The 'Shroom:Issue 100/Palette Swap
Hello, everyone, and welcome to the grand bash that is Issue 100! We have a massive Palette Swap for you all this month, so let’s dive right in!
I would like to welcome two new (well, new to the team so far) writers to permanent spots: Crocodile Dippy (talk) and Stooben Rooben (talk)! Dippy brings us an in-depth look at one of her favorite composers of video game music in her ‘Composer Spotlight’ section, and Stooben has put a massive amount of work into his new column, ‘8-Bit Amphitheater,’ remixing popular and video game songs into something new! I’ll let him tell you about the specifics, so be sure to check both of those columns out! Additionally, Walkazo (talk) is starting another new section, this time in comic form, titled “The Adventures of Little Mario”!
We’ve really put in a ton of effort to make this massive issue of Palette Swap happen, so take your time, stay awhile, and read everything! Oh, and don’t forget to vote for Section of the Month!
Section of the Month
For June, congratulations to Walkazo (talk) for winning SotM with 13 votes for her clever column about the “Mario Kart Love Song” by Sam Hart! Last month we didn’t have many submissions, but since we have so many new sections this month, I’m really hoping to see a great turnout of votes this time!
|PALETTE SWAP SECTION OF THE MONTH|
|1st||Mario's Boombox||13||72.22||Walkazo (talk)|
|2nd||Featured Sprite||5||27.78||FunkyK38 (talk)|
Flag Design Contest
Greetings, readers, FunkyK here to tell you all about the ‘Shroom’s Official Flag Design Contest!
We’re building a world map based on RARE games, and we want YOU to design a beautiful flag for it! This flag will be featured in upcoming 'Shroom issues with the world map, so your design will get lots of publicity and views! Here are the basic rules:
1. No inappropriate content, EXCEPT in the case of Conker’s Bad Fur Day. For that game only, you can put inappropriate content on your flag, but it must follow the rules outlined in the Manual of Style
2. Flags can be sent in any format you need; if you send in a photograph of a hand-drawn flag, it MUST be clear with good lighting.
3. All Rare games can be represented on the same flag. If you want to mix DKC with Banjo-Kazooie, that’s fine with us.
4. We will be evaluating on concept as much as design here. If all you have to work with are some colored pencils and MS Paint, don’t be discouraged by someone who has Photoshop or GIMP. If the concept of your flag is amazing and you put in a really good effort, we’ll evaluate your flag just the same.
5. Flags should be 1000x800 pixels max.
Now that the rules are out there for everyone, time for submissions! To submit your flag design, simply go to the ‘Shroom board on the forums and find the “Official Flag Design Contest 2015” thread. There, you can interact with us directly about the contest, whether you need more time, or if you have any questions about content, and you can submit your flags there, as well.
Everyone has one month to design and create their flags, the deadline is August 15th, when the next issue of The ‘Shroom comes out. Again, if you need more time, message us on the official thread, and if enough people need more time, we’ll extend it. Then, we will have a one month voting period where you can vote on which flag you like in a different thread. I’ll tell you more next month when voting starts.
So, with all of that said, I’ll open the gates for your creativity! Best of luck to everyone while creating their flags, and I’m excited to see what you all come up with!
What's on the Box
As you diligent 'Shroom readers may be aware there is a Rare Flag competition going on, so in honour of that (and the fact that Dippy likes it), for this month's boxart I've gone outside the scope of the wiki and picked a classic N64 game Conker's Bad Fur Day. However, there's a not a lot to really say about it unfortunately. It features Conker and his girlfriend Berry leaning on the game's title, which is aptly made out of fur. And that's basically it, the only other thing to note about it is that Conker is holding a beer, a beverage that kickstarts the plot of the actual game, also one could probably infer the darker nature of the game given its entirely black background. What's disappointing about the boxart is that it lacks many characters from a game that had a diverse cast, featuring the Grim Reaper, a baby dinosaur and even the Great Mighty Singing Poo.
