond to a couple of questions in the description.
Would you keep this module in your collection? Yes.
Does it get too repetitive? Yes - because I put it on repeat and I am not about to stop it :D
This is awesome, folks. And hats off to Virgill!
Qvork is the Squarepusher of chiptunes. This is fresh, bold and gloomy in the best possible way. It's uncharacteristically dry for such style of music, but perhaps it is this sound that makes it stand out for me.
The tune doesn't boast too many unusual techniques, apart from your usual retriggers and some nifty short patterns with pauses. An interesting doubling of the bassline with a vibrato on one of the lines that does add a bit of beefiness to the bass, although the effect is subtle.
The mix is difficult to talk about, reason being - this tune could greatly benefit from a bit of post-production. I would have loved some reverb here or perhaps an application of some delay. I even tried working with the melody in pattern 6 and tried adding some delay, but, I must admit, it was not easy to get an interesting effect. In fact, difficult to even hear it, since the notes are long and pretty low, EQ-wise.
So, the dryness of the tune does sound strange to the modern ear, accustomed to a very different sound. But it still works.
A solid 8 from me. This is original and, as I said in the summary, quite bold. This musician has stuff to say.
I did feel after listening to it on repeat for a while that the tune has potentially more. If left the way it is, it' a solid background for an atmospheric game. But if developed further, with perhaps a drum solo, variations in the keyboard (the one that plays in channels 1-3), it would be a solid standalone piece of music.
For this last block I would give it a 10. This does work for what it is - an atmospheric chiptune. A small world created with simple sounds.
This one if one of those tunes where putting a finger on exactly what makes it work so well is difficult.
On the first hand, there's no reason it shoudn't be categorized as yet another chiptune. But it's the ambition, the sublime quality of storytelling done purely with notes, the confidence with which fearofdark wields his tracking.
A truly amazing piece!
This is definitely a very modern tune, which takes into account a whole school of tracking. High resolution and lots of detail.
Very well mixed, although not perfectly and at times a bit too many things playing at the same time. Easily fixed with an EQ, but as the tracker has none, certain compromises should be made.
All in all, this is a solidly tracked piece and you will find no problems. Just the feeling that in a proper DAW this can be made much cleaner in post-production.
The choice of sounds is excellent: every sound feels in its own place and relevant changes of the lead add variety.
The power of this piece in the melodic talent of Fearofdark. The theme is endearing, but the dazzling barrage of notes that feel like a fresh spring stream.
I also like how this tune is clearly a chiptune, but escapes all of the usual tropes. Even the fast sequences of notes don't feel like your standard chiptune arpeggios.
A use of sustained chords gives it that unmistakable anime feel.
That this is a masterpiece is attested by the fact that its video has over 5 million views on YouTube. Definitely, my favorite.
A unique tune. Something you are unlikely to hear anywhere else. A brilliant piece of electronic music.
This is a 32-track xm, so there is no need to do too many clever things. Other than that, the usual: offsets, volume and panning envelopes, some portamentos.
The piece is very well mixed. One thing that I found lacking a bit is that a tune like this could have used a wider stereo field.
Piano notes could have, perhaps, used some creative delay. As they stand right now, they are alright, but could use some attenuation.
The atmosphere is sublime. Loads of elements used, subtle textures, small details here and there. And I love the fact that nothing stands out. Everything is purely ambient, an integral part of this gorgeous soundscape.
This awesome is going to be on repeat for many days in my life.
I have a folder on my computer, lovingly called "weird shit". This little piece found its place in that folder. It's an amazing creation that was a real discovery. A 4-channel mod, based on a mix of one-shot and sampled bits, but which must have been meticulously planned and expertly executed.
The skill here is more in the way the samples are sequenced and less in the used effects. Those are mostly volume slides. An offset command is used on sample 4 to better align it with the beat, which was a technique new to me. Basically, he found the places he required and then put them on the lines. This way he utilized a sample that has a rhythm to it but which would otherwise be offbeat. Very clever!
The interesting feature of this mod is perhaps pretty characteristic of all mods of that era: if you wanted it to sound like something other than a chiptune or a very minimalistic piece, you would either employ crazy techniques, mixing in hihats, base snare and individual lead notes in a single channel. But in many cases you would just use samples.
In this case it's the latter, and one should not underestimate the skill of putting together the right mix of samples and then using them in ways that make sense.
Browsing through the samples, you get the feeling that a lot of planning went into this. And muffler squeezes 200% out of what he has.
The tune can be said to be comprised of three themes. All blend very nicely, making me think that this tune had been planned in advance, probably using hardware.
