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.