Welcome, readers! This month, in honor of The ‘Shroom’s 100th issue, I’m bringing to you a montage of mushrooms! We pride ourselves at delivering the freshest
mushrooms stories that we can get, and we really appreciate everyone reading all us!
Mushy stuff aside, this barrage of mushrooms brings back fond memories. The first Mario game I ever played, I’m pretty sure, was Super Mario Bros. 3, the edition for the GameBoy Advance. Despite being terrible at platforming, I got all the way to Ice Land, and then ice physics got the best of me. What can I say, terrible at platforming. But anyways, I was always excited to see a Super Mushroom pop out of a ?-block, especially on that first level, although I have to admit my favorite power-up was always the P-Wing.
Our representing games are: Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels, Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario Land, Super Mario World, Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins, Super Mario All-Stars, Mario & Wario, Super Mario 64 DS, New Super Mario Bros., and Puzzles & Dragons: Super Mario Bros. Edition!
The Adventures of Little Mario
Hello! This is the first issue of a new webcomic I'm doing for The 'Shroom called "The Adventures of Little Mario". As the title suggests, it's about Mario and Luigi as kids, growing up in the Brooklyn borough of Big Ape City and having shenanigans with other young characters, often to their beleaguered teacher's dismay. Additional characters and the identity of the teacher will be revealed in future issues; so far I have 12 planned, but who knows, maybe I'll write more if inspiration strikes. Anyway, enough blabbering from me - hope you enjoy the comic!
Ongoing Fan Projects
|Haruichi Kominato||The 'Lily attempts to art' thread||A thread where Haruichi Kominato shows off some drawings she has done. A recent update includes anime characters and her OC.|
|Baby Luigi||Spelunky HD-styled Baby Luigi sprite sheet||A thread where Baby Luigi shows off some Baby Luigi sprites that she has made.|
|Smg2daisy||Smg2daisy's Gallery||A thread where Smg2daisy shows off some art she's done. A recent update includes an unfinished picture of several forum users.|
|Baby Luigi||Mario and Baby Luigi's Garry's Clustercrowd Pics||A thread where Baby Luigi and Mario show off some screenshots they took in Garry's Mod. Recent updates include Link and various fire creatures underwater, and various characters at a cinema.|
|Ruby||Almond Factory||A sprite comic being made by Ruby.|
|gloomymanor||My drawings!||A thread where gloomymanor shows off some art that she has drawn.|
|Binarystep||Binarystep's Sprites||A thread where Binarystep shows off some sprites that they have made. Recent updates include animated sprites.|
|SiFi||Mario Boards Dinosaur Comics||A thread where SiFi creates Dinosaur Comics.|
|Magikrazy||Magikrazy does Paint things (request)||A thread where Magikrazy draws things that people request on Paint. Recent updates have included fight scenes.|
|BEEEEEAAARRRS||Stuff I make - what is requests||A thread where BEEEEEAAARRRS shows off stuff he's done. Recent updates include depictions of him playing The Oregon Trail.|
|Peridot||"Excuse me, I may have just arted"||A thread where Peridot shows off some drawings he has done. Recent updates include a character from Steven Universe and a goat.|
|Roy & Roy||PeDaRoYs(infinite8)'s gallery||A thread where Roy & Roy shows off some art he's done. Recent updates include various pictures of Mario characters.|
Welcome to the Special Issue C installment of "Mario's Boombox"! Admittedly, the significance of such a milestone is a bit lost on a column as young as this, but whatever, we're still gonna get into the spirit here by doing something unique: a "best songs" list. Which is unique as far as this column will ever go because I am dreadful at whittling things down to X number of favourites/tops/whatever, and won't be doing this again in the conceivable future. Of course, seeing as this is the 100th issue, I suppose I could make a list of Top 100 VG-related songs or something: even that's big enough to make up for my indecisiveness, but then, what would I have left to talk abut in subsequent articles? Nothing, that's what - and that would be what I call "poor planning".