The only complaint is that I would have loved for this tune to be longer. Much longer!
Absolutely. This is wonderful! I wonder what the origin of the samples is and whether it was actually written on hardware first and sequenced in a tracker, but regardless of the samples origin, this stands on its own as an interesting electronic music piece with a lot of variability.
Xerxes is known for his atmospheric tunes, specifically for his signature percussion style, usually characterized by a slow beat and a bassline that uses several varieties of bass samples to achieve an interesting texture.
This is one of those tracks.
This piece is not about tracker effects mastery, but more about using what's necessary to achieve the effect.
Xerxes uses the offset command to simulate a filtering effect, specifically on instrument 10, which then allows him to introduce subtle movement into the notes.
A use of vibrato on string notes gives them this very interesting flavor, reminiscent of a chorus effect.
While the beat largely doesn't change, its dynamics are well thought through and xerxes makes sure that notes are not played at a single volume, which gives his beat a pulsation that drives the whole tune.
What makes xerxes' works interesting is that he's figured out a balance for his tunes. His lows are restrained and are the backbone of the track. The rest of the sounds go organically on top, ranging from mid to high.
Panning is standard in a good sense of the word - lows are in the dead center, strings and some other instruments veer off from time to time.
I personally am not a huge fan of the panning envelope that has some higher string notes circle around all the time, but it's easily ignorable if it's not your thing.
The overall quality is very high. It sounds like a modern piece of electronic music made in a DAW and you would never think it is done in a tracker, as it lacks all the characteristic effects that trackers are known for.
Trackers don't have an EQ, unless you are using a modern tracker with plugins. This piece could definitely use some EQing to reduce the mids.
The development is atmospheric. Xerxes creates the foundation and then builds on top. Once the foundation is found, the rest is like adding shadows and colors to the original drawing.
There's a break in the middle, but otherwise the piece is homogeneous, which is exactly the artist's intention here.
This could stay looped in your background for hours, if you want to immerse yourself in this mood.
One small technical nitpick is that the way the piece is done, it doesn't lend itself to seamless looping in a tracker or a mod player, as there is a stray apttern at the end and when it restarts,as there is a fade out, and when it restarts, the strings continue playing on from the last patter. But I assume xerxes approached this is a standalone piece to be rendered to an mp3, not as a standalone mod piece.
Before going for the Awezoom moniker, Victor Vergara used Awesome, which is the name he is known by in the tracking scene. And, boy, is this name accurate! Victor always had this uncanny ability to produce works that have commercial grade quality, but his unrivaled first-class melodies is what captured our hearts.
For a New World II is my favorite composition from Awesome, and one of my all time favorites in general.
One remarkable thing about Awesome's modules is that they are not permeated with complicated effects, like many tracked classics. Instead, most of it is simple volume, panning and volume envelope work, as well as just a general understanding of the basics of the mix.
And yet, his mixing and sound are one of the most impressive in the scene.
I am not completely confident, but I have a suspicion that Awesome's inspirations were more mainstream. While a lot of tracked classics were penned by musicians who have been strongly influenced by the scene itself, I feel Victor's influences are mostly outside the tracked world, which gives his mixes such a mainstream flavor, in the best sense of the term. Back in the day this was unusual and really stood out.
In this case the mix is done in a dream house style, incredibly clean and well balanced. If you did not know it's an xm file, this would sound like modern DAW production.
I am especially awed by his use of drum loops here. He was able to make them his own by the way he panned and combined them.
The strings are also amazing on this one, with the careful volume envelopes that make them sound so natural. It's a small thing, but you take these little details and all together that's what produces a powerful mix.
The star quality of Awesome's work is primarily set in his audacious melodies, which have this delicate combination of being simple and epic at the same time.
For a New World II has a verse/chorus structure and could easily be a song. Victor takes this structure seriously and proceeds creating a dramatic break followed by what must be one of the most properly used key changes in the history of tracked music. The whole arc of the tune is flawless, absolute grace.
If this was released to the mainstream radio in the 90s, it had all the chances to become a hit. Instead, we have it all to ourselves.
This is definitely one of the most hopeful, victorious and life-affirming melodies ever written. I keep it in my collection, and when I come back to it, it takes me to a new world...
What might sound as your normal electronic jazz instrumental is actually a small masterpiece of voice sampling. Attempted by many, the genre of using your voice for all samples in a mod file has been around for a while, but this is the only song that I know of that actually made it work.
All samples are made with Laxity's voice, one sample is made by carefully hitting a spoon against a coffee cup.
