|By Andrew Raub||Saturday, 23 Feb 2008|
Sure, it’s almost March. Sure, I’ve been writing this article since December. Sure, I’m super lazy. Well, screw you.
I love chiptunes, and 2007 was a great year for chiptunes. Here’s the highlights:
7. Virt – Contra 4
Virt is a chiptune artist and game music composer. To be more specific, Virt (aka Jake Kaufman) is an incredible chiptune artist with an obsession for Konami who just so happens to be a video game music composer. How lucky it is then that he was selected as composer by Contra 4 developers Way Forward. Contra 4 pretty much surpassed everyone’s expectations, given the series’ history since the 16-bit incarnations. The game play is classic and so is the music. Virt did a tremendous job at paying homage to the series’ roots in musical form, and I don’t think anyone could have done it better.
6. Blip Festival
I didn’t even go to Blipfest, but it’s making this list because it is that important. Blipfest is a weekend-long chiptune showcase organized by 8bitpeoples and held at The Tank in NYC. Featuring over 30 chiptune artists from around the world, Blipfest is the single biggest chiptune show available in the world (that I know of, prove me wrong!). This year, Blip Festival got press coverage from Wired, MTV, and several other large nerd related publications. Hopefully this sort of success helps to gain the world of chiptunes more exposure, and ensure that it happens again next year, because I am definitely going!
5. Electro Static Discharge – PWN TEH N00B
Electro Static Discharge is a project founded by chiptune artist and Megatwerp founder Spamtron. ESD has taken many forms, but PWN TEH N00B is the form that I believe it was meant to always take. Featuring crunchy guitars, various synth and chiptune techniques, furious and bizarre vocals, and super fast paced energy, PWN TEH N00B is a short ride that doesn’t overstay its welcome, but will always be invited back for more.
8bitpeoples is a net label that exclusively features chiptune based music. The vast majority of their releases are dance based, but sometimes they put out something from left field, like Phlogiston, Virt, or RushJet1. This year has been top notch from these guys. 8bitpeoples didn’t make the list for the music, though. As good as the music is, it doesn’t compare to what 8bp is doing for the chiptune community. First off, they helped organize Blip Festival, which if you were paying attention, needs no explanation on why it is important. The other important milestone they achieved is commemorating their pseudo-50th release with a 2-disc (and free, downloadable 3rd bonus disc) compilation album featuring 50 different chiptune artists / songs. 8bp is doing more than any other person or organization that I know of to push chiptunes to be more than just a quirky little scene.
3. II (Pause)
II is a new net label with a focus on chiptunes. Unlike 8bitpeoples, II is mostly focused on more heavy hitting and melodic chiptunes. In just one short year, II has featured 9 releases and 3 compilations. Each one is exceptional, and none of them are similar. Norrin Radd’s Melodia di Infinità is pure NES melodic metal, Phlogiston’s Croqel is 16 short songs featuring intertwining melodies, Temp Sound Solution & Alex Mauer’s Blast Portable is a marriage between Alex Mauer’s quirky chiptunes and Shawn Phase’s guitar and drum work, and Goto80′s Bortabra is a collection of strange, glitchy, ambient mixes. The thing with all of the II releases is that they all feel like they belong, even though they all differ both stylistically and by means of which “instrumentation” is used.
2. The Depreciation Guild – In Her Gentle Jaws
The Depreciation Guild combine two great things: chiptunes and shoegaze. Their Nautilus EP left me wanting more, and they finally delivered with a full album, In Her Gentle Jaws. Combining live instruments, specifically guitars, and chiptunes is nothing really new, but The Depreciation Guild differ from the hyper-mode style of Anamanaguchi to create much more droning and slow paced songs much akin to bands like My Bloody Valentine and HUM. The fuzzed out guitars and quiet, raspy vocals are complemented by the low-fi noise channel drums and thick pulse wave bass of the NES. The square waves fill in melody, but never get in the way. The album is neither too long nor too short, and the variety and pacing is very well conceived. In Her Gentle Jaws is nearly the perfect album for the lonely geek. It’s wallflower shoegaze meets reminiscent videogame blips and bleeps.
1. Chromelodeon – The Final Album
To be honest, the only thing that Chromelodeon has to do with chiptunes is that Dino composed some of the songs through LSDJ. These gameboy compositions seep through the mix on their final album. The spirit of chiptunes and videogame-esque composition is abundant, and makes the final album perhaps album of the year. Over the years, Chromelodeon has built a bit of a legacy with the Good-Evil crew. It’s sad to see them finally go, but the final album is probably the perfect send off for them. Now that they are no more, Dino has been doing more pure chiptune stuff on his own as Cheap Dinosaurs.
There you have it. The bests of ’07′s chiptune scene. Hopefully ’08 is just as good.