Mind you, if I planned this out well, I'd've left my Touhou article for this month, not only because it's coincidentally our resident #1 Touhou fan's b-day today, and I promised her a shoutout anyway (here's lookin' at you, DP), but also because I actually could have gotten a full 100-song list out of that fandom alone. But alas, I did not think of that, so instead I'll just have to choose one of my own fave groups, buck up, dig deep, and do a mere list of 10^2 songs. Now I know what you're thinking: that's the same damn thing! 10^2 = 102 = 100, right? That, my friends, is thinking inside the box. But don't worry, it'll all become clear in time. So for now, let's move this along already, and introduce the subject of the groundbreaking 10^2 list: The Megas, a band that specializes in turning background music from Mega Man games into rockin' songs with full sets of lyrics.
The fact that I love The Megas should come as no surprise to you if you're familiar with that one comic I coauthored, which was full of references to the band in-comic and in the corresponding forum thread. I first found out about them years ago, from long-time wiki member and forum mod, MST3K, who would post their songs on the ol' Xephyr Board. Despite not knowing anything about Mega Man, I got so pulled into the lyrics, I started doing research about the actual canon and of course, listened to more Megas music. But enough backstory; the following "Top 10^2 Song" list is list of highlights from each of their albums (plus some extras), in chronological order.
The Megas' first album was Get Equipped in 2008, which mostly consisted of songs about the eight Robot Masters (i.e. level bosses) that Mega Man had to fight in Mega Man 2, which each song based on the corresponding robot's level's background music. Some of the songs are played pretty straight, like 1. "Man on Fire", which is all about Heat Man wanting to drag Mega Man down to robot hell: basic stuff, but a rockin' tune. Others, however, take a different route, like 2. "Programmed to Fight", about how the last Robot Master standing, Crash Man, really doesn't want to fight Mega Man and would rather help him fight the evil Dr. Wily, but can't, thanks to his programming - a theme that comes up a few times in The Megas' works. Not all the songs are based on level music, however: 3. "The Message from Dr. Light" takes a few seconds of level select music and turns it into a full song, the chorus of which was even used as actual dialogue in an official Mega Man comic.
The Megas' next major release after Get Equipped was the Megatainment EP in 2009, a collaboration with another VG music cover band, Entertainment System. This outing's based on the original Mega Man game and only has four songs, my favourite being 4. "Hell has Frozen Over", which is uniquely about both Fire Man and Ice Man, instead of just one Robot Master or another. They've also done collab work with well-known VG music parody maker brentalfloss and nerdcore artist Random/Mega Ran, but overall, I still their solo efforts are their best works. They were also part of a multi-artist compilation album, MM25: Mega Man Rocks!, celebrating the 25th anniversary of Mega Man (as the title would suggest), but that's an article unto itself.
Following Megatainment, The Megas' next album was 2010's Get Acoustic, wherein all the music from Get Equipped are given acoustic remixes. It might sound cheap, but I actually think a lot of the songs benefit from the treatment, such as 5. "The Annihilation of Monsteropolis", which lets you hear about Air Man's genocidal aspirations without the distracting screaming rant included in the original's bridge. And as much as I love rock n' roll, there was more variety between the songs in this take, such as how the western feel of 6. "The Quick and the Blue" shines through much more strongly in Get Acoustic, which is appropriate because the lyrics are about a quick-draw duel between Mega Man and Quick Man.
After that came History Repeating: Blue in 2012, the first half of their Mega Man 3 double-album, with the second half, History Repeating: Red not following until 2014. Blue was how I was introduced to The Megas, but I don't think it's just sentimental bias that leads me to say that this is their best album: every song sounds amazing (much more polished and sophisticated than Get Equipped) and tells a great story, especially once you put them all together into an overall narrative, which is then continued in Red. But while Red took a couple listenings-to to get fully into every song, I liked everything from Blue instantly, despite not knowing a thing about Mega Man (whereas I'd done my research by the time Red came around), hence I think it's the stronger half of the double-feature.