The arpeggiating sample is voice as well, sung with a cutoff modulation that you can do by changing the way you sing. The sample was then looped and played with a maximum tone portamento.
Some nice haas effects used on several samples, like hihats, primarily by panning them and playing with different notes.
You cannot tell this was made out of voice samples. The song was in my collection for a long while, but it took me a couple of years to actually go into the source and find out.
As usual, Laxity's production quality is top notch. He pulls out all the stops here, too. A rich, wide and balanced mix.
This is not a complicated tune. But for what it is, it's crafted with melodic mastery. Set against a mesmerizing backdrop of a constantly shifting arpeggio, Laxity delivers a gentle spellbinding melody that flows like a small babbling stream.
Because of the shortness of the tune I was thinking to give it an 8/10, but then realized that nowhere does it say that good music is long music. Or that short songs don't deserve to be judged on their own, without comparing them to epic 10-minute journeys with complex themes, variations and breaks.
If I am completely honest, this tune feels perfect to me. I took the time to think if I would add or change something, and my answer is no. I wouldn't change a thing.
If you leave it on looped, it will take a while until you realize that the song is actually quite short. But it's so serene and pure and well put together, that it works totally and completely.
A must have in any tracked collection. Up there with all the greats.
That's a tough one. Many people have rated this tune highly, but I find it to be weak.
It's a piece which starts out really impressive, but turns out to be confusing and unconvincing. This is what you get if you want to make jazz, but don't have a solid understanding of what jazz actually is.
I am also not that awed by the techniques employed either. A lot of work went into this, but I feel a lot of it is misguided and focuses on all the wrong things.
It is clear that the musician is experienced with trackers. I found the use of ticks per row interesting, I have not seen people use F03 F02 F05 that way before.
Decent panning and volume work. Thoughtful volume envelopes. A clear intention to sound acoustically legit: around a 100 samples used in the tune, which is quite unusual, a lot of these samples are various trumpet tones and rhythm guitar licks.
Unfortunately, the leads in the tune don't sound very realistic, and this effort is entirely wasted, in my view. The composer seems to treat the trumpet a bit like a keyboard, for example. Anyone who has ever played a brass instrument would know that you don't play a trumpet like that.
Even the piano is a bit too whimsical to be taken seriously. It screams "this was written on a computer by someone who has never played a piano". Whether the composer actually plays keyboards or not I don't know, but that's the impression I get, specifically poor volume dynamics and pedal management. It's just not how an actual piano would sound.
And it's fine to write something that's not completely realistic. The problem here is the contrast between an obvious attempt to sound legit, but sounding so clearly fake.
To give a counter example, DRAX might use an electronic instrument that sounds sort of like a trumpet, but isn't really a trumpet. Yet, he makes it sound very much like a trumpet by handling it in a way that sounds natural. And he succeeds not by being pedantic about sampling, but by being accurate about how the instrument is played.
The mix is average. A bit too much of mids and highs in my opinion, I definitely miss the bass, and the piano notes really screw up the overall frequency range.
The overall production quality is alright, but not very consistent. Compare patterns 14 and 32, for instance. 14 has a nice overall panorama, whereas pattern 32 sounds strangely dull, and panning out a bassy rhodes piano feels like a wrong decision here.
As a piece of music, it completely falls apart.
First of all, there is no theme. It starts with a bunch of random notes, then changes instruments to play other random notes, then finishes with even more random notes.
Of course, you can have lick-based music, which has no "theme", like your typical boogie-woogie, but in these cases the licks are slightly more repetitive and provide at least something to hang your hat on. "Streets of Venice" offers no such thing and is entirely forgettable. In fact, it hurts its attempt at being groovy. It's difficult to relate to a series of random notes played to a simple chord sequence. It sounds like it should be fun, but it's not.
Second, the song lacks any dynamics. A fun and jovial piano backing just pushes forward, rarely stopping. The onslaught of non-stop groove offers little contrast, it's like you are faced with a wall of sound that ends up says nothing of consequence.
There is a break at pattern 29, but it's abrupt and feels like another song altogether. It has all the same problems as the main song - random notes, flat dynamics. And actually it is not even a break, since it then fades out, finishing the tune.
Third, there is an offensive key change at patterns 10-11. It is completely unnecessary and comes off as incredibly out of place. It's easy to abuse a key change in a tracker, because it's so easy to do, and this is a great example of when not to do it.
