Getting Over Writer’s Block Via Dinosaurs In The Hood

Any artist of any medium has experienced some form of lame “block”, whether it be writer’s block, painter’s block, choreographer’s block, etc., everybody has experienced a really. annoying. block.

For me, writing this blog post came with some excruciating writer’s block. I had never written a blog post before in my life, so naturally, I had absolutely no idea what to write about.

But through a conversation via Snapchat, my cute friend Elijah suggested the following: “Read ‘Dinosaurs In The Hood.’

With a title like that, my mind immediately imagined some weird fan fiction cross over between Jurassic Park and Boyz N The Hood. Thankfully, it wasn’t that.

Instead it was a much cooler, deeper, engaging poem by Danez Smith about an idea for a movie; a Black hood fighting off dinosaurs.

Continue reading “Getting Over Writer’s Block Via Dinosaurs In The Hood”

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The Daily Blend’s October Top Ten

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Hey everyone! My name’s Sam, and welcome to my blog! I will be doing this blog once a month along with my show, The Daily Blend, which is every Monday at 4 PM. So first, introductions. I am a first-year student from Rockford, IL, which is like two (ish) hours north of here. I went to a high school with a performing arts program, which I was heavily involved in! I have also been a dancer for the past 14 years. When not doing my show or homework, I play for UIC’s rugby team and play and write music with some friends (not that it’s actually going anywhere…). I love all different styles of music, although I tend to favorite anything with guitars and drums over other music genres (oops). On my show, I play so much different music to give everyone something diverse to listen to, because let’s be honest, no one listens to only one style of music their entire life. Continue reading “The Daily Blend’s October Top Ten”

A Working Spring

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Courtesy of Lost TV.

Three jobs and twenty one credit hours have kept me off of UIC Radio’s front page this semester, much to the dismay of my twelve readers (I ❤ you guys & gals). A busy spring also kept Nick V, Cheech, and me from sitting down in the same room together for about two months. When we finally found overlapping free time, we spent the better part of two hours animatedly talking about Syria, Chicago’s water, and the prison system. But between catching up and conversations eventually bleeding into politics, I managed to ask a few questions and listen to some phenomenal answers.

I wanted to interview the FreeFAM founders for a second time. Last fall, they’d impressed me with their business-minded approach to their genre. Without sacrificing individuality and independence, they seek to create a brand to support all kinds of artists. Coming from a city with a music culture that’s very “out-for-yourself,” their message is refreshing. FAM is in the name.

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Courtesy of Lost TV.

 

An obligatory catch-up is needed first, as these guys have not sat still since the last time they visited UIC Radio’s studio. They’ve been playing gigs, traveling, and working with producers like CB Mix, credited on Chance’s Coloring BookThey’re working with LRG to create clothing and Pat Banahan of Lost TV to make videos. The group just released a music video for Bless the Bottles, (my personal favorite so far) featuring the same BMW I8 King Louie and Vonmar used in their own video. They even played a show at College of DuPage, which only sounds mildly impressive until you learn COD won’t back anyone without a tax ID and business number. They even have a website. FreeFAM is officially in business.

On Tuesday, I asked Nick V and Cheech about branding. I wanted to know what audience FreeFAM would draw as a full-blown music label complete with t-shirts and dispensaries. Both brothers said “local” immediately. They don’t want to limit themselves to Chicago, but their focus is building up a platform to support all members of music production. Their circle includes engineers and videographers, animators, and even a few family members for legal counsel. The want anyone who’s drawn to an image of family, brothers, positive moves, and a platform that’s there to serve their clients. Cheech commented that “non-threatening artists” are what resonate in Chicago today.

 

Nick said he wants people with energy. “Energy to party, to help, to create.” He’s got a vision of FreeFAM as a charity and force for good in Chicago. We inevitably broke into ranting about senators and bills, but Nick had a ton to say about water quality. It was endearing and inspiring and had me walking home thinking how one could add water filters to a music label…But that’s beside the point.

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Courtesy of Lost TV.