The two-parter album actually opens up with a two-parter song by the same name, 7. "History Repeating" (I can't choose just one half to feature over the other, and they're based on the same game track anyway (the title screen), so I'm cheating and lumping them together: told you I was terrible at lists), which is about Mega Man gearing up to defeat Wily again, and not being very happy about it, going from simply feeling worn down in Part 1 to grimly determined to go and finish the job "one last time" in Part 2. Meanwhile, Dr. Light gets his own dark reflection time with 8. "I Want to be the One (To Watch You Die)", a bit of a callback to the first ever Megas song written, "I Want to be the One", featured in Get Equipped - but while the original is optimistic and almost cheerful-sounding as Mega Man goes off to stop Wily, this newer song is filled with regret and anger as Light sends his son to war once more, and is much more powerful lyrically. I could quote the whole song if I had space, but I mean: "I've sent a bullet with your name / I want to finally end this game / You are the one who wrote the end / You wanted war now I just want revenge" - and the bullet is his own kid! It's. So. Interesting. And it sounds great too.
But as always, the path to Wily requires poor lil' Mega Man to fight through eight Robot Masters and their levels, with the corresponding songs being split 50/50 between the two albums, once again with interesting deviation from straight-up baying for Mega Man's robot blood. From Gemini Man's portrayal as a split-personality private eye hiring himself to try and avoid death-by-Mega-Man to Magnet Man's entire song being about his huge crush on Mega Man's sister, Roll, these are all great tunes, but I'd have to say my fave of the lot is Blue's 9. "Walk Away from Light", wherein Snake Man gets a little Biblical and tries to persuade Mega Man to stop killing his fellow robots and join Wily's side (doesn't work). And speaking of Roll, while I originally thought 10. "Continue", the pretty but melancholic ending tune of Blue, was Dr. Light sadly reflecting on Mega Man's role, after reading somewhere that it could actually be from Roll's POV, since she too is unable to do anything but watch her brother fight, now I can't view the song any other way. Hell, if I could sing and cared to cut my fingernails short enough to play the guitar again, I'd go and record am explicitly Roll-sung cover right now. But sadly, that task must fall to some other lady Megas fan.
Now, I know what you are thinking: the list is done now: all the albums are talked about and all ten slots used up, but I say to you, "no", we are not done, for this is a "Top 10^2" list, and we shall continue on with ^. "Scent Blasters" Not only does this song get a symbol instead of a number, it is also not based on a Mega Man music at all, but rather, is an original tune (as far as I can tell) written by The Megas about a brand of air freshener that happens to have a name that sounds like a Mega Man weapon. Very silly, but the song itself is srsbsns, all about how Mega Man and his older brother Proto Man are fighters at heart, and how their "Bravery will win / Against the stench of disaster" and all that jazz. Which makes it perfect as a bridge between the History Repeating albums, since while Blue was all about Mega Man, Red features Proto Man, who (spoilers) first opposed Wily at Light's behest, but was lost and presumed dead by his family, when in reality, he had joined forces with the evil doctor.
But before we can get to Proto Man, like Blue, Red opens up with one last dose of Mega Man angst in the form of 1. "Fly on a Dog" (but the link's actually to the single version released between the two halves of History Repeating, which I like just a smidge better), about how the kid feels so alone and helpless against his designated role as a war machine, despite the super-fun robot dog joining him on his quest. It's only after he bucks up and kills the last four Robot Masters that he faces his brother in what I feel is the best song on Red, 2. "I'm Not the Breakman" (note: this link's also a 2-parter like "History Repeating", with the rather unmusical stuff at the beginning actually being "The Red Song"), wherein we hear about Proto Man's backstory and how bitter he is about Dr. Light replacing him with Mega Man. The last few songs of the album are all about the brothers picking apart each others' stances and eventually coming to terms with their own selves in the process, ending the album on a strong note of character arc completion for the red and blue robot boys.
And with that, this tortured excuse for a neat and tidy "Top 10^2" is at an end too: even I can't weasel in more songs, although there certainly are a lot of list-worthy tunes in The Megas' repertoire. They're so good, they were even gonna be featured in Mega Man Universe - as can be heard in the trailers. Why oh why did they cancel this game? The Megas, plus the chance to play as "Bad Box Art Mega Man"? That'd've been so awesome! Very saddening, but while the game's gone, at least we can still listen to the music, so until next time, get to it!
