Clubbers' Decktionary: Chiptune
DJ Hobbes guides us through clubbing's myriad genres
Chiptune proper noun. aka 8Bit, Bitpop, Bitcore, Nintendocore
Any tempo but generally fast (ie 130-180bpm), the sound of 8-bit and 16-bit micr-chips from classic arcade games from the late 70s and early 80s, hand-held computer games from Nintendo and other home computers.
Origins Tokyo pioneers Yellow Magic Orchestra’s seminal ‘Computer Game’ single sampled the sound of arcade games in 1978, as did much of their eponymous debut album. In 1982, Ohio duo Buckner & Garica scored a US Top Ten hit with novelty record ‘Pac-Man Fever’. Two years later, YMO’s Haruomi Hosono released Video Game Music, the first album produced entirely from arcade game samples. In 1985, Rob Hubbard started programming sounds for the Commodore 64’s SID chip, ensuring his status as a chiptune legend has endured ever since. Seven years later, Aphex Twin sampled Pac-Man again as ‘Power-Pill’. Hexstatic’s ‘Bass Invader’ sampled Space Invaders, in 2000.
Key figures The last decade has seen a huge proliferation, mainly due to the release of software such as LittleSoundDJ and Nanoloop for the Gameboy. Pioneering label 8bitpeoples launched in 1999, releasing Finnish artist Huoratron’s 2006 debut ‘Liquid Acieeed’, and ‘Chiprape’ by Atari ST fan Stu of legendary Swiss collective Drop da Bomb. Armed only with a Gameboy and a megaphone, Japan’s DJ Scotch Egg emerged in 2005 and has been frightening grannies ever since. Of chiptune’s growing brigade of whizz-kids developing their own gear, Pixelh8 has created software for Imogen Heap and Damon Albarn, while genius live performer André Duracell creates his own programs linked to a drum-kit, triggering notes from his Sega Mega Drive with each drum-hit. Latterly, Toronto’s Crystal Castles have done much to popularise the genre, bringing it closer to the mainstream.
Edinburgh’s Enfant Bastard (now based in Gothenburg and who helped enormously in the research for this feature – cheers Cammy) was the main champion in Scotland, until he was joined by Leith sensation Unicorn Kid, who remixed the Pet Shop Boys when he was still only 17.