8-bit Music is Not Chipmusic: Amiga Doomcore

I have written about Amiga music as chipmusic (or not) before. While it was on the Amiga that the term chipmusic was first used, the “soundchip” of the Amiga does not generate sounds but only copies (8-bit) data from RAM to audio out (although in a characteristic way, often lost in emulation).

From this post at chipmusic.org, I found a label that released Amiga music on vinyl 1995-2000. Fifth Era released ten 12″ vinyls with what they call doomcore – “slow, morbid hardcore techno with pounding drum patterns & heavy links to early nineties european techno sounds” [update: 4 of them were only dubplates]. Most of their releases were untitled and contained no more info than the release number. To get the general idea, check this youtube-clip (and the rest at their channel).

This means that my timeline of chipmusic has increased its gap of releases in the 1990s – most of it being gabber/noise/breakcore. Before 2000 it was uncommon to release records with what we call chipmusic today. The earliest one I’ve found is the SNES Mario Paint compilation from 1995, but it’s still more of a conceptual thing than what happened in 1999 with Bodenständig 2000, the Nanoloop compilation, Role Model, and perhaps Nintendo Teenage Robot. According to my timeline, it was not until 2001 that ‘chipmusic’ took over from ‘hardcore’ in 8bit music.

Still in the late 1990s an Amiga was a fast, cheap and convenient way of composing and performing electronic music. Amiga trackers played an important role in the early days of gabber, breakcore and jungle it seems. I have talked to composers and label owners that used the Amiga with various tracker software (usually either Protracker or OctaMED). While their music is hardly what we call chipmusic today, the hardware and software that they used is usually considered as ‘legit’ chipmusic tools. So from a strict technodeterminist perspective this would still be chipmusic.

I am aware that the timeline is missing releases from some of the most famous Amiga users: the Australian pioneers of gabba/core: Nasenbluten and their friends at Bloody Fist and Deadgirl, the German scene around Digital Hardcore Recordings with artists such as Patric Catani and Christoph de Babalon, and the British jungle scene with e.g. Aphrodite. It is difficult to find out which of their releases used the internal Amiga sound. It’s not like they thought it was important to always mention what technology they used, like many chipmusicians do. For good or worse. But I’ve received great help from e.g. Davros, Mulder, people at Low Res Records and Fifth Era, and from Team Doyobi and Osdorp Posse. More suggestions and information is very welcome.

While I think it could be relevant to include some PC-tracker music (like Bogdan Raczynski and Venetian Snares), the timeline excludes music made with FM-soundchips in synthesizers, keyboards and mobile phones. I consider chipmusic technology as an assemblage of (tracker) software and (soundchip) hardware.


38 Responses to “8-bit Music is Not Chipmusic: Amiga Doomcore”

  1. peter Says:

    All the trackers I saw in the us using the midi to late 90’s where pcs running stuff on dos, but maybe thats cause Amigas where less common here?

    The first time I saw an amiga ons tage was the DHR tour with ec8tor and the like.. 97ish?

    I agree with the predominant noise/breakcore assessment though, although I did see electro pop and band orientated type stuff from guys Protman.

    • peter Says:

      OH yea and pc trackers are further muddied if you consider general midi, or adlib type stuff chip.

    • chipflip Says:

      I guess PCs were common to use for live performances in Europe aswell, but I meant that the Amiga was rather attractive since it was small and sturdy. Unbreakable! And if you use a tracker to make music with GM/AdLib, that has to count as chipmusic these days, imho. Didn’t know that Protman was an old player in the game. Let’s play!

  2. ant1 Says:

    Interesting, although I’m not really a fan of the musical style. Some classic and some not-so classic early house music was made with Amigas too (Amiga not as popular with housers as with gabberers, though), of course back then, it was probably just called “computer music”. :-)

  3. Cerebral Scars Says:

    Interesting find,

  4. syphus Says:

    Anders – http://www.geordiegabbamafia.org/ have been around since before the dawn of time, composing/mixtaping/DJing stupendously dangerous gabba all across Europe (based here in Newcastle – people from Newcastle are called ‘Geordies’:).