But this key change demonstrates this complete lack of compositional awareness. It's as if the composer has no idea how to develop a melody, so he sets up technical tricks instead: first he inserts a bunch of arbitrary instrument changes, then a key change, then a key change back, then another instrument change, then another key change at pattern 14, and then the tune kind of fades out into part two.
Again, compare this to works of Jeroen Tel or DRAX - and the contrast is going to be obvious. Improvisations are variations around a theme, but in order for them to work there must be a theme!
So, as already noted above, "Street of Venice" does not work as a piece of music for me.
It fails in its attempts to sound realistic by focusing on the technicalities, when what you really need to be focusing on is how the instruments you are trying to emulate are actually played.
It fails as a jazz piece, because this is not how jazz is written. It fails as a melodic piece in general, because there is no melody development or even a melody of any sort.
What it's great at is being superficially impressive. This works at demoparties and gets you places at compos, as well as free beers from your demoscene friends. But I am afraid that's all there is to it: a fun and shallow exercise at tracking something which sounds sophisticated and a bit like jazz, but is neither sophisticated nor jazz.
An upbeat instrumental which takes drunk driving not as a foray into criminal behavior, but as a swashbuckling adventure of the car going in a slight zigzag, something that in the absence of tragic consequences will be remembered as a great night out.
The sound is rich and full, as usual for DRAX, the melodies are memorable and catchy, with a healthy dose of syncopation and jazzy naughtiness.
Lots to learn here, from the standard but not necessarily obvious ticks per row syncopation, to note cuts for a more funky bass, and the Haas effect on various elements for a wider mix. DRAX is obviously comfortable with these tricks and uses them to his advantage.
Inspecting the lead work, one might notice how the volume envelopes create an illusion of reverb. This does introduce the risk of forgetting to close the instrument, and Thomas seems to make that mistake in a couple of places: the notes are way too quiet to make a difference, but were thus unlikely left playing intentionally.
The arrangement is done with a level of technique where it's clear the software does what the musician wants, not the other way around. DRAX's ability to make the lead more interesting by constantly switching between samples makes the piece breathe and hold your attention.
Many samples are from the MAZ collection and are thus of pretty high quality. But even the 8 bit specimens don't offend, and are handled expertly.
From a melodic point of view, it's interesting to take the catchy theme of patterns 14-3, reminiscent of chiptune refrains, and imagine a much simpler and banal take on it. But Thomas takes this into a compositionally more interesting direction, with a chord progression that is unexpectedly more jazzy than you would assume from the premise.
And may I finally say what probably many people noticed, but kept a secret? DRAX really like chordal refrains.
And that's not a bad thing. Just saying that he does. Someone had to say.
It is not the pinnacle of DRAX's work, just a solid representative. The tune will get a bit old after a while, but it's a delight while it's novelty lasts.
This is probably one of the strangest reviews I am going to write, because I will be reviewing a tune which is 1 minute long and uses only one channel. But I maintain that this is one of the most important tracking tunes ever released and deserves a proper review.
An important part of the tracking scene culture is one that is related to the demoscene mindset: a quest to be inhumanely clever, while creating mesmerizing works of art. Over half of the enjoyment is knowing how a particular piece was made, what were the limitations and what is going on in the module.
1 Channel Moog is a composition demonstrating 12/10 skill. Boasting only 5.6 kb in filesize, 4 samples and 1 channel, it's a polyphonic composition that would otherwise arouse no suspicions. Without looking at the source, I would say this is a nice 4 channel mod. The fact that it's all done with 1 channel is at first completely astounding.
Let's break it down.
1. 1 channel polyphony.
The polyphony is achieved through NNA (New Note Action) which was introduced in Impulse Tracker and allowed a composer to specify what happens when a note is interrupted by another note. There are several options: Note Cut, Continue, Note Off and Note Fade. Manwe uses the Continue option to play several notes in one channel.
For instance, first 4 rows initiate 4 notes of the pad which then play as a chord.
2. Lead melody
Probably one of the most stunning tricks, the lead melody is constructed via the pitch envelope, so that one plays a note and the whole melody comes out. The versatility of this approach is such that you can change the key of the melody as easily, by simply playing another note.
It seems obvious from listening to the tune that several instruments start playing at the same time. In reality, this is a clever illusion. Manwe manipulates the amount of ticks per row and instrument envelopes in such a way so as to make the audio sound at exactly the right moment, although formally notes have been initiated sequentially.
This is not easy to follow, even if you lower the tempo. Manwe sets 12 ticks per every row on the onset with the A0C command. Whenever you see him go below this value is an indication that he is inserting additional events. Typically, you see A03 and A09 together: together they comprise A0C.
