Archive for the ‘genres’ Category

What’s Chipmusic in 2015?

November 13, 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.

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Chip Folk Music

April 14, 2014

Folk music is almost as hard to define as chipmusic is. You have a feeling you know what it is, but if you start to explain it you’ll run into trouble quite easily. “Yeah, so you have to use certain instruments, but, eh, it’s not like you have to use those instruments. And not all music made with those instruments belong in the genre. Because there are typical aesthetical elements. Or atleast some people say that. Yeah, maybe it’s more like a community or lifestyle… so…”

Dragan of Bodenständig 2000 sometimes calls chipmusic home computer folk music. And he has a point. Some people say that folk music are basically traditions developed by “uncultured people“, as opposed to the people who talk about art, philosophy and culture all the time. People who just sort of do what they do, without talking too much about it. Stuff that develops almost naturally within a group at a specific time, using certain musical technologies (mechanical, digital, whatever). Most likely, this is how we’ve played with sounds together for centuries, before it was even packaged under the term “music”. In that sense, folk music is perhaps a retronym just like chipmusic is. And to me it makes all the sense in the world to call chipmusic folkmusic. But not to most other people.

But anyway. Balún posted a jibaro (Puerto Rican folk music) song made on C64 in 1987, which led @gusandrews to ask for more folk chipmusic. So I saw that as an opportunity to continue my quest to examplify various chipmusic genres. CrillFactor suggests that bag pipes sound similar to square waves, and I’ve atleast heard one (unreleased) chiptune by Nemo that mimicked this sound.

Minusbaby suggests reggaeton, which makes me think of Super Guachin but even more so Meneo who’s electrified many dance floors with his Gameboy reggaeton noise dance nudity. Reggae could also be thought of as a contemporary folk music, and there’s a book coming out soon about 8-bit reggae actually.

For me personally, growing up in north Europe, folk music means something else though. In ye ol’ colonialist Europe I guess black folk music is often labeled as “world music”. I made a song called Volksing once, which was supposed to capture that uncultured brutal schlager singalong folk style we have over here. Much white, very barbarian. Something more mature in that vein would be for example Bud Melvin and Mark DeNardo. It also makes sense then to mention Manou, Dorothy’s Magic Bag and 386DX here, I think. Maybe even the industrial Amiga poet Arvid Tuba.

But this is all contemporary folk music. How about the oldschool traditional kind? I’m talking about things like Education of the Noobz (by Dragan in Bodenständig) and Rugar. Melodic, emotional and something quite different from dance music, pop music or singer/songwriter stuff. I don’t think there’s much of that in the chipscene, since it was always dominated by danceable music. We’d have to go digging through games and demos to find more of this.

My head hurts a bit when I think about that though. If you have any suggestions, I’d be very grateful if you comment. Here are some suggestions where to start. For some reason it’s all Amiga music, and most of it is from Finland. Probably because their folk music is ze best! (though I don’t know what it is)

Pic Saint Loup – West History (more like country, I guess)

Bruno (rip) – Modern Surf, Serenade to…, Uralvolga fine

Dean – Sunset & Audiomonster – X-mas (calypso pop)

Dizzy – Johdattelupolska (and also Alternative samba, Fanatic Waltz, Girl from Ipanema)

Oh yeah, and if you want to play these songs I think the easiest way is to use VLC.

A Short History of Hardcore Chipmusic

March 9, 2014

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.
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My Presentation of 8-bit Users

November 22, 2012

Last week I made a presentation at Merz Academy called Hackers and Suckers: Understanding the 8-bit Underground. I was invited by Olia Lialina for a lecture series called Do You Believe in Users? in Stuttgart. This question should be understood in the context of a disappearing user in modern discourses on design. Computers have become normalized and invisible, and the user seems to have a similar fate. (read more in Olia’s Turing Complete User)

The talk was about 8-bit users, and the hype around 8-bit aesthetics. I talked about different 8-bit users – from those who unknowingly use 8-bit systems embedded in general tech-stuff, through stock freaks and airports, to chipmusic people and hackers. I explained how “8-bit” is both a semiotic and materialist concept, but often used as a socially constructed genre. 1950s music or 1920s textile can be called 8-bit today.