I asked about brands that could “make or break” an artist. Lil Wayne and Cash Money were brought up, as was Future, who got in a legal battle with his manager and was forced to release two albums ahead of time so he could start making his own money. Some artists get caught promoting BS; Cheech brought up the Fyre Festival flop. But Jay-Z’s own streaming website was mentioned as a positive. “It all depends on if a brand will encourage or control you,” Nick told me. A label obviously wants a return on investment and will have to control an artist’s image if money is lost. So who’s got their label working for them? Cheech laughed at this thought and brought up Kanye. “His label has been taking so much money from his music. Someone’s been making 50% off all of his songs.”

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Photo courtesy of Lost TV.

Controlling the artist is beyond the aims of the Freedom Family. Both brothers explained respect for their artist is the only reason they’d sign someone, and there’s no need to control someone they respect. They don’t intend to cultivate a brand that interferes with music production or limits the evolution and development of an artist.

“At the end of the day, music is the most important. But music won’t be heard without branding.” Other groups have PR people to handle web pages, social media, and scheduling. But for FreeFAM, “It’s just me and Cheech,” Nick says. The work is taking a toll; Nick V’s been off social media and left with what sounds like carpal tunnel in his hands and a prescription for range-of-motion exercises. “Shouldn’t be constantly posting, anyway,” he admitted. I told him not to worry about it. “It’s always nice to hear from family.”

 

Have a Scien-tastic Day!

Troye Sivan Takes On Coachella

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The incredibly talented Australian pop star, Troye Sivan, surprised his fans with a surprise performance at the 2017 Coachella music festival.

Sivan joined DJ Martin Garrix on the Sahara Stage during his set to drop their new song together, “There For You.

This is the first piece of new music that we have gotten from Sivan since his 2015 debut album, Blue Neighbourhood, and we couldn’t be more excited about it.

Sivan has been hinting on his Twitter that a new album is in the works, and new music will be coming our way in the, hopefully, near future.

There For You” is a brilliant song with a beautiful message. It’s pop heavy and radio-ready, and while it may be a great song to bop to, the lyrics hold a lot in them.

“I got you, I promise

Let me be honest

Love is a road that goes both ways

When your tears roll down your pillow like a river

I’ll be there for you

But you gotta be there for me too”

Communication is the most important thing in any relationship. You cannot expect someone to always be there for you, if you cannot be there for them. Communication, and as stated in the song, love, goes both ways. One sided relationships are toxic and unfair and I cannot stress this enough.

There For You” is a song I feel like everyone can relate to at some point in life, and songs like this are perfect to find comfort in. Sweet and soft.

With that being said, I cannot wait to hear what Sivan has planned for his sophomore album.

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As a longtime fan of Troye Sivan (and a fan of music and talent in general,) it’s been an emotional ride watching Sivan go from posting quirky videos on YouTube, to preforming on the iconic Coachella stage.

It just goes to show that if you’re passionate about something, and you want your dream bad enough, hard work and dedication pays off, and living the life you’ve always dreamed of, is possible.

TREVIEW: Why Lady Gaga’s “The Cure” is the Most Depressing Song of the Year

“Treview” is a spontaneous and grossly-titled series in which I, Trev, review new tracks or artists that spark a greater conversation outside the music itself. Whether it’s titillating controversy, an impact on culture, or a shift in the musical landscape, these songs are more than meets the ear.


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Make no mistake: I was very disappointed with the direction of Joanne, and while I frequently sweated through my intense CrossFit workouts light cardio to the multi-culture appropriating ARTPOP, I recognize it to be largely a flop as well. News of Gaga returning to more standard pop fare was exciting. After periods of jazz and faux folk, I, like many, desperately longed for some new, certified Gaga bangers. It’s revelation to absolutely no one that Lady Gaga hasn’t been as musically or culturally relevant since 2009, when she released her goth-pop masterpiece The Fame Monster EP. Meat dresses, #1 hits, anatomical controversies; Gaga was on top of the world, sparkler ti***es and all. Her weird, theatrical impact on pop music continues to this day. This is why listening to her latest single, The Cure, is so sad. Gone are the sonic risks, the sexual ambiguity, the Ra ra-ah-ah Roma roma-mas. Every aspect of her identity on this track has been weathered and dismantled, removed board by board until all we’re left with is Scheiße.

