What’s Chipmusic in 2015?

When I wrote my thesis on chipmusic in 2010, chipmusic was in a transition phase. Atleast in Europe, there used to be a lot of influences from genres like electroclash and breakcore, and towards the 10’s it was common to hear house influences. House, not in the 80s or 90s way, but more in the EDM kind of way. I remember playing a chip event in 2008 where all the acts before me played EDM-like music, so I felt compelled to start my headliner set with religious chip rock as a childish countermove. Instant anti-success!

That same year I mentioned in a blog post that more dub/2-step influences in chip would be nice. And then dubstep morphed from an obscure and ambiguous Brittish thing into a full-on mega-defined bro monster, and the chipscene followed suite. Bass!

So from where I’m standing (which is not super close to the chipscene), EDM and bass still seem to be two dominant influencers of the chipscene. It’s a bit like breakcore and electroclash was before, but with one big difference. Chipmusic as a genre/ideology/praxis has changed from putting the technology first, into putting the sound first. To put it bluntly.

Just like in the 1990s, the hardware used to produce the sounds of chipmusic is not the main thing. The pendulum has swung back, and continued even further. Not only is the hardware used not as important, but it seems like the sounds are less important too. Not everywhere in the chipscene, but in some contexts.

There are some oldschool names in the chipscene whose music no longer sounds like chipmusic, and is not made with chipmusic tools, but is still tagged as chipmusic, listened to in the context of chip, and discussed in the chipscene. It seems to be part of the chipscene, but it doesn’t connect to the platforms or aesthetics (media and form) of chipmusic. Go to a chipmusic festival and you can listen for yourself.

My last few releases might fit in here to some extent. I partly use other sounds and instruments than the standard chipmusic repertoire – and have been for quite some time. So I’m not saying that there is something “wrong” with this, just that it seems like a general shift in how the chipmusic/chiptune terms are used, and what they mean.

The other side of the coin is that there are people who should know the term, but don’t. I was chatting with Dubmood and he mentioned that a lot of newcomers start to make chipmusic without even knowing about the term. Even if what they do is “authentic” chipmusic (from a 00’s perspective), they don’t describe it as such, and people don’t listen to it as such, I suppose.

We’re painting with a big brush here. Or perhaps with many small brushed. I’m not saying this happens everywhere all the time, but it is a tendency. It might grow, it might disappear, but it’s here now.

It is the chipscene as a culture. A network of people in social platforms online, perhaps with a long history of making chipmusic, who now make other kinds of music but continue to hang out. They might use modular synths to make noise, or oldschool synth VSTs to make synthwave vaporwave something, or phat bass music, or polka drone, or something else.

Of course, the tech-focused and aesthetics-focused parts of the chipscene still exist: in the demoscene, in indiegames, in forums like chipmusic.org, Battle of the Bits, the FB-group Chiptunes=WIN (with 4000 members now), and so on. But as for the performers and recorders in the chipscene, the technopurism that glued the scene together, for better or worse, is not there anymore. And if the sounds won’t be a defining factor either, then where does that leave the chippers?

Perhaps chipmusic, atleast in some contexts, has been de-genrefied to the point where it doesn’t exist anymore? And maybe that’s not a bad thing? Finally the people who say that chipmusic is not a genre will be right without a doubt.

4 Responses to “What’s Chipmusic in 2015?”

  1. akaobi Says:

    Although I have not been listening to a wider range of chipmusic labeled as ‘chiptune’ or ‘8-bit’ in SoundCloud, Bandcamp, or YouTube, I also can say that chipmusic as a genre has been crearly disappearing regardless there are certain tendencies of its sound such as EDM and bass as you said. I basically agree with you.

    I often think the ‘death of man,’ the well-known thesis by Foucault, on chipmuisic. It has crossed my mind, for example, when translating your master thesis into Japanese or writing the review of Nicolas Nova’s book named “8-Bit Reggae.” If authenticity – I do not call it identity – of chipmusic wavers and chipmusic as a concept and a signature sound gets scattered, is it good or bad?

    I think chipmusic is a historical figure and it surely vanishes. And that may be good. If you cannot grasp certain forms of chipmusimc, probably it is a sign of transformation.

    Originally, chipmusic has transformed again and again. Chipmodules on Amiga gradually established its style(s), stealing and referring to the legacy of the C64 music. Besides, the latter affected the Amiga music in various ways such as SIDmon, Future Composer, AHX, etc. I think multiplex imitation of the C64 music affected itself in turn such as preset sounds of GoatTracker and chipmodule-like SID tunes.

    Chipmusic is full of the ‘Power of the False’ (Deleuze-Nietzsche). But sometimes we are addicted to discuss “what is THE authenticity for chipmusic” or “what is THE true/fake chipmusic” like emulation vs real machine. I think these kind of discourses fall into Platonism. And noe, we may be facing on the loss of the idea of chipmusic.

    I do not want say we should be satisfy with a chaotic condition that the term chipmusic or chiptune make no sense at all. Instead, we have to increasingly set each standard for each chipmusic by touch. So for example, one can name his/her music just a sound, not chiptune or chipmusic. This is regarded as a counter-gesture against just using current tendencies of commercial music for popularity and promotion.

    Chipmusic became obscure, however, it is on the hard way. And that may be good for the coming changes in the future.

  2. Peter Swimm (@peterswimm) Says:

    I think its related to the dying down of “chipmusic” as a community where people are actively trying to sound like existing chipmusic artista back into unconnected enthusiast musicians who are drawing from chipsounds as a creative palette. Without the scene around to prop up me-too soundalikes, you are exposed more to gifted musicians who stand a little more on their own merits, and song writing mettle.

    I personally think of myself as a rock musician who likes square waves and lofi samples, not as a chipmusician who makes rock songs.

  3. Akira Says:

    “There are some oldschool names in the chipscene whose music no longer sounds like chipmusic, and is not made with chipmusic tools, but is still tagged as chipmusic, listened to in the context of chip, and discussed in the chipscene.”

    This is exactly one of the main reasons for me to kill my chipmusic project. I was going that way. I was making new music that wasn’t really chipmusic, yet I played chipmusic shows. It was listened to in chipmusic contexts, releases were announced in chipmusic communities. And it felt really wrong and lazy from my side.

    I was discussing with gloMag the other day that there’s another factor to this: once you are tagged with “chipmusic” or “8-bit”, the tag stays with you like a stigma forever and it’s impossible to remove, no matter what kind of music you do. People will always relate you to old computers, nostalgia and videogames, even if what you do sounds nothing like it, or is not made with any of that, or was never in reference to any of that. You’re “judged” by your previous history and attachment to the scene. It’s like when Rusko started to play house and all the dubstep heads were like “what? hell no!”.
    Many artists seem to willingly stick to this label in their music after it has “evolved” from chipmusic. Some times I actually feel like some people feel obligated to bring up the chipmusic label or affiliation, perhaps to not ostracize the “fans” they had in that scene, even if the music has absolutely nothing to do with it. There are people saying “sorry this isn’t chipmusic” when releasing something new that sounds different. Why the apology? It makes it feel like this is some sort of secret society that you don’t want to piss off.

    One thing is for sure, most of us old school/new school chipmusic people have very little to do with what chipmusic is today. It’s in us to decide if we want to stick to the label or not, and the reasons behind it.

  4. Post-Chiptune is All About Culture? | CHIPFLIP Says:

    […] not about platform fetish anymore. It’s okay to use whatever hardware or software you want. I’ve written about this before, but it dawned on me even more here in North America. Nowadays chipmusic is not about hardware, and […]

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