Nostalgia is a powerful thing. Listening to a song has the power to take you back to a time, reliving happier memories. The idea of “Chiptune” or “bit music” is based on nostalgia. If you were alive in the 80’s or early 90’s then you’ve heard 8 bit sounds in some way, shape or form. Most of us grew up on Nintendo, Sega Genesis, or Atari. Chiptune is a genre of music that uses the 8 bit sounds from early video game systems. This creates a unique retro electronic sound. Chiptune itself can fall into many genres of music (rock, dance, jazz). This type of sound has been used by many mainstream acts; most notably The Killers, Beck, and the Postal Service.
This 8bit sound can be created in just about any device. However most bit artist prefer using actual 8 bit devices to make their music. The most popular being the original Nintendo Game boy. To make music on a game boy, an application called LSD (little sound DJ) is used. Little Sound DJ is a 4-channel step sequencer. It is text based and allows you to assign sounds to be played back on a loop. Based on my experience, there are much easier ways to create this sound. The 8-bit sound can be easily emulated by music software, but then it wouldn’t be authentic chiptune music. A typical Chiptune setup may include several consoles attached to a mixer.
Curious to find out more about chiptune music, I decided to attend a show. Luckily, the most popular chiptune act just happened to be in town. Anamanaguchi, a band from New York, has achieved the most commercial success in the genre. Their music was featured in the film “Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World” (One of my favorite freaking movies). Their latest single, “Pop It”, is featured on TV commercials for Taco Bell and Target. While some musicians may have been inspired by the sounds of Led Zeppelin, Michael Jackson, The Beatles; these guys were inspired by Super Mario, The legend of Zelda, and Final Fantasy.
I really had no idea what to expect from Anamanaguchi’s live show. At first they appear to be a conventional rock band; 3 guitarists and a drummer. The difference being that the conventional instruments sounded like they were being feed through a NES game system. The sound of their instruments was cancelled out by background music, making the instruments seem more like props. The background music was good though. I just feel like a live band is not required for this type of music, it can simply be played and mixed by a DJ. Their show did feature video game visuals, which took me back to my SuperNES days.
One thing that stood out at this show was the people. I’ve been to a lot of rock, hip hop and electronic shows, but these weren’t the usual concertgoers. There were some dressed in cosplay (A lot of sailor moons). Many were carrying their handheld gaming systems; casually catching Pokémon in-between sets. One word I would use to describe Anamanaguchi fans is Emo. I don’t mean in Emo in the traditional sense (Dressing in all black); I mean they all seem very emotional. Each wearing their emotions on their faces like human emoticons. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing though, things would be much easier if people were this easy to read.