Hey there, all you 'Shroomheads! Long time, no read! If you're wondering what I'm doing here, well, I've crawled down from the elevated depths of my mountain cave to bring something entirely new to The 'Shroom's table: Chiptunes! I started learning how to make chiptunes in August of 2013, and I now feel confident enough with my output to share it with all you readers (or listeners, as the case my be).
If you'll allow me to geek out a bit, I should inform you that the chiptunes here aren't specifically modeled after any console's sound. They're not going to sound like something you'd hear on an NES, SNES, or one of the Game Boys. There are a couple reasons for this. The first reason is that I'm using a program that emulates the sound chip found in late MSX models, the SG-1000, and the Sega Master System; so, while the sounds are true 8-bit frequencies, they are not those used by Nintendo back in the day. The second reason is that most 8-bit songs only use 4 audio channels, while I use anywhere up to 32. That alone means that these chiptunes can't be classified as "true" 8-bit, or even 16-bit. If you're wondering why I choose to use so many audio channels when that's not how actual chiptunes work, it's because I wish to retain the original stereo mixing of the songs I render as chiptunes. I make sure all the represented instruments and vocals are panned to the direction they were in the original recording; probably the most easiliy digestible example of this is the chiptune of "Light My Fire" below, which has the drums and bass to the left, the keyboard and guitar to the right, and the vocals dead center — just like the original 1967 recording of the song.
OK, geeking over. Now, below, you'll see a table that has all the chiptunes. The first column shows the song title and contributing artist, and links to their Wikipedia entry (if they have one); the second column is a link to the YouTube upload of my chiptune of that song; the third column is a link to the SoundCloud upload of the same chiptune; the fourth column is a direct download link of that chiptune from my own website (I assure you the downloads are 100% safe); the fifth column lists the track's genre; the sixth column shows the album title, links to its Wikipedia entry, and shows its year of release; the seventh and final column is a link to the original version of the song I chiptuned (usually a YouTube link, but I may have to substitute with another source in some cases).
I hope you enjoy them! Please try to like/share/comment/whatever if you enjoy them — I'll probably be doing something to acknowledge the most popular tracks at the end of the year.
So, we have quite a number of songs this month! Truth be told, this is a double-length section in celebration of the big One-Double-O, so most months I'll only be doing 6 mainstream songs and 1 video game track.
I guess I should talk about the songs a little bit. Fats Domino's "Blueberry Hill" is actually a cover of an even older song from 1940; it's probably his most well-known song, although you probably won't find many radio stations playing nowadays. I chose it out all of Domino's songs because I find it has the most memorable melody, plus I just love the bridges in it. It's also got a proto-stroll feel to it, which I like a lot.
The Doors are a really great group, and I think one of the most talented and creative rock groups of their day. I honestly had a tough choice picking just one song of theirs to do, but I decided to go with the one I felt showcased the whole band's musicianship best. "Light My Fire" is a pretty hefty track at over 7 minutes in length, but it's got one of the coolest keyboard solos you'll ever hear, so its length may be worth it. The drums, however, are my favorite instrument on this particular track.
Marvin Gaye is probably the greatest soul musician ever, and I don't think anyone can say anything to change my mind on that. That's not to say the genre isn't full of amazing acts, but Marvin Gaye, to me, is the catchiest, has the best vocals, and the most feeling behind his songs. I chose the song that I think is pretty much his signature track, "What's Going On". And before you say it, before you even think it — this is NOT that song from the He-Man meme. I will smack your head into a wall if I catch you mixing the two up.
Supertramp can be a pretty hit-or-miss group at times, but "Bloody Well Right" has always been one of my favorites of theirs. It starts out with a really long electric piano solo that manages to set the perky mood for the whole song. I wasn't actually intending on chiptuning this song, but it turned out much better than I'd initially expected.
"Eye in the Sky" is probably the biggest hit by The Alan Parsons Project. It's a really mellow tune with a lot of sounds that are particularly pleasant for the ears. On the album it's from, it is preceded by a short instrumental track that segues seamlessly into it, "Sirius". I thought it would be fun to capture the two tracks' lavish production in a chiptune; it was a challenge, but I think it turned out great. It uses more audio channels than any other track this week, with a total of 20.
Heading a little deeper into the 1980s, we now have Duran Duran. Not exactly their most well-known song, but definitely still a recognizable one for anyone familiar with their work. I personally like the slinky sound of "Union of the Snake", and couldn't find any chiptunes of it on YouTube, so I decided I'd go ahead and do one myself. I think the sax and drum breakdown in the middle might be truer to the original song than any other chiptune segment so far this issue.
Since I liked the results of Duran Duran's chiptune, I decided to go for another 80s dance track, this time, Madonna's "Into the Groove". This is a song she'd originally recorded for the Desperately Seeking Susan soundtrack, a movie in which she also starred. The song's popularity on the radio led to her album from the prior year to be re-released with this track on it. That said, I'm not using the original mix of the song as a reference in this chiptune; I am instead using the remix found on her first greatest hits album, The Immaculate Collection, released in 1990. I only chose it because it has an awesome piano solo in the middle. Noticing a trend here yet?
Going to an almost polar-opposite on the genre spectrum, we now have "Souls of Black" by Testament. This is one of my favorite metal songs of the 90s, mostly because it's got a very headbang-worthy groove to it, but also because I'm a sucker for dat bass. The chiptune ended up sounding like something you'd hear in a boss fight almost, so I guess that's appropriate.
The Jamiroquai track I picked isn't exactly a hit, although it was released as a single. I still think it's a really fun song, though. It has some lovely violins in it that somehow set the pace for the funky rhythm that dominates the rest of the song. The original song also features a didgeridoo in the intro, and during the drum break; however, since I found out that didgeridoos can't be transposed (like, they have no typical sheet music), I improvised in the chiptune by generating a frequency lower than anything else in any of the other chiptunes I've done.
"Geek U.S.A." is yet another song choice that isn't among the most popular tracks its band has to offer; however, I think it's one of the most musically interesting tracks by The Smashing Pumpkins. Its song structure is all over the place, from upbeat metal riffs, to downtempo bridges. That craziness is what encouraged me to make a chiptune of it — I wanted to see how strange a song's flow could be while still sounding like a legitimate chiptune. Needless to say, it's a pretty peculiar listening experience, but I feel its flow is pretty faithful to the original recording.
Foster the People have a lot of electronic-influenced music that could work very well as a chiptune, but I ended up going with something a little more basic from them. "Don't Stop (Color on the Walls)" is a very short acoustic guitar-driven tune with catchy, if repetitive, melodies. It was one of the first chiptunes I did, and I polished it up a few months ago to make it more presentable today. I'll admit it's probably the only track in this issue that's not completely true to the original mixing.
The Paramore track I picked is from my favorite album of theirs, although it's not necessarily among my favorite tracks FROM that album. However, I picked it because it contains some pretty strong prowess for a track of its genre; it's got a relentless guitar riff that supports the drums (which, honestly, sound more like the lead instrument than anything else). I think it's a good example of Paramore's old style, since it's honestly a bit of a black sheep on the album it's from. I think the album only has 2 or 3 "pop punk" cuts.
So... that's it for the mainstream songs. But, that's not it for the section. What do I mean? Well, remember how I said on normal months I'd be doing 6 mainstream songs and 1 video game track? Well, that means this month, I'm doing 2 video game tracks! I have to say, these tend to be a little more difficult for me to do, which is why I won't be doing as many of them, but regardless, I'm giving you double this month!
|This Month's Chiptunes|
|Song Title and Contributing Artists||Genre||Album Name and Year of Release||Original Song|
|"Shifting Sands 2", by Motoi Sakuraba||YT||SC||DL||Progressive rock||Mario Golf: Toadstool Tour OST — 2003||Original|
|"Katamari on the Rocks (Main Theme) (Extended)", by Yuu Miyake ft. Masayuki Tanaka||YT||SC||DL||Pop rock||Katamari Damacy OST — 2004||Original|
Okay, so the first of these two is my favorite track from my favorite Mario Golf game, Mario Golf: Toadstool Tour. The whole soundtrack is honestly quite excellent, but none of the other tracks have quite a driving sound as this one does. I think the heavy bass gives it that driving feel, especially since it's the only instrument that keeps playing fast while all the other instruments play sparse riffs. It just has a hard "thinking" sound to it.