    Anyway, I’m not sure about Smurf or Armaged:DON, but UEP definitely composes on and performs live with Amigas. I know this because my mate’s putting them on in May and I got a text this morning asking if “Amigas can be easily plugged into projectors” :)

    For some reason, I think he uses ProTracker…but I’m not sure. If I was doing gabba, even now, I’d use ProTracker. It fits the sample-orientated, anal-raping, minimal, overdriven aesthetic really nicely, and there’s nothing – NOTHING – more thrilling than seeing anvil weight kickdrums being triggered at 200bpm on a lightning fast patternscroll.

    • chipflip Says:

      nice one bren! i’ve contacted UEP and we’ll see if he can be bothered answering.

      protracker is the perfect gabber-tool, i agree. it’s interesting to think about why. some very influential ppl were using it, like venetian snares, dj scud, the bloody fist people and some of the artists at DHR. i wonder what their music would’ve been like without protracker, you know? my guess is NOTHING. protracker made them!!!

    • chipflip Says:

      Here’s what Smurf responded to me: “UEP doesn’t use an Amiga anymore ! All his trax on Screwface Records (number 6 I think) were done on an Amiga. All trax on Hard Of Hearing 6 are Amiga, all Smurf, UEP & Extrement on the Killout LP’s on Suburban Trash and everything on Strike 25 – Newcastle V Newcastle.”

      Gabber language is good.

  5. hunz Says:

    Fantastic read. You forget the history of it all and also how much I miss the Amiga days. Thank you!

  6. little-scale Says:

    Excellent post.

  7. Jayfive Says:

    “I am aware that the timeline is missing releases from some of the most famous Amiga users: the Australian pioneers of gabba/core: Nasenbluten and their friends at Bloody Fist and Deadgirl, It is difficult to find out which of their releases used the internal Amiga sound. It’s not like they thought it was important to always mention what technology they used, like many chipmusicians do.”

    I can easily put you in touch with Mark N of Nasenbluten, Hedonist (Bloody Fist artist) and a few other amiga-users if you like. Email me :)

  8. RG Says:

    I would email you this information but I cannot seem to find your email address. After speaking with them at the big S4 party here in America I was told by one of the brothers themselves that early Somatic Responses releases used an Amiga in some form. Whether it was the sound source or sequencer I’m not sure as he did not clarify. This for example dates back to ’95 on Milwaukee’s DBN label: http://www.discogs.com/Somatic-Responses-Sub-Space-Distorters/master/188945

    Also, as far as Unibomber/Davros goes they both had Amiga material here in the midwest long before the “Final Amiga battle” dating back to ’96 I believe. On cassettes nonetheless.

    It’s true though, Amigas were just a simple an effective way to get the job done. Very, very rarely was there any emphasis on the aesthetic of the machine itself. Unfortunately, that attitude is something that has damn near shunned some of us outnumbered in the “chip” world, myself included.

    Is the amiga music chiptune? God I hope not.

    It’s contemporary roots are in hardcore/speedcore/breakcore. Never forget that folks.

  9. RG Says:

    I should also note that two of those Unibomber cassette tunes were featured on the first vinyl from Distort Records based here in Wisconsin during 1998: http://www.discogs.com/Doormouse-Unibomber-Distort-1/release/48073

    …which is now handled by Mr Simon Underground in the UK.

    Rumor has it that there’s a new Amiga based speedcore record being released on that same label very soon. hmmm

    • chipflip Says:

      I’ve contacted Simon Underground, and I was already in touch with Davros. I’ll see if Unibomber has something to add. Thanks for mentioning Somatic Responses – I’ll get in touch with them too.

      As for ‘chiptune’ you should also consider that hardcore/speedcore has the demoscene to thank for some of their software and even samples. But how do you mean that chiptune has its roots in hardcore/speedcore/breakcore?

