By Derek Heid
I have to admit, chiptune is something I've only been really into for a very short while. That's not to say I haven't been familiar with it. I knew people still made 8-bit music using old consoles, with special cartridges and modifications, and it pretty much sounded like music from an old NES game. It was cool, and fun for a bit, but the novelty wore off. That was what I thought I knew. But boy, was I wrong.
I recently decided to get deep into this genre and see what it had to offer, after becoming a fan of the The Pound Cast podcast by DJ Douggpound, AKA Doug Lissenhop, editor and writer for many shows including Tim and Eric's Great Job! . His guest on the episode in question was Anamanaguchi, a New York based chiptune band fresh off a performance on Jimmy Fallon.
Now, Anamanaguchi is probably the most well known of all 8-bit acts, thanks to having scored the popular Scott Pilgrim vs. the World video game, not to mention the use of the group's songs on TV and various podcasts. The band members got to talking about the chiptune scene, and how it's a relatively small one and while discussing places to find music, they dropped this gem of knowledge into my lap: 8bitpeoples.com, and I've been hooked ever since.
The term chiptune itself just refers to how the music's made, that a console or emulators of a console are used in the production, so the range of styles is extremely varied, and if I may say, surprisingly great most of the time. Enough talk, it's list time. Here are ten songs that should prove to everyone and anyone, chiptune should be taken seriously.
10. Kplecraft - "5114"
We're going to start off with a really strong unique track here. This is Kplecraft, hailing from Japan. As well as using various consoles, they also mix in live precussion and instrumentation, like the sax you should hear kicking in at about 34 seconds. This song makes me feel like I'm storming 8-bit castles with Kenny G., and that is a great thing.
9. Yerzmyey - "Dark Galactica"
This is the other side of the bit-coin. Ha! See what I did? But seriously, this is a dark, grimy, almost trappy kind of track. It'd sound more at home in a smoky, neon lit room than it would at an Atari party. I'd say I've always had a fondness for EDM and the like, and I'd say this is as good as a lot of the stuff out there right now. I love this track.
8. cheapshot - "Zeus"
Now, if you're like me, and most of America, you tired of dubstep pretty quickly. But I've got to say that hearing it all chipped out is kind of making it feel new again, or at least giving me a different perspective. Like looking at a turd through rose-colored lenses. I guess it's because all the machine sex noises are gone in favor of coin-like bleeps and bloops, which are just more pleasant.
If you like this song, you can download the album, "zOMG!!," for free (or name your own price) via cheapshot.bandcamp.com.
7. Kris Keyser - "Nitro"
This is the kind of music I imagine the dues in daft Punk have going through their robot helmets as they go grab some coffee. This song is just driving awesomeness. It has so much variety in it, and the song clocks in under 4 minutes. It starts off with a nice plodding beat that goes in and out of a get your blood pumping tempo. Every noise is just so well placed. Such a fun well-structured song.
If you like this song, you can download Kris Keyser's self-titled EP via 8bitpeoples.com.
6.sea64 - "Rapture"
Thought we could use a change of tone. For being called "Rapture," this song sure is a kick-ass upbeat tune. Thick bass lines and cool leads both being done by a Commodore 64! It's just such a smooth slick song, it still shocks me to the core that this is chiptune. (Supposedly, it's also considered something called "Seapunk," but that's something to look into at another time.)
If you like this song, you can download the album for free (or donate, if you feel so inclined) via sea64.bandcamp.com.
5. exileFaker - "Redshift"
This song is pretty much your standard chiptune song. Definitely one of the better ones. It legitimately sounds like it belongs in an old, obscure side-scrolling game, that wasn't very good. But man, that soundtrack was good. It contains such a driving beat with an uplifting melody that it's hard to ignore the beauty in it. Or maybe I've gone crazy. Who knows, but I do know I love this song.
If you like this song, you can download the album, "Ockham's Chainsaw," via 8bitpeoples.com.
4. The J. Arthur Keenes Band - "Spaniard"
Just another example of when you think you're getting to know a genre, something shows you everything you don't know. Here is an example of some self-described "Game Boy-based pop." If I'm not mistaken, it's the only song on this list to feature actual human vocals, and it's definitely the only one with an acoustic guitar on it. Nice, smooth indie melodies seem to go hand-in-hand with driving Game Boy leads and effects.
3. Coova and Little-Scale - "Autumn"
The hard, fuzzy, bass-y intro is pretty misleading. You think you're about to get into some real heavy, swampy shit. And then, all of a sudden, it gets really light and almost happy. No, not happy. Whimsical. And I have to say Coova and Little-Scale keep the whimsy turned up high on this track. It's just so lush that you can't ignore it. So don't you dare.
If you like this song, you can download the album, "Two Warriors," via 8bitpeoples.com.
2. porno-UZI (Deeplotek) - "Voicemaker"
Not much to say about this one. It's pretty much directly up in your face right now, saying all it has to. One of the more aggressive and abrasive songs here, but it was needed. Just a little kick in the pants before we finish out. Hopefully, the jarring wobbles don't knock your senses around too much. But honestly, if you're still listening to it, you probably love the feeling. So enjoy!
If you like this song, check out soundcloud.com/deeplotekpornouzi.
1. Anamanaguchi - "Meow"
Here's the new(ish?) video from the band that started this whole mess in the first place. If it wasn't for them on The Poundcast, just getting my curiosities all atwitter, I would have never dived head first into chiptune, and this article would have never been. The world would be such a different place. Flap of a butterfly's wing and all that. But yeah, back to the song ... It's off the new album entitled "Endless Fantasy," and from what I've heard so far, it sure is a doozy.
If you like this song, you can listen to the episode of The Poundcast with DJ Douggpound featuring Anamanaguchi via feralaudio.com. Also, check out anamanaguchi.com to find out more about Anamanaguchi.