The Cure is a song that is sure to be void of radio failure, but is also totally void of herself. Even at her lowest, most celestial-centric moments, Gaga could still be counted on to be one thing: Gaga. Where some nauseatingly tried to cash in on civil rights movements in an act of marketing expediency, Gaga championed the LGBT community in her songs with a true and tangible compassion reciprocated to the fans that offered her support when she was no more than a club act with some buzz. Where most album covers are focus-group-honed, inoffensive squares of current trends, Gaga’s are a clusterf*** mashup of motorcycle-meets-maiden. Now, she has abandoned her signature anthemic sincerity and advocacy, replacing them with a hollow dance-hall track indistinguishable from the entirety of current Top 40 convention, complete with cover art that features, presumably, the best result of a photo shoot who’s rank insipidness challenges its very songsake and a background of grey that borders on sardonic. Remove the vocals, and it’d be virtually impossible to tell that this is a project of Mother Monster’s at all. One can’t help but wonder how much of it even is.

With The Cure, modern pop’s true queen has handed in her crown for generic sounds and guaranteed sales.

I’m sure I’ll still find myself casually listening along, that is, if I can ever move past the fact that this is simply the least-Gaga Gaga song that’s ever been released. Having been a fan since I too was one of the many closeted, little monsters in a small town, listening for a source of identity and freedom (The Fame was the first album I purchased in its entirety), this admittedly cuts deeper for me than it probably should or does for most. It’s understandable for her to be fatigued after several attempts, and years, of trying to be true-to-self have, for the most part, not paid off critically or commercially. Certainly there’s nothing wrong with wanting your work to be appreciated. Perhaps this is the start of an era with a subsequent EP or album that will redeem it. Maybe this will just be a one-off Coachella gift. I have to admit, the initial seconds of the song gave me post-Joanne hope. Lady Gaga heading back to dance territory, or even dance-hall for that matter, is certainly something welcomed by myself and fans worldwide. This is to say as long as it’s her dance territory. As long as it’s not this. With The Cure, modern pop’s true queen has handed in her crown for generic sounds and guaranteed sales. Little Monsters everywhere are asking themselves: “Where’s mom?” I feel sad listening to this. I feel sad for Lady Gaga.

Listen to the song and cry along with me here:


Trev Richards is host of the weekly talk program Trev on UIC Radio; Live, Wednesdays 8:30 – 10:30 PM Central Time. Follow/listen on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, iTunes and SoundCloud

The Best Albums Of 2017 So Far

2016 blessed us with incredible new music. From Kanye’s The Life Of Pablo, to Chance The Rapper’s Coloring Book, and to in my opinion, the greatest album to have ever been produced, Frank Ocean’s Blonde, it was just a great year for music.

We’re three months into 2017, and the new music is starting to pour in. The year is still young, but here are some of the best new albums that have been released so far:

American Teen – Khalid 

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Khalid’s debut album, American Teen, is just the very beginning to the successful music career glowing in front of him. At only 18 years old, Khalid has made huge waves with his single, ‘Location,’ which can be found on American Teen. This album is emotionally crafted with soulful 90’s vibes and smooth vocals. American Teen is one of those rare albums that you can listen to from start to finish, without skipping any songs, and you’ll never get tired of hearing it. Highlights include: ‘Saved’, ‘Location’, and ‘Shot Down’

Mansionz – Mansionz

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Mansionz is a new duo featuring singer-songwriter, Mike Posner, and singer-producer, Blackbear. The self-entitled album consists of electronic-based hip-hop and R&B pop. It’s a unique combination that deserves more attention. The transitions from each song are flawless, and blends perfectly. Highlights include: ‘The Life Of A Troubadour’, ‘I’m thinking about horses’, ‘nobody knows’, and ‘My Beloved’