      • RG Says:

        I seem to have been misunderstood, sorry about that.

        I simply meant that the Amiga is a rare case where it’s heavily involved in two completely different musical realms and depending on your region (not so much anymore, but at one point yes) you’ll see a lot of conflict of interests. My point was that the Amiga had it’s early history in the demoscene but spun wildly into it’s own hardcore genre in the 90’s…but this isn’t anything you don’t know already. ;)

        Have you been in contact with the likes of Fischkopf Hamburg? Sorry if I missed this.

      • RG Says:

        Basically, I was saying exactly what d0us stated below me, only not nearly as articulate. Damn beer. ;)

        Nevertheless, I’m glad to see some light finally being shed on the subject.

        Oh! Here’s this too: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cGAZvaBNMh8


    • chipflip Says:

      Yeah, I see your point. And that youtube-clip is fantastic! Couldnt help to think about demoparty in the beginning of the clip, hehe.

      Btw, if you have any contact details for Unibomber, could u e-mail me? info @@@ goto80 ….. com. I’m doubting people pay attention to Myspace messages.

      Oh, and thx for reminding about Fischkopf. Never got a reply from them. Now hunting them down on, eh, Facebook.

  10. d0us Says:

    away from the speedcore/gabba scene you have IDM pioneers such as Black Dog and Plaid using Amigas but mostly for midi using KCS OMEGA but early Black Dog did use some form of tracker.

    Ceephax has been known to use dual Amiga setups live too.

    I’m sure people use them because they ‘were to hand’ rather than any kind of machine fetishism…unlike now.

    The groups of people that made this music and the chiptune musicians of the time were for the most part (but DEFINITELY NOT ALWAYS) from entirely different userbases; those in associated with the demoscene/computer culture and those that were just using a cheap, stable and powerful tool at the time.

    Ironically in the battle for ‘authenticity’ in mainstream chiptune culture, non-chiptune sampled-tracker based music loses out to 8 bit vsts. It won’t really be accepted because we have to accept that chiptune the ‘genre’ has nothing to do with the the traditional ‘chiptune’ production process.

    • chipflip Says:

      Ah yes, Black Dog. Remember this Swedish guy who used Calling Card to log into their BBS with his great handle ‘Aphex Twin’. :) Anyway, googling for Black Dog, it seems they (Ken) was a demoscener. Hmm…

      I once met Ceephax and asked him about, but I don’t seem to remember the answer. Hmmmm again!

      Re: genre vs process, I know what you mean. As a topic of study, I think it’s very interesting with the tension between the social construction of the genre, and the characteristics of technology. Even in 1989 the meaning of ‘chip*****’ was not given. Also, it can be interesting with ‘constructed authenticity’ because it means you have to reflect on what chip-tech really is, and what it encourages you to do.

  11. yonxUP Says:

    i’ve said it before and i say it again: Paula is perfectly capable of generating different waveforms and effects depending on how you use it.. The only documented hw-synthesis (yet) is FM, but it also features a hw-mixer which if used creatively can produce a range of waveforms on it’s own.. just wait and see..

  12. chipflip Says:

    @yonx: hardware amiga synthesis? fm? say it more! you mean loaderror’s stuff?

  13. Inversion table Says:

    Trackers are a class of music sequencer software meant to edit module files; they allow the user to arrange notes (pitch-shifted sound samples from the module) stepwise on a time line across several monophonic channels.

    A tracker’s musical interface is traditionally numeric: both notes and parameter changes, effects and other commands are entered with the keyboard into a grid of fixed time slots as codes consisting of letters, numbers and hexadecimal digits. Separate patterns have independent timeliness; a complete song consists of a master list of repeated and concatenated patterns.

    Recent trackers have departed from module file limitations and advantages, adding other options both to the sound synthesis (hosting generic synthesizers and effects or MIDI output) and to the sequencing (MIDI input and recording), effectively becoming general purpose sequencers with a peculiar user interface.