One of the more obvious examples is at line 19, which initiates the melody. Notice that it switches the amount of ticks from 9 to 3 and then to 12. The pitch envelope of the lead is shifted by 3 ticks: 2 silent ones and 1 fade in. This way you can initiate the melody in between the bass notes and still be in perfect sync with the rhythm. Same trick is used in pattern 2 for the percussion instrument 4: it's volume envelope is offset by 2 ticks and allows to percussion to play simultaneously with the bass note.
Notice that the lead melody has a delay added! Line 23 introduces a duplicate note played at a lower volume. This makes the melody sound more epic and levitate over the bassline. The fact that Manwe decided to add a delay is a demonstration of both skill and disturbing audacity!
4. Pattern jumps
While a relatively standard command, in this tune Manwe frequently loops small portions of the pattern: with all the ticks per row changes the pattern is no longer even and cannot be used in a straightforward manner anyway. It also allowed to limit the initial version of the tune to 1 pattern. The current, advanced version, contains 2 patterns, with the second pattern introducing a percussion element.
A simple chunk to follow is again in the beginning of pattern one, lines 4-14. There is an additional A06 command which allows to play a 16th note. It was the only way to do this in a compact manner. You can see this A06 note throughout the composition, because the bassline stays the same.
The bassline is constructed out of a single note and a volume envelope which emulates a dual echo line. The panning envelope expands delayed notes outwards. The bass instrument also uses keyboard mapping and maps to 3 separate samples, which make the resulting bassline interesting and constantly moving. A filter envelope is applied to the bassline as well.
The tune is reminiscent of the 70s and 80s approach to ambient, with a moving bassline, a pad and a singing synth lead.
The only complaint is the slight distortion prevalent throughout the mix. This stems from the filter spiking on a high resonance setting. It is not trivial to fix this, and is basically a creative decision. Changing it to a non-offending value results in a duller sound for the bassline, for example. A multiband compressor or EQ would have helped here, but none are available in trackers of the IT era. So, a bit of distortion seems to be a fine compromise.
Manwe uses the time honored technique of changing keys, which works perfectly for this type of composition: a bassline, a chord and a solo are established, and the only way to move this forward, especially when you have a single channel to play with, is to change the key. An addition of a percussion in the second pattern is a wonderful way to make it sound even more interesting.
The incredible part about it, is that at the end of the day this is a good tune. If you wouldn't know how it was made, perhaps you would consider it music written for a purpose, part of a game soundtrack, for instance. Otherwise, you might want additional instruments to kick in. But apart from that, it's a cool piece of electronic music, serene and inspired.
A melancholic wandering in a world of floating notes, dispersed in space by an electronic guitar under the gaze of a memorable and somewhat ominous string theme.
I have to be honest, I primarily love this song for the production quality. I am a sucker for those incredible 80s drums. Laxity goes full Haas on the kick, the snare and the rimshot - and it works. The drums are incredibly punchy and real.
The guitar lead is versatile and spontaneous, like someone just thoughtfully improvising. Vibrato, tone portamento, the volume control are top notch. The strings chords are properly panned for a wider feel.
I also commend the use of just 14 tracks. The tune sounds more complicated.
All samples are 8 bit, but more or less clean. The resulting mix is fantastic, but where I think the tune falls a bit short are the first few patterns: the string theme is played using very high notes, which sound unappetizing, at the range when you can hear these are samples.
Static Motion is mostly one slow theme with some variations, set against a repeating string theme and an 80s bassline and drums. This definitely works for a tune like this.
The only small thing is that my XX century brain asks for a bit more swing, but all the guitar notes fall squarely on a normal 4/4 bit with no swing whatsoever. I am not sure who to blame here, the composer or the listener.
I love the string theme in patterns 4 and 25 and wish there was a bit more of this. Immersion!
The song has a slow start and requires a bit of an investment from the listener. It's definitely a tune you need to get into. But once you are there - you won't want to leave!
A groovy high quality instrumental with a catchy brass-like refrain, culminating with an absolutely mesmerizing variations.
DRAX is a master of tracking. He is able to use effects that are typically used for straightforward chiptune sounds and utilize them in a way to simulate acoustic instruments. His use of tone portamento on channel 26 in pattern 11 is such a perfect simulation of a rhythm guitar. Try removing the tone portamento and see how it makes the sound less interesting.
His tone slides are perfect, realistic and serve a musical purpose.
DRAX also frequently uses synths chords to simulate brass and it works magnificently in this piece as well.
