A Short History of Hardcore Chipmusic

This post is an attempt to save some of the history of the harder kinds of chipmusic, before all of us forget what happened. Please comment or get in touch with corrections and more suggestions. This post will be continuously updated thanks to people like Alex Yabsley, Peter Swimm, Takashi Kawano, Abortifacient, Ant1, Nordloef, C-men, Rioteer, and … you?

Glenn Rune Gallefoss' C64

Those who think that chipmusic is cute and innocent will be surprised to know that there are thousands of evil, rough and hard chiptunes around. In fact, what we call breakcore today developed in the mid 00’s by using the same tools as chipmusic had done a few years earlier: amiga trackers.

In the mid 90s, the hardcore 4×4-pounding of gabber slowly evolved to a slightly more, uhm, “mature” genre. This evolution, I’ve been told, was driven forward by the Australian Bloody Fist label. Many of their artists worked with Protracker on Amiga. The label manager Mark (aka Nasenbluten) told me that they made 20 releases during 1994-2004 that were more or less only made on Amiga (see timeline).

The Amiga was likely used because it was affordable and available, reasonably portable, and also very sturdy. So it wasn’t only Bloody Fist who did this. I did it too, although there wasn’t exactly much interest for it. Elsewhere in in Europe the labels Fischkopf, Fifth Era and Digital Hardcore put out plenty of amiga hardcore with artists such as Patric Catani and Cristoph de Babalon. In USA, Milwaukee seems to have had a big Amiga following with eg Davros and Unibomber, later followed up by Dispyz who is now running Radio Graffiti that puts out plenty of hardcore Amiga music.

This music is sometimes called amigacore. This is not just a geek term – I saw it used in a record shop just a few years ago. It seems to be characterized by a raw and unedited sound, and isn’t necessarily made on Amiga. Remember, it was during the 90s that sample chopping and VST-wankery became popular, so this formed a sort of anti-thesis to that.

But in fact, the choppers and wankers of IDM wasn’t so far away from amigacore as you may think. Chopping and wanking had been done for years with trackers. And trackers are still well-suited to mess around with samples and create intricate beats by easily assigning effects to individual trigs and so on. Famous breakcore artists like DJ Scud and Venetian Snares seem to have started on Amiga, though I’ve yet to confirm this. But many famous IDM-artists started with trackers, such as Bogdan Raczynski, Brothomstates and Machinedrum.

After the 90s boom of amigacore, the next 8-bit hardcore booms came along with the growing hype of chipmusic. In the mid 00’s, gazillions of artists started to mix chipsounds and breakcore. My impression is that chipbreak often uses quite poppy and even trancey harmonies, along with amen breaks. I was doing quite a lot of this too at the time, and I really enjoyed the combination of happy & hard, like in Comsten. But I think Sabrepulse (UK), Saskrotch (USA) and possibly Bit Shifter (USA) were the biggest names in this field, and later maybe IAYD (USA)?. Tons of other artists worked in high tempos, such as Paza & Psilodump (SE), David Sugar aka Logic Bomb (UK), Divag and Computertruck (FR), Dorothy’s Magic Bag (SE), USK & Maru & BSK (JP), Jellica  & his Kittenrock label (UK), Eat Rabbit (FR) and Uoki Toki & 777 minus 111 (RU).

In tandem to chipbreak, others worked with darker atmospheres, sometimes bordering to noise and rock. Overthruster and Timeheater from USA seemed pretty outstanding at the time, and were also aggressively anti towards the more lightsided chiptunery. :|krew was an early-2000s group including Overthruster & Starpause. The mp3death-labelmaintained by Starpause, also put out plenty of evilry, as did 8CYLINDER. Baseck (MP3), though operating a bit outside the chipscene, put out plenty of good stuff too. American artists like Shitbird, Stagediver, CCDM, Kool Skull, WizwarsYatagarasuNarwhalz of SoundWet Mango & the label Datathrash continued to work in this field. 