  14. Teeter Hang ups Says:

    I got the QY-100 because I don’t play keys but needed a full band sound for my demos (I play guitar and write songs). If you have the patience to dig into it, this little sequencer/sound module can do a lot! But the interface is not intuitive. I had to carefully read the manual and with a little trial and error, figured out the basic functions.

    One feature I like is being able to find a good style, mute the instruments I don’t want to hear, enter a chord and style progression, and wa la! I have a song I can sing and play along with. But step editing is tedious and time consuming (then I should learn to play more instruments huh?) Still, this sounds much better than transposing loops in GarageBand.

    The sound quality is good. Some brass and windwood sounds are not convincing, but I do like the pianos, organs, and strings. If you are MIDI-savy, you can play these sounds using a keyboard or MIDI guitar via the MIDI input. Or you can have the internal sequencer play some musical phrases and record the MIDI track into your computer DAW software, then use it to play any of your software instruments.

    I found no use for the built-in guitar input and effects, just about any of my processors, hardware- or computer-based, sound better.

    The QY-100 can do what a Yamaha keyboard can do, without the keys, and that’s why I got it.

  15. chipflip Says:

    top notch spam, thankx!

  16. Amiga in the UK-charts: Dex & Jonesey « CHIPFLIP Says:

    […] the 1990′s you could use chipmusic tools to make dance music hits. It was r rare to hear 8-bit songs in public before that. With a few exceptions, […]

  17. Slam666 Says:

    Reblogged this on Satanarchist.

  18. Low Entropy Says:

    my my, you got it wrong on so many accounts here. amiga music was not only in breakcore or hardcore, but in almost any style of techno at the beginning. there are a number of classic techno tunes, that charted in the UK and elsewhere, and had airplay on MTV, that were written on amiga.
    that amiga music was important for the beginning of gabber and breakcore is true (as i said). there are sets from the early 90s that were played in front of thousands of people that are essentially made up only of amiga based tunes. yet you are missing out a lot of records on your “timeline”.

    apart from that, my major grief with your text is that you seem to shift your focus on “chipmusic” that was released on 12″, CD or a similiar media. maybe you have a reason for that this is not mentioned in this text and it would make sense. but what is important is that breakcore, hardcore, techno, what is now called “8 bit” music, produced on amiga, was released in the thousands during the 90s on module compilations, BBS, FTP servers and so on, and this was an important backbone for the amiga scene, and for the rise of many artists in that field. many artists started in the module / “demo” scene, that would later become now well-known breakcore or hardcore producers.
    you can’t really say “chipmusic” took over “from hardcore” after the 2000s. chipmusic, or what some call “8-bit” now, and hardcore, had been produced all the time together, way before the 2000s, and “8 bit”, in terms of quantity of releases, was always bigger than hardcore or breakcore at that time.

    • goto80 Says:

      Thanks for the comment! I’ve made Amiga techno for the demoscene since 1992, so I know some of the things you talk about. I intentionally left that out of this text which I should’ve made more clear.

      I have spent years looking for sceners who released records, but found surprisingly few (with tracker or 8-bit music). Same with techno/jungle/house etc, which usually relied too much on external hw to be included here.

      I have considered adding the demoscene to this timeline but for now the main focus is on the ‘chipscene’. I am definitely open for confirmed additions to this list.

      What’s missing? Who are these releases u are talking about? Any additions would be appreciated.

      • Low Entropy Says:

        thanks for the quick reply, yes, then i had misunderstood the text a bit. as your list is very extensive, it will take a bit to check it with possible additions.
        best wishes, soenke

  19. Celebrating ST-01 and ST-02 | CHIPFLIP Says:

    […] into electronic genres such as gabber/breakcore, IDM, UK hardcore/drum n’ bass, and so […]

  20. Tonio roffo Says:

    I know for sure Zolex – Time modulator is done on Amiga and was a early house hit in Belgium.
    Also Emanuel Top – Acid Phase might be Amiga.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: