Tag Archives: original

Originals: The Last Dream (EP)

Artwork by Joey Mariano ( animal-style.com )

Hi guys!  Been quite some time since I’ve posted.  Hope all is well.

I’m pleased to announce the release of my very first chiptune album, “The Last Dream”.  I’ve been working on this for some time and I’m very excited to share it with you.  Please take a listen and download it (it’s free!).

Feel free to leave comments.  I’m not revealing exactly what the album is about (maybe you can figure it out!) but I’ll be glad to answer any questions about how I put the music together, constructed the concept, etc.

Expanded Liner Notes:

The entire album was created using jsr’s Famitracker 0.4.2 with Ricoh 2a03 and Konami VRC6.   I created my own DPCM 1bit samples and all the samples you hear are playable on a Famicom console.  If you download the album, you will get the NSF files and if you have the right equipment, you can play it right off hardware, which is neat!

Here’s a couple things I thought about while making this album:

  • I excluded tuba.  I know that I’ve been working on combining the two during performances but I wanted to write an album that stands alone to start.  Well, and also, I’m not sure exactly how to integrate the tuba well enough at this point to make it sound polished.  I will definitely continue to experiment with that.
  • While I have been writing a LOT of Turbografx-16 tracks lately, I wanted my first album to reflect the work I’ve done with this set up.  I’ve been using 2a03+VRC6 since I started last February.  I really wanted to show off what I’ve learned.
  • This album was originally slated to be called “First Blood”.  I actually completed most of the tracks and then realized that I didn’t like the concept.  I ended up tossing many of the ideas I had and rewriting a couple from the ground up.  I wanted to focus on a different concept as I felt “First Blood”‘s concept of drinking, depression, and self-pity was a bit too dark overall.
    • The only track from “First Blood” that made this album is “Rumble”.  The rest of the tracks were written with the new concept in mind and all within the last 4 months or so.
    • There was to be an “Oddball – Album Version” included on the CD but I cut it at the last minute.  The track is completely done.  I plan on releasing it in the future but I won’t tell when.
    • My toughest decision was to cut a 9-minute long epic track about depression called “Nagging Cough”.  I have been fighting with this track since last March.  This was written right after “What Happens When You Take the Wrong Bus”, making it the second track of my short chiptuning career.  It started small and now it’s kind of grown into something completely different.  There are so many good things in it… and so many things I want to change.  I believe I will release it as a single in the spring, maybe as a one-year anniversary of my struggle to make it sound like music.

At any rate, I really hope you like what I’ve put together.  Thanks for listening and thanks for reading!  Hope to see some of you lovely people at MAGFest this year.  I will be in town on January 4th.

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Originals: “A Promise”

This track premiered at 8static 36’s Open Mic on June 8th at PhilaMOCA in Philadelphia, PA.  It was written in Famitracker v. 0.4.2 using 2a03+VRC6 and numerous drum samples programmed through the DPCM channel.  Please enjoy!

Some background on the piece while you listen:

  • The title for this track was decided long after it was finished.  The track was written specifically for June’s 8static with the intent of showing off all the new techniques I learned while working on my Chiptunes = WIN submission (which was accepted, by the way) without playing my ChipWIN submission live.  At first, I wanted to call it something like “My Promise” or “Promises” or “It Will Continue”- something that showed that the work done here was not the end of my own personal growth.  I figured that “My Promise” was too pretentious.  There’s not really a pretentious vibe to the song.  I eventually settled on “A Promise”.  “A Promise” can be from me to you, from you to me, from anyone and anything, as long as it’s kept.  I figured I’ll leave that interpretation up to you, the listener.
  • Construction:
    • My original goal was find a way to create “heavy metal” using NES audio.  I spent a lot of time developing sounds and tweaking instruments to get a nasty, almost grungy sound.  I was pretty happy with it.
    • From there, I constructed the beat.  8static IS a dance party, I know people play chip music and stuff there, but it’s fundamentally a dance party.  I spend time messing with various ideas until I settled on the beat your hear above.
    • I overlayed the original bass line (which was far less busy) and then wrote a simple melody.  I usually start with a very “quarter note-y” version of everything just to hear the harmonies and the direction.  I adjusted the shapes of the melodies to be more interesting, cut some “holes” for silence, and then spliced the original part to the grunge part.  I then cloned the beginning, changed the bassline and feel, and tweaked everything so that it flowed.
  • Things I’d do differently:
    • After almost getting rejected from the ChipWIN comp for bad volume levels on my instruments, I think I’ve finally learned that I cannot crank every instrument up to the highest volume setting.  I LOVE the sound it creates.  It’s like… garbage noise.  It distorts and spreads.  It’s a useful tool but I don’t think I can use it all the time.  I definitely could go back and change the volume levels on this guy too.  It would probably sound even better.
    • I need to follow my instincts a bit more when composing.  My ChipWIN submission took about 15-16 hours to write and this took 25+.  At the last minute, I found myself reverting parts of the piece back to the originals ideas.  Lesson here is:

Hope you enjoyed the track!  More to come as usual.  Thanks again!


Covering a Tune: “What Happens When You Take The Wrong Bus” Remix 1

Hey guys!

It’s been exactly 3 months since I first performed at 8static.  Wow.  Time flies.  Since then, I’ve been working diligently on new chiptune works and trying my best to continue to explore the limitations of NES audio.

One of the cool things about working with Famitracker and actually composing music IN the original 2a03 is that it gives me MUCH greater insight into how the original composers used the chip.  My perspectives on old soundtracks have changed greatly since I’ve begun composing as Ap0c.  I believe the difficulties I encountered working with the chip and the limitations of the output of sound really steel my original opinions on retro game audio and bgm.  But more on that later!