Key to a good mix are volume levels, and Thomas inevitably comes up with a consummate setup. Each instruments sits tightly in the mix, the frequency map is impeccable.
As is usual for Thomas' tracked work, the drums are prominent and largely unchanging, but I always attribute it to the zeitgeist. The 90s were the drum era, and it definitely translated into a lot of tracked music being really heavy on the drums. Having said that, I am perfectly satisfied with the drum levels on this one.
A nice haas effect on strings. Haas is also used on the bass, although I failed to hear the difference and in general using haas on bass is discouraged.
For chords DRAX is using a common technique of panning individual notes to make the chord sound across the panorama.
DRAX is a talented musician and his maturity as a composer is on full display here. His ability to craft groove with melody alone is second to none. What he can do with a bunch of notes, tone slides and vibrato is going to keep you tapping your foot throughout the whole thing. And every single note, every single decoration feels essential.
The tune departs enough from a verse-chorus pattern that the whole thing feels like variations in-between a repeating refrain. It culminates with a stunning solo that is the highlight of "A Rose of Gold".
There is a lot of detail. Every instrument is played as if it is a standalone performance. The bass alone is incredible. I would have preferred drums to be as interesting as the rest, say, have a drum solo in there as well. I would also start the tune with pattern with pattern 4 or even with pattern 6. But DRAX frequently starts his tunes with a pattern of drums. I will not be taking out any points because of this. Ultimately, this is not very important and melodically and creatively this is a 10/10.
Because this is made with "electronic instruments", many people seem to associate this with game music. To me this is a jazz orchestra piece which can be played live to great success.
Definitely, one of my favorite DRAX tunes.
A masterpiece from Hunz. A tune that sounds electronic and very modern to its 1996 setting, it nevertheless has this tracked feeling that made it unique.
More than 20 years later it still stands strong.
It's one of those modules, where going through samples first, helps understand the amount of skill involved.
Pattern 4, channels 11-16 is probably the most satisfying electronic texture I've ever heard in tracked music. And yet, if you listen to the original samples, it boggles the mind that Hunz was able to shape them into his vision with such precision and style. Many mainstream artists at the time had worse and less interesting technique and sounds. And they had all the filters and knobs in the world.
Great coupling of two samples to create an expansive bassline in channels 7-8, as well as the clever use of delays to create a sort of a light reverb effect on the bass.
As is characteristic of Hunz's work, an incredibly detailed arrangement, filled with small barely audible elements that add to the overall complexity. The tune sounds deceptively minimal, but it's musical power is attributable to a huge amount of arpeggios, supporting melodies and sounds, placed all throughout the piece.
Whether by chance or by design, Hunz finds mindblowing combinations of sounds that through the mixing of frequencies create effects that are more interesting in cooperation, a sign of a great mix.
For example, the theme in channels 13-14 that starts in pattern 7 sounds like a filter modulated synth, although it's just an interplay of its notes, delay and the rich background it's set against.
This is a very 1996 piece, which is both its advantage and its weakness.
Weakness because I am not certain how well this has aged. I love it. But will a 10 year old in 2019 get it?
It's an advantage because it was an incredibly modern piece of music at the time. Pattern 18 channels 13-16, along with the bassline, are so 1996 that "Possum" can be used by music historians.
And, speaking of the possum, the story given in the comments is as much a part of this piece as the music itself. Using the little space he had, Hunz did what he's best at: make the music bigger than it is, which is exactly the purpose of art - making things bigger, more important, more interesting that they initially seem to be.
A masterpiece which goes beyond tracking. If anything, this is a tune that is so strong, the listener won't care what it's made with. An illusion of raw creativity achieved through phenomenal skill.
This is most definitely a classic, a chillout tune with a recognizable sensual melody and one of those pieces that made tracking music sound cool and real back in the 90s. This is what you show people when you explain that tracked music is not just chiptunes.
A master at work here, utilizing volume envelopes for the leads, skillfully employing portamento effects to make leads sing and wiggle about like colorful snakes, making dull noisy samples come alive.
A lovely chorus effect on drums in channels 1 and 2, achieved by panning channels to L and R respectively and then applying a slight offset effect on one of them. This gives drums space and depth.
In fact, one could be forgiven to mistake the drums in this piece for a pre-rendered loop taken from a professional sample pack. In fact, Hunz uses one-shot samples from the very well known "Jungle Warfare" sample collection, and the beat is entirely his own.
The tune has a minimalitic feel, while in reality the mix is incredibly detailed and many things are going on simultaneously. Some backing themes are audible behind the lead and form a lovely melodic texture, but quite a number of tracks will surprise you and you will begin hearing them only after having looked at the source.
