Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Vomitron: No NES For The Wicked Review

Anything is possible. When I first heard some of the Vomitron NES covers in a youtube video and later on their myspace page over 2 years ago, I was stunned to learn that there were no plans to formally release them as an album. Nobody knew why, whether it was licensing, a lack of money, or the right label to do it, but Peter Rutcho, the musical virtuoso behind the name, was sure: the covers were a side project for fun that wouldnt ever be released.

But here we are now in 2011 and No NES For The Wicked sits in a CD jewel case right next to me, a shining example, physical proof that truly anything is possible, including the formal release of what is quite surely the greatest set of covers in the history of videogame music.

The album starts off with a sample of what sounds like someone trying to insert a NES cart and then seeing the infamous blinking screen, and the erupting stream of profanity. Surely any true old school gaming fan has experienced this moment. What was once the sqawky, 8bit buzzing coming out of your old tube TV, the opening strains of Contra have never sounded this good before. What follows is what can only be described as a massive wall of sound, compressed beyond the bounds of normalcy in an attempt to possibly end the loudness wars. The guitars arent just big, they are epic, in the same way that a Metallica or AC/DC album just explodes with distortion.

I never finished Blaster Master, but the inclusion of its soundtrack in this collection certainly confirms its classic status. While I would have probably preferred to hear the Dr Willy theme song from MegaMan 2, this track surprised me and Im glad it was included, having never heard it before. The Legend of Zelda 1 and 2 are fantastic - while I heard these both on myspace, hearing the increased fidelity available from an uncompressed 16bit 44.1khz audio CD really lets these tracks shine. Nintendo never could have dreamed of the Zelda 1 dungeon music sounding so frightening.

The album is great up until this section - and then you hear Ninja Gaiden Acts 1-3 for the very first time ever - these were never available online, and you realize that the finished album isnt just great - its fucking unbelievable. Every single tiny little nuance and transition part is represented. As a musician, I can only imagine the amount of time and effort that went into making this not only work, but flow so beautifully. Sitting there with his guitar or keyboard in hand and ear pressed the the audio output of his SDTV, Rutcho not only was faithful to the original music, he has elevated it to an entirely new level of greatness that I never could have imagined.

The sound design in the keyboard and guitar work is absolutely impeccable. How Rutcho was able the discern the slightest variations in the output of the NES sound chip and extrapolate the perfect tone and timbre for every different instrument and part is inspiring. He could have easily gone with a single buzzy square wave and a simple doubled guitar part, and it would have been effective, but listening to Double Dragon you hear a representation of the original music thats uncanny in how faithful it is to the original textures while being of much higher fidelity. The drum programming is also outstanding. Ninja Gaiden Acts IV-VI and the finale, Castlevainia, are stunning examples of what a single human being is capable of with the maximum amount of dedication, passion, and skill.

When writing about something of such high quality, its easy to just devolve into an endless sea of superlatives, yet writing anything more subtle seems like Im selling this album short. Ive listened to a fair number of chiptune tracks and NES cover bands, but Vomitron has ruined me, scarred me - for life.

Rating: 10/10 - Flawless Victory

Vomitron - "No NES For The Wicked" - Previewr by vomitron665


Friday, December 9, 2011

How to Win at The Game of Ebay

Ive been on ebay almost since the beginning, I think I started in '98 or '99, and Ive had at least 5 different accounts. Over this time span, I have bought and sold tens of thousands of dollars in items. A lot of music equipment, collectibles, gaming stuff, watches, computers - whatever had some value. In this time period I have learned a lot, and here Im going to share with you some of the best tips on maximizing your return on everyones favorite auction site - whether you are buying or selling.


Let me just start off with the #1 most important tip - sniping. Just like in Halo and Gears, if you are a good sniper, you are going to go far. What is sniping? Its waiting until the very last possible moment to put in a bid. Now, why would you do this, when ebay allows you to proxy bid and will bid for you automatically? It has to do with human psychology, but basically, if early on in the auction you bid several times and send the item value up close to its maximum final value, it has the effect of making others compete with you to win the item. People want to win - they dont want to be outbid, and that final 5-15% extra that they will pay to outbid you really adds up over the course of dozens of auctions.