I explained what the qualities of 8-bit computing are, as based on my thesis: simple systems, immediacy, control and transgression. Some examples of technical and cultural transgression followed, and then I gave the whole “8-bit-punk-appropriator-reinvent-the-obsolete” speech and then dissed that perspective completely. Finally, I tried to explain my own view of non-antropocentric computing, man-machine creativity, media materialism, and so on. When I prepaired the presentation I called this Cosmic Computing, but I changed it because my presentation was already hippie enough…

  • Humans cannot have a complete & perfect understanding of a computer.  Following ideas from Kittler – and the fact that 30-year-old technologies still surprise us – this seems controversial for computer scientists, but not so much for artists?
  • Users bring forth new states, but that might be all normal for the machine. This is controversial for all ya’ll appropriatingz artistz, but not for Heidegger and computer scientists.
  • All human-machine interactions are both limited and enriched by culture, technology, politics, economy, etcetera. Meaning that “limitations” and “possibilities” are cultural concepts that change all the time.
  • Don’t make the machine look bad — don’t be a sucker. Make it proud! Another anti-human point, to get away from the arrogant ways that we treat technologies.

In hindsight, it was a pretty bad idea to be so anti-user in a lecture series designed to promote the user. (: And the discussion that followed mostly evolved around the concept of suckers. Some people seemed to interpret what I said as “if you are not a hacker you are a sucker”. This was unfortunate but understandable. I don’t mean that there are only two kinds of users. They are merely two extremes on a continuum.

Hackers explore the machine in artistic ways and they can be coders, musicians, designers — whatever. They are not necessarily experts but they know how to transgress the materiality/meaning of the hardware/software. They can make things that have never been done before with a particular machine, or something that wasn’t expected from it. That often requires not-so-rational methods, which is not always based on hard science. Just because you know “more” doesn’t make you better at transgression. There is a strong connection between user and computer. Respect, and sometimes a strong sense of attachment – even sexual? That’s probably easier to develop if you don’t plan to sell it when the next model comes out. (btw, this is not some kind of general-purpose-definition of the term hacker, just how I used it in this presentation)

Suckers, on the other hand, don’t seem to have this connection. They buy it, use it and throw it away. Either they don’t feel any connection to the object, or they don’t want to. They act as if they are disconnected from technology, and only suck out the good parts when it suits their personal needs.

It is a disrespectful use. The machines are treated merely as instrumental tools for their own satisfaction. Suckers are consumers to the bone. Amazing technologies are thrown at them, and suckers treat them as if they don’t even exist – until something stops working. Or they go all cargo cult.

I don’t like it when I act as a sucke.r, but it happens all the time. I recently got an iPhone for free. I’ve had it for months without using it, because I am scared of becoming a sucker 24/7. I am definitely not in charge of my life when it comes to technology. And I like that. Hm…

 

►???

May 30, 2012

Go ahead! Yeah! ► PRESS PLAY ON ??? (download: 1 2)

A few years ago there wasn’t much chip bass around, but since then it has become pretty common. The Canadian mystery man known as ??? is one of the top players, fusing reggae and hip hop into a melodic and fönky sauce, oscillating between dub and skweee. With one of the most ungoogliest names around, his music used to be pretty complicated to find (since he deleted it all the time), but then he released Wall You Need is Love on Pause in 2011.

His next release is right here, at Chipflip. No titles, no bullshit – pure irreductionsm! It consists of two mixes of 30 minutes each, accessible through an interface made by the Venezuelan artist ui. The first mix is a set of Gameboy dub, in ???’s characteristic carefree style. The second one is more hip hoppy, and also shows off some of his wobbly C64-songs. The hip hop mix also contains an Amiga remix that I made. Can you find it? Btw, ??? also makes less chippy stuff as Babaji Beat. Fade Runner

Amigacore Without Amiga?

November 21, 2011

At the excellent Bimbo Tower store in Paris, they have a specific section for Amigacore. I’ve never seen that before. It had about 10 vinyls with classics from DHR-people like Catani and Babalon, artists from Bloody Fist, and so on. But there were also two releases that I’d never heard about.