In Europe there’s plenty of rave/noise/breakcore/gabber-disco people like Mobb Beep (DK), DJ Scotch Egg (UK), Next Life (NO), Gijs Gieskes (NL), Huoratron (FI), Dr Von Pnok & Zombectro (FR),  Hexadeci (UK), Kodek (LV), Distortled Box (ES) Lo-Bat (BE), Rioteer (NL), Unas (FR), and the French label Chip’n’Damned released some good stuff. Japan also had many artists, but right now I can only think of Aonami and Hizmi (and the rest of Ground Zero). Also check Kizan518. In South America I remember Una niña malvada used to get some pretty harsh stuff out there, and now Yz Yx is delivering some new goods.

Australia has continued to deliver the goods ever since Bloody Fist years. Ten Thousand Free Men and Their Families and Godinpants with a taste of punk rock, Abortifacient, Peaches the Wale… The Thematics Radio had tracker specials with lots of the aussie low-res hardcore, including links to mod and xm-files – check here.

Ok, that’ll have to be enough for now. Feeling pissed off that X wasn’t mentioned? Please help me to document this history by making a comment or get in touch.
Update: ()

15 Responses to “A Short History of Hardcore Chipmusic”

  1. Kris Keyser Says:

    Just dropping a line to confirm- IAYD is indeed from the USA.

    • goto80 Says:

      ah thanks. but actually the ? was more about if he’s a top chipbreak guy or not. i’m a bit out of touch there..

  2. Peter Seckler Says:

    Great listing! I was Hey Kid Nice Robot in 2004 but kinda moved on to other instruments and sounds fairly soon after that. Great list of the greats, glad to see Timeheater mentioned, he was one of my faves.

    Here’s an HKNR track: http://the-never.net/diodefreak.MP3

    I’m back to playing bass now.

  3. A Short History of Hardcore Chipmusic | CHIPFLIP | Satanarchist Says:

    […] A Short History of Hardcore Chipmusic | CHIPFLIP. […]

  4. tobi Says:

    Kizan518 is another active japanese chipgabberspeedcore artist worth checking out.

  5. Tomorrow: Speedcomp 9 | CHIPFLIP Says:

    […] while back I wrote a short history of hardcore chipmusic, where I outlined the proto-breakcore pioneers of Australia. As some people suggested I forgot to […]

  6. rsbeowulf Says:

    Milwaukee was and is the home base of “Awkward Terrible,” formerly known as “The Munitionettes.” Check ‘em.

  7. Peter Swimm Says:

    I also humbly submit myself: http://freemusicarchive.org/music/Peter_Swimm/

  8. lvdata Says:

    For a live stream try https://www.scenemusic.net/demovibes/

  9. bogdanraczynski Says:

    Lots of nostalgia comes to mind, and tons of classics listed here, great entry. I was surprised, flattered and humbled to be included.

    IMHO, the greatest thing about trackers is the way in which they opened the world up to some of us with a desire to hear / make something different. Although some people bemoan the democratization of music with the ubiquity of “all-in-one” software (Reason, Live, et al) I personally say fucking bring it on! For every 5000 dubstep copycats (or whatever is the flavour du jour) there are a handful of audio bandits tearing shit up, making their parents/neighbors’ ears bleed and being all-around badasses. I guess in that sense trackers were the very first all-in-one audio programs. It is fitting and appreciated that you’re writing down its history.

    Lots of links to follow / read up / listen to that I haven’t yet, thanks for taking the time to write/share!

    easy!

  10. goto80 Says:

    Thanks for all the suggestions! Keep ‘em coming. And nice to see Bogdan passing by too. I can still find gems in those huge tracker archives, and I know that there are *tons* of “scene works” (demoscene, trackerscene, whateverscene) that are not mentioned here, since it’s a “chipscene” perspective.

  11. JoeXVX Says:

    http://xgetxrealx.bandcamp.com/

    XGETXREALX is the ONLY hardcore chip music str8-fucking-bit

  12. Hardcore chipmusic | Blogsfera Says:

    […] post is an attempt to save some of the history of the harder kinds of chipmusic,” writes Anders Carlsson, “before all of us forget what happened.” Don’t […]

  13. memero Says:

    Hey, finally a great article on this topic!
    I`ll check out all your links.. Thanks!
    http://www.memero.org

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