From the beating of stone-age drums, through to the great orchestras of the 18th and 19th centuries and onwards to the 1950s, musical creation had one simple constraint. Namely, all the players had to be in the same room (or cave). Then magnetic tape came along and changed everything. With producers suddenly able to cobble together various musical parts from different sources, it was possible to build multitrack ensembles, layer upon layer. Music’s only limitation was now the imaginations of its creators – setting the scene for everything from sampling to chiptunes.
The digital upheaval of the 1980s heralded the next wave of audio production. Thanks to file sharing, the vaults of musical history were left ajar and every riff, beat, flourish and vocal track was there for the taking. As new music hit the airwaves, we’d detect traces of borrowed sounds, familiar loops and melodies, and hip hop and electronic dance music became this revolution’s battleground. In 1996, DJ Shadow broke the mould with an album consisting entirely of sampled music. In 2004, producer Danger Mouse combined the Beatles White Album with rapper Jay-Z’s Black Album to create Grey. Where would this ever-expanding world of mish-mashing lead us?
Chiptune music is where yesteryear’s video game noises become tomorrow’s earworms. The name references the sound chips found in arcade games and early home-computers. Remember the soundtrack to Pac Man, Donkey Kong and Super Mario Brothers?
Catchy but moderately annoying, right? But when dissected and reassembled by modern musical masterminds, chiptunes break out of the arcade into the artistic oeuvre.
From J-pop with video game tendencies to tracks created entirely on game consoles themselves, in this playlist we take a side scroll among the blips, bleeps, loops and beats of chiptune music, past and present.