R-ictus – Onanisme Rituel (video) is some sort of speedcore and Vverevvolf Grehv’s album Zombie Aesthetics is a bit more metal-oriented (video). They are both quite lo-fi, but obviously not produced only with Amiga.

But it has the Amiga spirit. And perhaps some of it was even made with the Paula chip of the Amiga. But that’s not the point here. Perhaps Amigacore is a valid genre even without the Amiga? I wasn’t convinced about the term when I wrote this. But if there’s a special section for amigacore in a record store, it does have a broader relevance for music listeners.

I suppose that amigacore has lo-fi and distorted sounds that has not been drenched in cheesy postproduction effects like a lot of breakcore still seems to be. So it’s not only about the raw timbre, but also about the sequencing technique. I believe that trackers were highly influential on both IDM and breakcore in the 1990’s. Early ‘breakcore’ acts like Venetian Snares and Nasenbluten used the Amiga. So perhaps amigacore is basically like ‘oldschool breakcore’…?

 

Chip Rock

April 27, 2010

Maniac Mansion, who supposedly released an album in 1999 (hm), were a chip rock act from Louisiana, USA that split up in 2005. After that the two members started to make videos and porn music, apparently. The Maniac Mansion songs are not easy to come by anymore, but there are some on the Myspace. I stumbled across some of their MP3s on a forgotten harddrive, and thought I’d write a little piece about chip rock. I’ve written about other chip-genres here.

Anamanaguchi are probably the most famous ‘chip rock’ act these days, tending more towards pop than punk I suppose. The Depreciation Guild even more so, and are also gaining recognition outside of the chip-bubble. Going more towards punk, there’s for example Superdöner (hello myself) and Go With Fourteen O.

There is plenty of metal-smelling 8-bit music without guitars. People like Virt and Heospheros and Norrin Radd make intricate beep “metal” that relate to the old Konami NES-style. Others do it a bit harder like Laconic Zero (related to the underground-famous Next Life) and use C64 and guitar/bass. Aleksi Eeben’s the Grand Rules is a true metal epos, made strictly on C64 (in his own tracker I guess). To get more grindy you should check out Unas, who I can’t seem to find a link for atm. If you prefer things more noisy, you can check out chip noise.

It seems that ‘nintendocore’ and ‘8-bit screamo’ is pretty popular at the moment, but I’m not really sure. I used to be quite into this stuff, and also did some stuff, but I’ve lost touch. Anyway – the most intense chip rock I’ve seen, is the French one-man band, Duracell. He plays a regular drum-set, but triggers old videogame music with it. Despite the 1980s game music, it is surprisingly refreshing since he is such a good and violent drummer and because he actually sequences the music by using different trigger-combinations. He still seems to be doing long tours around Europe, so try to catch him!

Okay, now time for the last dance! Check out Klisje Paa Klisje – the Amiga scene’s answer to November Rain. Feel the power of 15-minute mega-ballad! There’s plenty more MOD-rock to be found, like Bruno’s Valerian 777. But now let’s end with a funny youtube-clip.

Chip Jazz: Miles Davis Tribute Released

August 22, 2009

Through TCTD we get to know that Kind of Bloop is out. It is a collection of 8-bit versions of Miles Davis’ 50-year-old album Kind of Blue. It has already made some people rather upset, as seen in some of the comments here, which is always a good start. And they made $2,000 in 4 hours, so it is apparently very popular.

As opposed to the conceptual use of chip-sounds here, these versions are jam-packed with notes and effects. It is top notch tracker aesthetics, made by the established figures Virt, Disasterpeace and Shnabubula and also Ast0r and Sergeeo that I weren’t familiar with before. It is a refreshing release in many ways: it’s far from standard harmony disco, it’s not only hardware purism, and as opposed to the abundance of content in so many other places, it is only 5 songs. On the downside, you can only get it through Amazon payment.

Andy Baio, the project leader, was only able to find four 8-bit jazz covers made before. Although that sounds absurd to me, he might be close to being right. Jazz is very different from chipmusic: improvisation, elaborate time signatures, and detailed timing are impossible in many chip music progams. There is not a lot of chip jazz to begin with, and those that do/did jazz didn’t do much covers. On the C64 there are no (STIL-searchable) covers of Davis, Coltrane, or Mingus. But really, four covers, ever? Neaeaääauh. Anyone has any ideas?