So you have two options, one wait by your computer until the auction ends and bid with 5 seconds left, or number two, using a sniping service. This is basically like having James Bond 007 on your team in Halo. Sure, you could attempt to snipe yourself, but you might hesitate at the last moment, miss the bid, forget, or bid too early. Its best to leave these things to the pros - and in this case that pro is a 100% free sniping service called Gixen. What they do is take your ebay information and item numbers, and automatically bid for you with just a few seconds left. Never buy an item without using Gixen, because you may end up paying much, much more than you would have otherwise.

OK, so now you are using Gixen, but how do you know how much to bid? This part of the game is all research based. What you do is enter your item # on ebay, and then select from the left column Show Only "choose more" and select COMPLETED LISTINGS. By doing this you will only see auctions which have already finished, the ones with green numbers are completed sales which you will base your research on. For example, a completed listings search for "korg microsampler" reveals that they have sold from $200-$350 - a huge range! You want to base your bid at the bottom of the completed listings range. In this case, a bid of $220-230 looks like you would be getting the best of it for a used model. You have to factor in shipping costs, because some sellers will charge significantly more than others.

So you enter in your bid in Gixen, then wait. Its very likely that you will be outbid, before Gixen is even able to enter your snipe bid, but dont despair. Ebay is all a numbers game. If you consistently target the same item and put in a good bid, a certain % of the time, maybe 20-30% of the time, you will take down the auction for a great price. Its very little work to save a lot of money. So for every 5 snipes you enter, expect to win the item for what you want to pay. Once you get a feel for how the system works, you will be taking down great deals in no time.

There are so many little tricks and tips I could list here but I dont want this post to go on forever, so I may break it up into two parts, but let me at least mention a few more buying tips. You have a better chance of winning items that end on a weekday afternoon, or early evening, because people often cant bid from work or while they are stuck in traffic. Sometimes, you will see an item for a great buy it now price. If its very close to your target price, it may be worth pulling the trigger. But if there is an option to MAKE OFFER next to BUY IT NOW, always, let me repeat, ALWAYS attempt to make an offer first. You can often catch a seller desperate to turn a quick sale and get a price 10-30% less than the posted buy it now price.

In terms of buying, you usually want to see sellers with 99-100% feedback with a score over 20, but you can also get some great deals targeting sellers with low or even zero feedback. If you do target an item from a seller with 0-10 feedback, or a seller with a few negatives, always contact the seller first via email, and ask as many questions as possible. You can usually get a good sense from how quickly they respond and how detailed their response is to whether they are likely to deliver your item as described and on time. Sometimes, its just a gamble but you have to think like a gambler to maximize your time on ebay. If you bid on something from a seller with zero feedback, the bid has an expected value which is lower than a bid on an item from a highly reputable seller.

Recently I took a gamble with a zero feedback seller on a vintage casio keyboard which I had seen sell from $120-300. The listing had no pictures and a very short, one line description. Sketchy looking, to say the least. I emailed the seller and got a good response, so I put a bid into Gixen of $85, and won the thing for $60+20 shipping. I got it in a slightly beat up box a week later and the keyboard was in great shape. This is an item I could easily take and relist on my perfect feedback account, with a detailed description and pictures, for $250. When I bid I figured about 25% of the time I would not receive the item or it would come damaged or not as described, but this happening one in four times is more than outweighed when I do get the item as described 75% of the time and am able to resell it for a lot more money.

I hope this post has been helpful to all you out there who use ebay, and if you are interested and I drink enough caffeinated beverages I will come back with a part 2 on selling.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Most Expensive Car Crash Ever

8 Ferraris, a couple benzos, a lambo - 14 total! Everyone was OK. Holy shit!