New Documentary on Chipmusic: Europe In 8 Bits

Europe in 8 Bits is perhaps the most ambitious chipmusic documentary to date. It has good cinematography and editing. It features people from most parts of Europe (I think they made something like 100 interviews). And it shows off both famous and unknown people from the chipscene, including an unusual appearance from the Nanoloop author, Oliver Wittchow.

I recommend you to see it for three reasons. First, it captures the generational shift that’s going on in the chipscene right now. New people, new styles, new approaches. To be honest, there are many aritsts in the documentary that I haven’t heard about before. A good thing! Secondly, I think that enough time has passed to start to make sense of what actually happened in the 00’s. This documentary has a very different feel compared to for example 8 Bit Generation (see below), that tried to capture something during its formative years. It usually takes a decade or so to be able to describe and contextualize what a subculture is and does. There’s more room for reflection. Thirdly, I think that Europe in 8 Bits captures the diversity of the scene. It’s not too arty-farty or party-party, not to geeky and not to philosophical. It’s somewhere inbetween. You get a bit of nostalgia, hacking, dumpster diving, DIY, games, etc.

There are now four main documentaries on chipmuic. Except for Europe in 8 Bits (2014), it’s 8 Bit Generation (2006), 8 BIT (2006) and Reformat the Planet (2008). Since some of them are pretty much impossible to come by, I thought I’d give a quick subjective summary of each ot them here (eventhough it’s been 8 years since I saw some of them).

8 Bit Generation (Lionel Brouet) was made in France and I think I saw it on some micromusic event in the south of France. I was interviewed for it when I played in Paris in 2005. It features Role Model, Bodenständig 2000, Manou, me, Relax Beat, Malcolm McLaren and, I can only assume, plenty of French micromusic artists as that movement was quite strong. Paris_HQ yeah! But anyway, as far as I can remember this documentary relied heavily on McLaren to contextualize chipmusic as a sort of punky fringe of techno-pop culture.

8 BIT (Marcin Ramocki). I saw this at the first Blip Festival in New York in 2006. It’s about how videogames has influenced art & culture and it includes a big focus on chipmusic. Ramocki is a media scholar, so there’s lots of philosophical discussions, often following a marxist tradition of appropriating commodities. I remember this as being very good, but unfortunately it was never released to the public. Rumours say it’s because of licensing problems with some huge artist, but I don’t know. 8 BIT featured people like like Nullsleep, Role Model, Cory Arcangel, Bit Shifter, Glomag, Bubblyfish, Teamtendo, Bodenständig 2000, Treewave, Gameboyz Orchestra, etc. I didn’t contribute anything to 8 BIT.

Reformat the Planet (2 Player Productions) is a documentation of Blip Festival, the New York chipscene and the artists engaged there. 2PP had recorded several Blip festivals, and did a good job in explaining the recent history that made that happen. They asked me to write a more in-depth history with some reflections on how to define chipmusic, which I did. It dawned on me, however, that the American history of chipmusic is quite different from the European one. Which is yet another reason that Europe in 8 Bits is a good idea. Anyway, Reformat the Planet features artists such as Peter Swimm, Tristan Perich, Aonami, Nullsleep, Bit Shifter, Mark DeNardo, noteNdo and Random.

 

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