Amigacore

August 14, 2009

In the 1990s there were plenty of record releases with hardcore Amiga music. Artists like Neophyte, Nasenbluten and Patric Catani used Amigas, usually not for MIDI-sequencing, but bringing the crispy internal sound to dancefloors around the world. I have a feeling that the fact that they used Amigas was not important neither for artists nor audience. They just happened to use Amigas for making music – an attitude that sometimes feels absent among chipmusicians today. The Amiga hardcore music of the 90s might be the perfect antithesis to chipmusic that concerns techno-romanticism, videogame-nostalgia and easy dance music.

Maybe Atari Teenage Riot, or their label Digital Hardcore Recordings, brought this kind of low-tech digi-punk attitude to a larger audience, and made it more defined and “relevant”. But what kind of homecomputer hardcore is around today?

The reason for doing this post was reading (at tctd) about two new 7″ vinyls with Amigacore. Raverblood by Dispyz and I by Stagediver – both released at Radio Graffiti last month. They feature longer tracks with fresh arrangements, short grind slammer parts, beeps and melodies, crispy lo-fi samples, and classic Amiga artifacts such as the glitch you get when playing notes at note B3. (too high) Listen to them online, and buy them.

dispyz

Two other rather recent amigacore releases are Davros vs Unibomber – The Final Amiga 500 Battle (2008) and Phriz-B – Pulsing Quiche Gas (2006). Xylocaine, John Dark, and Christoph de Babalon are other amigacore artists, but I am not sure which releases would fit in the timeline (ie, mainly use internal Amiga sounds). Does anyone know?

Btw, if you live in the Detroit area and like Amiga hardcore, you might want to check this.

Btw2, if you are a bit hesitant about using the term Amigacore, that makes two of us.

Noise Music

March 2, 2009

Noise is not as boring as you think. Mathematically speaking, noise is maximum content. It is everything at once, all frequencies in random order. When other shapes have some kind of continuity to fall back on, noise goes full out to never return. It is random and lacks order,which does not mean that everything can happen. White noise always sounds and looks like noise, it doesn’t just randomize itself into an opera. That is why noise music is fascinating to me, because it explores randomness in a social sense. For me, ideal noise music keeps transforming and contrasting and makes me feel displaced, confused. Noisy soundscapes in all honour and cut-up frenetics yeah yeah, but making good noise music is something far more difficult. I am not sure I ever experienced something like that from a recorded piece of music.

8-bit noise music is not very common, which means that good 8-bit noise music doesn’t really have best of compilations (yet!). It is maybe a bit like someone over at 8BC said about breakcore: the certain particularities with a genre that make it so good, are quite tricky to reproduce with an old soundchip and is therefore often completely lost. Indeed, good 8-bit breakcore is also quite rare (nevertheless something we will get back to in that thing called future). Here are a few examples of 8-bit noise music that I appreciate, and if you have more suggestions then feel free to leavy a harsh and random comment with maximum content. I must have left out a lot of gems, right?

Fjyssel is a Dane that uses the C64 data cassettes as audio material. He cuts it up, adds effects and other sounds.

Apostleship of Noise – a Swedish duo that use two Amiga500’s and other things, including about 10 effect pedals. The results are not very much like chip music at all.

Neurobit – Dutch one-man noise/ambient-band. “Producing soundscapes, drones, Pulses and noises using 4bit, 8bit, & LCD console sounds based on the idea of a live situation.”

Herr Galatran: Show 1×04 for Radio ill. (MP3 2008) Live noise improvisation on Atari 130XE in Berlin.

Narwhalz of Sound: American noise, probably irritating for some. Visit  dotcomandshit and myspace.

More occassional noise

Overthruster: Legendary American chaos musician, usually more rhythmical than drone-noisy.

Environmental Sound Collapse: Occasional noise from this American, usually harsh and dark.

Shame On Me

But a bit of self-promotion has to slip by here. I’ve done a few noise experiments, but this audiovisual piece is very overlooked. The visuals are made by Rosa Menkman (who also does research on glitch, noise, etc). I give you Eastern Fire Swim. (audio is an unedited C64-jam)