The second track is from a game that I have not had the opportunity to play, Katamari Damacy, although reading up on it has generated some interest in it for me. "Katamari on the Rocks" is the main theme for the game, and it is infectious enough of a tune to warrant that position in the OST. I mostly did this chiptune as a sort of gift to Crocodile Dippy (talk), since today is her birthday and I'm too cheap to buy her a real present. So, happy birthday, you lovely electric rat! Here, have the extended, 13-minute mix while you're at it.
I think that's officially it for this section! I hope you like these chiptunes, and if you do, feel free to download and keep them. I'll see you all next month with 7 new tracks. Peace out!
|The Top 12 Best Songs of 2015 So Far|
|12th||CHVRCHES||"Leave a Trace"||Synthpop, experimental pop|
|11th||Earl Sweatshirt||"Grief"||Alternative hip hop|
|10th||Modest Mouse||"Lampshades on Fire"||Indie rock|
|9th||Vince Staples||"Señorita"||Industrial hip hop|
|8th||Jeff Rosenstock||"Nausea"||Indie rock, skapunk|
|7th||Father John Misty||"Chateau Lobby #4"||Folk-rock, psychedelic folk|
|6th||Sufjan Stevens||"Carrie & Lowell"||Folktronica|
|5th||Death Grips||"Pss Pss"||Industrial hip hop|
|4th||A$AP Rocky||"LSD"||Alternative hip hop|
|3rd||The Mountain Goats||"Foreign Object"||Skapunk, alternative rock|
|2nd||Kendrick Lamar||"King Kunta"||Alternative hip hop, funk-rap|
|1st||Sun Kil Moon||"Garden of Lavender"||Alternative country|
|Born||February 3rd, 1972|
Hey boys, girls, and all gender identities in-between, and welcome to a new section I’ve decided needed to be made titled Composer Spotlight, where we’ll be looking at different video game musicians and their contributions to the industry. Perhaps in doing so, I can introduce you to some really cool music in the gaming sphere that you’ve never heard before, or help you gain a new appreciation for a composer you previously didn’t give much attention to. Whatever you get out of this, I hope you enjoy what I have to offer! So without further ado; I am your host Crocodile Dippy (talk), and this month we’ll be looking into my first subject - the Danish composer, Jesper Kyd (pronounced as "Yesper Kied"). Why Jesper Kyd as my debut, you may be asking? Well two reasons - primarily, it’s because he’s probably my favourite composer currently working in the industry, but secondly, he looks a bit like Anton and everyone loves Anton so I figured this would be sure to draw readers in.
Born in Hørsholm, Denmark, Jesper Kyd Jakobson is a mostly self-taught musician, although did take several lessons in classical compositional theory, notation reading, and choir singing in his youth. However, he took an interest in digital recording software at the age of 13 when he acquired a Commodore 64, and later an Amiga, and he spent several years working with a group of friends on musical scores for video game demos under the group moniker “Crionics”. In 1992, he became a part founder and composer of the development team Zyrinx, which released their first game, Sub-Terrania for the Sega Mega Drive/Genesis in 1993, followed by Red Zone for the same console in 1994, and Scorcher for MS-DOS, Windows, and Sega Saturn in 1996. The company dissolved after their publisher, Scavenger, went bankrupt in 1998, with much of the team merging with fellow Scavenger developer, Lemon, to form what would later become the well-known studio IO Interactive, which would go on to create the immensely successful Hitman series. Kyd didn’t rejoin his friends in IO Interactive, however, opting instead to form his own music studio, Nano Studios, and work as a freelance musician. However, he has nonetheless maintained a close working relationship with IO Interactive, and has been the primary composer for every Hitman game except Hitman Absolution.