CollXtion II: Unsolved – Allie X

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Canadian singer-songwriter, Allie X, has been working on her second studio album, and it’s for sure a bop. Her sound can be described as edgy electronic pop, and it’s just different than anything else. Highlights include: ‘That’s So Us’ and ‘Too Much To Dream’

I See You – The xx

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I See You is The xx’s junior album, and in my opinion, their best. The xx have always been known for their calming and soothing vocals, and they lived up to expectations yet again. The production of their third album has been a step up from their past work, and it’s honestly beautiful. Highlights include: ‘Lips’, ‘Brave For You’, and ‘Performance’

Process – Sampha

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Heavy emotions can be found in Sampha’s debut LP. Process contains R&B roots, and vocals that sound almost haunting. Sampha rediscovers himself through his work, and you can hear the vulnerability in his LP.  Highlights include: ‘What Shouldn’t I Be?’, ‘Plastic 100ºC’, and ‘Take Me Inside’

I can’t wait to hear what else is yet to come in 2017, and I do have high expectations

Music Ratings are Nothing More than Opinion: Artists Done Dirty by Pitchfork

 

IMG_1433Judging music is merely an illusion. No one can actually quantify what the people like because the people, after all, are all unique. What one person thinks is crap, another will consider a masterpiece, and a small group of people can’t decide for the masses what is good and what is not in such a subjective field. Music is purely preference. My prime example has to be Pitchfork. I appreciate Pitchfork news and updates and being exposed to new music, along with the music festival they host in Chicago, but many of the ratings are far from what the populace would consider correct. Unless you’re Radiohead or someone who follows the “uncommercial” pitchfork aesthetic, don’t expect to find an album someone makes in the pitchfork perfect tens category. In fact, there are more than a handful of albums that I don’t believe deserved a perfect 10 in general or by genre. I implore you, the reader, to take any review with a grain of salt and listen to an album before you write it off. You might end up missing a diamond in the rough and hate yourself when you finally get into an artist and find out their concert was 3 weeks ago in your hometown.

1.  The Airborne Toxic Event  (1.6/10)
An old rating but a good album, the self-titled The Airborne Toxic Event is a popular indie band from the mid-2000s. While this band received praise on this album, pitchfork decided the album was not worth their time. It didn’t phase this band much, they even wrote an open letter sarcastically inviting pitchfork to watch one of their “moody and dramatic” concerts.

2.  Mumford & Sons- 1st and 3rd albums. (2.1/10-2.0/10)
This is an example band that doesn’t fit the mold the raters are looking for. I’ll admit, you either love them or you hate them, but in the end, Mumford and his band didn’t deserve the low ratings. The reasoning for the low rating was due to Pitchfork thinking that they are a Fleet Foxes knock off (Every rated Fleet Foxes album has received an 8.7 or higher), along with alluding to them being phony or fake artists ([They] are in the costume business.They’re playing dress-up in threadbare clothes.). Either way, after 2+ World tours, 3 albums, and 2 EPs, I don’t think M&S cares much for their ratings in the first place.

3. Hamilton The Mixtape (4.8/10)
Hamilton, the Tony Award-winning musical, received less than a 5 on the mixtape version, which consisted of many well-known artists collaborating on the rap tracks that the world has been learning history through all of 2016. The reason for the low rating? Basically, It wasn’t the same as the original and it lacks the narrative of a musical. Crazy. I invite pitchfork to find any musical soundtrack that has the same narrative as the onstage production, excluding operas and operettas, which tend to have no dialogue outside of their songs.

4. Nine Inch Nails- The Fragile (2/10-10)
Nine Inch Nails in 2017 received a 8.7 on their reissued album The Fragile, but in 1999 NIN received a 2/10 on the same album. After some digging, I found the original review. It still exists, but any linking to the page does not. Almost 20 years later after their review was deemed futile, and NIN popular, and the original deleted. The lead singer Trent Reznor had no nice words for pitchfork, which a lot of artists seem to agree with these days.

5. Childish Gambino- Camp (1.6/10)
Pitchfork basically said Gambino was too conceited for rap and should stick to comedy. Camp definitely isn’t Because the Internet or any of his other works, but it is a quality album that Pitchfork didn’t give the time of day. Find Gambino on any “Certified Bangers” playlist at your local college campus. Email me if you genuinely honestly believe this album didn’t deserve better.

6. The Killers- Any of their albums (5.2-6.4)
The Killers are known for their amazing songs. To this day I know every word off of Sam’s Town and any of their singles including Mr. Brightside and Somebody Told Me, which were both on Hot Fuss, The Killers’ first album. Pitchfork has never liked The Killers and basically say their sound is too generic or their albums aren’t cohesive enough, wanting every track to be the screaming your head off in the car with your friends while people stare at you masterpiece that Mr. Brightside ended up being (Hot Fuss deserves at least an 8.5 in my opinion). Even the greatest hits album received a low score, which means that Pitchfork just really does not like this band.

7. Ed Sheeran- Divide (2.8/10)
The initial Artist that inspired this article. Sheeran probably doesn’t care what an American music rating website has to say about his new album when it has no effect on whether or not he’s going to sell out his next stadium (to be clear; the stadium is going to sell out even if he released 50 minutes of straight fart noises). A short summary of this album review is that Ed’s music is that Ed shouldn’t rap and the shallow album has no real worth.

8. Travis Morrison- Travistan (0/10)
Fans of Travis Morrison will proudly say that Travistan is worth a listen. Lead singer of the indie band The Dismemberment Plan decided to come out with an album and got a crushing review from Pitchfork in 2004. If you are able to write, produce, and sell an album, anything written definitely does not deserve a 0/10 even if the content is poor. Not saying this album is poor, many people enjoy this album. The review mildly hurt Morrison’s career but he still made more music after this review came and out and for that, we thank him for proving his naysayers wrong.

 

Say what you must about these albums, but I can assure you that they are all pretty decent listens, even if they aren’t my musical preference. Take a second to listen to an album, even if you’re weary of what everyone says about it. It might end up being your favorite. If you have any artists you think were done dirty, comment below and I’ll add them to the list.

I Had Fun At A Club

As many of my friends could testify, I am not the clubbing type. In fact, I’m the totally lame stay at home and read a book or grab food with a friend when I have the time to type. However, I’ve had friendships where their prime past time was jumping around or grinding about at clubs, and therefore I have been to my fair share of them.

And you may have guessed correctly…I’ve always hated it. Maybe I wasn’t as drunk as everyone there or maybe everyone could sense that I didn’t belong, but it has always been uncomfortable and awkward, not to mention equally as annoying being felt around by some dude probably 20 years older than me. Gross exaggeration, but also probably not.

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The thing is I love to dance too. I’m not very good at it, and often my friends will tell me after, “you were a little too into it back there” or “what was that”, which probably paints a pretty good picture of how great I look out there. Regardless, I really do enjoy dancing, although often weirdly and eccentric, and yet the club has never been a place I felt good at.

This weekend, however, a large sum of my friends made a trip down to U of I where we danced and sang more in one weekend than I have this entire school year. It was truly one of the funnest weekends I’ve had in a really long time, and a lot of it was spent at a club. The music felt like it was remixed all to the same beat and the song selection in general could have been a whole lot better, but that didn’t seem to stop us from laying it all out on the dance floor.

This had everything to do with the people I was with, which were some of the goofiest most fun-loving people I know, and I accredit such an excellent weekend all to them. They even made a sticky, loud, and hot-mess of a bar a great success. And so, I conclude, that almost anything can be made positive or negative by the people you surround yourself with and your attitude. This has been your Motivational Monday. See you at the clubs.

What Is A VenoSci And How Does It Chiptunes?

