When did people start considering chiptune its own genre and how did it come to be? Probably to satiate everyone's unspoken wish for their lives to be more like video games. And nostalgia. The frothing electronic blips call to mind adventures revealed in 8-bit graphics, when a kid's biggest challenge wasn't the prom or trying drugs for the first time but memorizing the patterns on Space Invaders or how to best customize a Red Mage. According to rateyourmusic.com, "Composers developed techniques to overcome limitations of the chips, such as using fast arpeggios to mimic chords. These all come together to provide the distinctive 'bleeps' and 'bloops' of the chiptune sound." It's a genre of transmutation and artificiality, but in the hands of the right musicians, those noises birthed from the touch of a keyboard are far more evocative than the organic strumming of a guitar. Although you could argue that's the memory of rescuing the princess from another castle talking. Or are you even old enough to remember that?
Chiptune has and probably will continue to survive thanks to the displaced feelings of nostalgia it conjures up in its audience. In that sense it shares parallels with the recent surge of garage rock revivalism. God knows I love the 60s, so it's always a major bummer when I remind myself I was born decades after the fact. Chiptune represents a bygone era, and the people who make music for the genre are probably too young to remember the emotional trauma of blowing into a Nintendo cartridge and praying to anything the game would work. Then again you could get into arguing about the soundtracks for modern video games…another day.
Chiptune music is light, fun and frantic, the perfect noise for your ears to digest in these crazy times. Phonetic Hero's Sliced Bread: UNCRUSTED!!, complete with Adventure Time-styled artwork, is sick with being fun. Sampling waveforms from the Nintendo Entertainment System, the music moves quickly and purposefully, with delicate beats tiptoeing atop compositions that place equal emphasis on melody and progression. At first I thought Phonetic Hero wrote that just to write it, but it's totally true. Each song has a memorable tune that could fit in the most complex and psychedelic of video games, and every bit is placed in such a succession as to have each song move through several emotions while keeping an overall mood. "Adventure in a December Rain", the album's most powerful track, has snowflake tinkles lull the listener into a false sense of (dubious) security before collapsing in a brilliant pattern of blips and hums that variegate until the track's end. Approaching chiptune, know that the best the genre has to offer is some of the most technically complex music you will ever hear, and Phonetic Hero is definitely getting up there.
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