In fact, for some of them I am not sure if they even work. for instance, the voice sample on channel 18 starting at pattern 8 is barely audible anywhere in the mix. Muting it seems to change nothing. If you know what to look for, you will hear a tiny bit of it in patterns 10, 16 and 17, but removing it just makes the mix cleaner. At the very least, I would have it as one-shot bursts, not an on-going pattern that nobody gets to hear anyway.
In some patterns, channels 11 and 12 carry a very quiet supporting melody, but in my opinion it is way too quiet and stands in the way of the lead melody too much to make a difference. The volumes on it are 16 and 7 for the delay. Comparing the tune with or without these channels yields no audible difference for me, and at these moments the track has lots of other melodic lines going on anyway. The only time is does work is in the intro, in patterns 0 and 1, but I think it should have been removed thereon.
I love the combination of the two leads in channels 9-12 starting pattern 8. A beautiful combo, which fools your ears into perceiving it as a single and very interesting instrument.
Melodically this is perfect. If I am allowed to use this rarely invoked word, this is made for a truly voluptuous pleasure.
I cannot tell you how many times I've listened to this and was immediately caught up in the thoughtful world of Hunz's melody making. A definite mood setter, along with the title the tune creates an impression of being bigger than it is, which is an unlikely thing to say about what on the surface seems to be just a jazzy chillout tune.
And one of the few tunes in the world where changing a key as a way of finishing the tune feels like a valid move.
A definite classic, with lots to explore in the source and one of those tunes that make mod music sound good to outsiders.
The overall impression can be described with one word: impressive.
Perhaps, due to the choice of the genre, but this is something you don't hear very often in mod music, and the way the brass and backing guitar is handled, while hints at sample usage, still demonstrates a ridiculous amount of skill and work put into this.
Definitely a master at work.
In order to understand that, try shifting through the instruments. It is difficult to imagine that the source material could be used to create such an astounding arrangement, in spite there being some beat and brass samples.
A very clean handling of samples, simple and elegant volume enveloping of looped sounds like rides and cymbals, the speed slowing in the first pattern is an appealing visual experience. The transition in pattern 47 is equally satisfying.
The use of effects is beautifully utilitarian - everything is used for a specific musical purpose. The feeling is that the author went from the concept to implementation, not the other way around.
Perfect portamentos for the sine sound during the chorus part of the tune.
The stereo separation of instruments in this tune is nothing short of perfection. The mix is full, wide and professional, every sound sits tightly in the panorama.
Frequency balance is very even and the volume levels are perfectly aligned. Not once could I hear a mixing mistake anywhere.
One tiny quibble is that the string on channels 23 and 24 could have been changed more elegantly in places such as the end of pattern 24. The notes could have been placed in separate channels and faded out more cleanly. I tried it, and I like it better, although I can also understand that perhaps this way you can hear the punch of the incoming note better, so maybe that's what the author was going for.
Melodically the tune is actually nothing special and would probably be the least interesting part of the experience.
The chorus part is a bit too static from chorus to chorus and you shouldn't expect much variation. The reason for this might be technical: reliance on a limited set of samples precludes one from really exploring all the possibilities.
The excellent mix quickly becomes just a background, since the combo doesn't change throughout the track and your ears get used to all the elements. And it's one of those tracks that start out excellently, but you kind of never make it till the end.
Now, I might be a little bit unfair here, since the author really tries lots of variation, and I again think that he was sparring with the limited things he had to work with. And the breaks, chord changes and small little elements used are all very nice. For instance, the arpeggio at pattern 55 on channel 16 is so timely and so appropriate, I can't praise it enough.
The break at pattern 13 is good. And the melodies in general are solid: good jazz lead playing.
I guess what could have made this track more interesting was a more clear theme. When you listen to the initial patters with the brass backing, it seems exactly this: backing. But then it turns out, this IS the theme. And while the sine works, it still feels like background. One analogy I can make, perhaps, is that the refrain part of the tune would totally work as a hip-hop beat. But it seems to ask for something else.
Another suggestion, perhaps a more realistic one, would be to have less repetitions and just make the overall track twice as short. Take all the good parts, throw out repeating patterns and make it a non-stop variation ride.
A classic from DRAX, it's probably the catchiest of his tunes and one of the most vivid demonstrations of his skill as both a master melodist and an accomplished tracker musician.
Some of us feel that our music is shaped by the tools we use. DRAX will have none of it: Fast Tracker basically does what he wants, when he wants it and how he wants it. If there was ever a demonstration of man going against machine and winning, go no further!