Since Ap0c is fundamentally a performance experiment, I’m still not sure what Ap0c’s voice is.  Is it gothic-classical-Castlevania inspired dance music?  Happy chiptune ska?  Mega serious and brooding classical works?  I guess so far it’s been all of the above.  There’s really no sense in labeling what I do… still, it would be nice to have a cohesive idea behind all the tracks, especially if I’m planning on releasing an EP.

In the stuggle to find the voice for this project, I’ve decided to remix some of my older tracks.  I believe the answer to my question lies really in my own interpretation of my own work.  For this ongoing experiment, I’ve chosen “What Happens When You Take The Wrong Bus”.  I will make a new cover of this song every 3 months and use the recordings to measure my progress.  The key thing I’ll be looking at is style.  Why did I write it the way I did in the first place?  Does that work?  Does it fit in with what Ap0c’s become?  All of these questions will need to be answered as I go.

This piece was first performed (IE Famitracker’d off a laptop… lame!) on February 8th, 2013 for 8static 32.  Here’s my write-up on that performance in case you’re wondering.

Okay, so here’s the original work.  I’m not reposting this to soundcloud so listen from Chipmusic.org.

The original work accomplishes much of what it set out to do.  My goal was to write a traditional RPG town theme and then basically go crazy with noises and sound effects to create perhaps FEAR or something along those lines.  I believe the original is effective AS IS in many ways.

Still, there’s a lot that can change.  One of the things that I’m not terribly proud about is the beat.  A certain chiptune musician who I often send my unfinished works to for review would say that it lacks “treble” in the drums.  I would agree.  I changed the drums a LOT in the new version.

The way I programmed this was completely stupid.  I created ONLY 2 instruments.  Yes.  There’s only a generic VRC6 instrument and a 2a03 instrument, assigned to play indefinitely.  I programmed EVERYTHING outside the instrument editor.  Since I’ve actually learned how to make instruments that are varied and interesting, I decided to add my regular slew of instruments to the new version.

Lastly, I was really unhappy with the original solo I wrote around 2:14.  It’s effective but it could be so much more.  A lot of my newer pieces have rockin’ guitar-esque solos.  Why not this piece as well?

The finished product is on my SoundCloud right now and can be viewed below.  I hope you guys enjoy it and I’ll see you back in 3 months to see how much my style has changed.  Rock on!

What Happens When You Take The Wrong Bus [May Mix]

Also, I’m down for ANY feedback you guys can provide between the two mixes.  So please let me know what you think!  Thanks again!


Originals: “Last Minute Research Paper”

February’s 8static really got me inspired to assemble some originals to perform in the future.  Naturally, as a newcomer to the chiptune scene, I need to see what the scene… well… is!  I’ve been listening to everything and anything, trying to absorb every sound and style in the chiptune genre.  There’s so much out there!  I’m actually impressed with the overall quality I’m finding.  Mostly, you can tell that people put an incredible amount of time and effort into each track.  For a great example of quality and craftsmanship, I would check Chipocrite’s new album:  8bit Lebowski:  100% Electronic.  And it’s not just this album- there’s tens of thousands of albums out there to explore.  It’s really awesome.

Either way, performing as “Steve L” is only going to get me so far as it would appear that everyone has a stage name.  I didn’t want to be presumptuous and assume it was okay to just make up a stage name, having very little experience and what not…. but I ended up doing so anyhow.  I’ll be performing under “Ap0c” from here on out, as a homage to the Relic Scythe from Final Fantasy XI.

Nerdy inspiration for a name… but a bad-ass scythe.

For the past month, I’ve been working on pieces for Beta Test Music as well.  We will be performing our very first NYC show this weekend, in fact.  Details here.  It will feature 2 works for the band+20a3/VRC6 that I’ve arranged.  Our drummer is busy this weekend… so I just whipped up some NES audio to go with Pokemon to cover for him.  I’m also tweaking my arrangement of music from Castlevania III because I’ve learned SOOO MUCH about sound creation since the original performance that I feel like the work was a bit amateurish and could easily be fixed to make a lot more sense.

Anyhow, “Last Minute Research Paper” is supposed to invoke that feeling of a race to the finish.  I imagine sitting down at 9 PM, attemping to finish a paper that is due at 8 AM the next morning.  The music goes through ups and downs, progress and lack of progress, and should have a push and pull kind of feel.  Ultimately, the paper is finished but at what cost?  Too dramatic?  Too bad.

Below you’ll find the live performance of this piece at 8static 33:

One thing instantly noticeable is my snares are kind of out of control at times.  On my headphones, it didn’t sound nearly as crashy and crazy.  It’s really just at the beginning.  It would appear I dropped an “F” in Famitracker for the noise channel and forgot to remove it.  You can hear it activate at around :11.  I think it stays up at the volume for a while before receiving another command not to be so loud.  Most of my volume controls are built into the instruments so it probably took a long time before I put another command in.  Oh well.  I need to remember to just put in “analog” controls more often.  It will also help when I have a full rig so I can mix stuff more on the fly.

Anyhow, I hope you enjoyed it!  I have some other cool things I’m working on too so I’ll put them up here when they are complete.  It’s my Spring Break (yep, a perk of being a college professor) so I’m going to try to aim to clean up some half-completed posts, including Virus, Part 2 of Dr. Mario, and some other interesting Research in Game Music topics.  Happy Monday!