Nothing like dancing your feet through a fog machine and cutting your hands through flashing neon lights to clear up your writer’s block.
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I was lucky enough to learn about a show put on by MILKSHAKES in combo with Rora TEAM, an online label that deals with creative DJs and EDM composers. The event took place in the Digital Art Demo Space and featured artists from New York to California. Each performance was accompanied by customized visuals projected on a screen behind the stage, accentuating every turn and change in the music like an accompanying instrument. The team behind the visuals, lights, and smooth-running set ups of the show made the night beautiful.
At the expense of journalistic integrity, I’m going to play favorites. I couldn’t complain about any performer, but three really stood out.
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Photo courtesy of Rora Team & MILKSHAKES
First up is Brackets. When she got behind the table, I recognized her as the gal who got the crowd jumping even before her performance; her dancing  was practically contagious. Her set was high-powered and loaded with variety and tons of crowd-pleasing references. Also worth mentioning: she’s a Chicago native and Rora TEAM co-founder. If Brackets can find the time, she says she’s down for an interview and a visit to UIC Radio. No clever segue here, just click the brackets for the sound cloud: [][][][][][][][][][][][][][][]
Though a tough act to follow, Brackets had no weight on Skinny McToothpick. His white hair and neon jacket gave the impression of a radioactive cartoon character. The music only contributed. So much energy packed into each brilliantly composed song kept everyone on their toes. You know when a performer gets so pulled into their work and enjoys them self so much, it makes you feel good just watching? Skinny McToothpick was more of a performer behind the table than most instrumental musicians and singers I’ve watched. I’m surprised he had the energy to rejoin the crowd and keep dancing after his set. See for yourself!
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Photo courtesy of VenoSci
The real reason I attended was to watch a good friend of mine, VenoSci AK(to me)A Aaron. I’m very lucky that the people I grew up with pursued their creative passions and then invite me to their performances. It’s been amazing, watching my friend improve and develop his music, but personally, I’m thankful it hasn’t changed too much since the shows he’d put on in high school.
What was that about journalistic integrity? Ah, yes. My unbiased review:
VenoSci makes chiptunes, and if you aren’t familiar with the genre, it’s well worth looking up. Here’s his Soundcloud for you to stream while finishing this article. Anyone who says DJing isn’t performance art obviously hasn’t seen this artist in action. VenoSci performs like the buttons he presses on his set up send electricity up his arms and moves with his music like he’s modeling for the crowd how to dance to his compositions. No wonder he describes performing as sweaty, exciting, and fun. During the show, he used a few pieces of Toy Box’s “Best Friend” and let the audience sing along. He even left the table and danced with the crowd to his own creation.
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Photo courtesy of VenoSci
VenoSci rocked the house and then agreed to be interviewed for UIC Radio. What a fabulous Saturday for this blogger!
Asking him to explain how his set up works to a non-tech, non-video game savvy person was an awkward inquiry, but he managed to get his process across. He uses 2 original Nintendo Gameboys, 1 Korean GP2X handheld, and a PsP 1000. Aaron added that, “since some of this equipment is over 20 years old at this point, things often go wrong: devices crash, SD cards aren’t recognized, batteries die frequently… It’s always an adventure having to maintain a quality set and also to troubleshoot hardware on the fly.”
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Photo courtesy of omicrono.elespanol.com

 

To make music on his Gameboy, he uses a special cartridge. Rather than containing a game, it contains a piece of custom music software. This allows the artist to control the sound card directly: “I can sequence out full songs which I then playback live. I use similar methods for playing back songs on my GP2X, but instead of synthesis, I sequence samples.”
What always amazes me is Aaron’s ability to make music feel nostalgic and classic, though it’s most at home among modern EDM genres. He credits this to the “built-in ‘nostalgic’ feel” in his software, as it’s an original Gameboy. He explained the soundcard is 100% stock, so the same soundcard has produced soundtracks to Pokemon and Zelda, two games our generation knows pretty well, even if we only got to watch our older brothers play them.
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Photo courtesy of VenoSci.
Aaron cites Japanese dance music as his biggest inspiration, mentioning Maltine Records, MadMilky Records, and artists like Tofubeats and Perfume. Combining these more complicated influences within the comforting 8-bit framework of the Gameboy is Aaron’s main challenge and inspiration. It ensures his music stands out while making his audience cheer.
I left the venue Saturday night with a hug and a promise that I’d be the first to know when he was on deck for his next show. That means you’ll be the second.
Have a VenoSci-en-tastic Day!