Jesper Kyd’s style and capabilities are flexible and display visible evolution over his 30 odd years working in the games industry, although one element that has stayed true throughout his discography is his fondness for digital music. His initial work in Sub-Terrania and Red Zone was limited by restrictions in digital production at the time (and also because the Genesis had an awful soundchip), although he sought to push the boundaries of what the soundchip could do with his final Generation 4 work, Konami’s The Adventures of Batman and Robin released in 1995, oft considered among the best soundtracks of that console. Kyd had long since known that the future of video game music and development would be on CD-based formats, which he viewed as having the highest quality of any music format, and was excited when the Sega Saturn was released and PC games had evolved to a CD-Rom format. With digital storage space to now flex his creative muscles, Kyd began injecting into his work the heavy techno stylings of the raves he frequented at the time, notable in Zyrinx’s Scorcher and Lemon’s Amok.
It wasn’t until Hitman 2: Silent Assassin that Kyd would begin to establish the signature style he’s known for today. At the behest of Janos Flösser, then head of IO Interactive, Kyd was encouraged to exclusively write an orchestral score in opposed to his usual electronic stylings, performed by the Budapest Symphony Orchestra and the Hungarian Radio Choir. A daunting task, but one Kyd actively embraced as another exciting challenge, aided by the tremendous deal of creative freedom he was granted, and it would go on to become a hallmark of what could really be achieved in video game soundtracks. He would carry this over to his work in Freedom Fighters, which incorporated grandiose Russian orchestras and choral melodies sung by the Hungarian Radio Choir to his usual heavy synth style; and Hitman: Contracts, which took a much darker tone and incorporated heavier sampling and sequencing than its predecessor, even winning an award for Best Original Music at the BAFTA 2005 Games Awards.
Kyd would really earn his place among the composer gods when he scored an opportunity with Ubisoft to compose the score for Assassin’s Creed, a deal so successful he would go on to produce the soundtracks for the next three games in the series until he was dropped from Assassin’s Creed III onwards. To me, the Assassin’s Creed games are the emblematic masterworks of Jesper Kyd’s career, a sentiment reflected by Kyd himself as Assassin’s Creed II and Darksiders II were the projects he had the most fun working on. It’s in these games that Kyd’s distinctive melding of organic instrumentation with electronic soundscapes can be heard clearly, with a seamless combination of melodic classical guitar or violin pieces overlayed with sweeping wave of synths, often accompanied by melodic female choral arrangements, mixed in with whatever cultural style of music is required of the setting.
He would go on to become a part-producer for the scores of every major Borderlands release, introducing a unique blend of Americana folk and country music with somber ambient elements, almost reminiscent of 1970s dark Western film scores, a sound similarly replicated in his award-winning work for State of Decay. On the complete opposite side of that scale, Kyd worked on his second fantasy score overall with Darksiders II which garnered a tremendous deal of publicity following its release, incorporating a primarily Celtic and traditional musical atmosphere, almost reflective of the New Age music stylings of Enya or Enigma. The ambitious score for Darksiders II, as mentioned above, has been described by Kyd as among the most fun he’s had working on a game score (and probably the only thing I liked about that game...). Aside from games, Kyd has also done composition work for films and television series, which he considers to be an easier process than scoring for video games due to the static nature of recorded media compared to the interactive element of gaming.
I, personally, have a bias towards music that fuses live instrumentation with ambient electronic soundscapes, so it’s of no surprise that I have a strong admiration for Jesper Kyd. But putting my bias aside, Kyd has found himself becoming a sought after composer for even the biggest names in the industry, owed strongly to his insight into the industry’s ever changing musical landscape and ability to adapt with whatever is required of him. His passion for both video games and music as art forms drive him to seek new sounds and greater challenges, and I’m sure we can expect to see him only expand on his potential even further.
For those interested, a full list of games, films, and television series he’s worked on can be found on his website.
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