It's not there are any special tricks here, it's the sheer skill of Thomas Mogensen and how unencumbered he is by what many would describe as a musical Excel table. You could imagine this being played live or made using a modern DAW, and the result is unlikely to be any better.
The way he achieves it is through a selection of several small but important effects. For instance, he has two separate bass samples, which allows him to pan them into separate channels and create a stereo expansion chorus effect: the listener perceives it as this very rich bass sound, when in reality there are two samples being played at the same time.
A similar trick is used to expand the stereo perception of the snare: two notes are played at the same time, each note panned to its respective stereo channel, but one note's pitch is changed via fine tune, which creates a stereo expansion effect.
Huge amount of small details which you don't realize exist until you see them in the source file, mute and realize how much momentum they create, careful panning of strings and arpeggios, the choice of instruments and knowing how to use them, all that creates a world class production that generations of tracker musicians are inspired by.
Musically, the arrangement is done with a skill of a person who definitely played in live bands. There is a certain independence to each instrument, a quality rarely seen in pure electronic music where it is more customary to view instruments as supporting sounds. Here one can definitely imagine every part having enough to interest an actual musician.
Whether that's necessary in general or not is not important. What's important is that it works for this tune and creates a critical mass of complexity that makes DRAX's work shine. Perhaps, it can be generalized as the amount of attention given to every element in the composition, from majestic leads to the lowly hihat.
Melodically the tune is flawless, but there is one quibble that I've always had, and it is the kick. I feel the tune could use a break from it.
Not only that, it's way too loud. DRAX modulates the volume, going from 64, to 08 and then to 16. I would love for the initial kick to sometimes be at around 48 or even 32. I actually tried it and the result, in my opinion, is much better. Especially in situations when the kick coincides with the snare, like on line 88. Removing it completely doesn't work, but setting it to 32 removes those sporadic kick notes you hear throughout the track.
I guess this is the result of the context of the 90s, when a prominent kick was first a novelty, then a standard. Same with the open hat on channel 2, by the way. I am not against open hats, but maybe a less techno sounding instrument would have been a better fit.
Either way, these are minor issues, and are debatable. In many cases I am not against DRAX's kick, but I do know that some listeners have an issue with it. Most probably, today Thomas would have made a different decision here, and his latest tunes on SoundCloud demonstrate a much less bassy kick in tunes of similar genre.
This is a classic and one of the must-haves in any collection of mod music.
A whimsical, slightly mischievous and incredibly entertaining piece of music, which you are likely to enjoy more than you think. The mood grows on you, and you find yourself coming back to it again and again...
DRAX is known for his jazz-influenced compositions. This one has a very distinct orchestral big band sound to it, but even here Thomas manages to insert some jazzy sounding bends.
The tune is deceptively simple, it has a standard verse-chorus-break structure, but the big secret is in how the looping is done, which gives an impression of a much more complicated setup. Somehow, when this track is on repeat, you get lost in the islands of choruses and verses and it doesn't feel standard at all.
And the flow on this one is mesmerizing. It's uncanny how DRAX takes what could have been a simplistic refrain and turns it into an ambient experience. I would listen to the tune on repeat for an hour, and yet it doesn't get old!
As usual with DRAX's work, Thomas achieves several things here.
First, impeccable production quality by starting with well treated compressed samples which make the whole tune on average much louder and fuller than a lot of other mod music. Very smart panning work, solid volume levels, each sound sits well in the mix. Even by today's standards this sounds better than what most amateur composers are able to achieve by using a whole amalgam of effects. And the interesting thing is that Thomas frequently uses samples available to other mod composers as well, such as the very well known MAZ sample pack.
Another important bit is his superior handling of percussion. He definitely knows what he is doing and the pattern is realistic, unlike what you get when someone just randomly assembles samples into what ends up being an incoherent mess.
It takes one quite a number of loops in order to realize how much actually went into creating this nice little piece, and how detailed the arrangement is. For instance, most will probably not notice the light organ licks. But they add to the overall movement. Or the excellent use of delayed notes with inverted panning.
DRAX, the master melodist, nails the balance between the simplicity of the main theme and somewhat jazzy, subtle decorations. No note is unnecessary, and yet there are enough details to miss many of them at first.
This goes into my all time favorites folder. While one can imagine this being a soundtrack for a platformer game, to me this tune can work on many levels. Not only can it support a mood you are already in, it is definitely a mood setter as well. Perhaps this is just me or maybe I am one of those 3 monkeys, but this tune speaks to me.
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