Tag Archives: Analog

Colectivo Chipotle Brings the Mexican Chiptune Scene Together

Colectivo Chipotle

Chema64’s 2015 album Viziers is an unrelenting, video game-inspired assault of hyper-percussive blips, burps, explosions, and cheesy, retro, repetitive cranial misfirings. It’s like being trapped in Tron, if Tron were on fire. The opening track starts with a cascade of laser blasts before a jackhammer Atari march comes in. It keeps on like that for 35 minutes, without a break. It is brutal and ridiculous and glorious.

Chema64, aka Chema Padilla, is at the center of a small but inventive chiptune scene in Mexico. ‘Chiptune’ refers to music made through the manipulation of sound chips in early gaming systems—or, as Padilla puts it, “It’s like using a synthesizer, but instead of twiddling with knobs on a Korg, you use a Nintendo Game Boy from 1989.” It’s a time-intensive process. “Some songs flow very naturally in just, like, eight hours,” Padilla says, “and others take 16 hours to feel complete. And that’s counting only composing, not recording or mixing.”

Chiptune, in one form or another, has been around for decades. Yellow Magic Orchestra’s 1978 self-titled debut used video game samples extensively, and provided something of a sonic blueprint for the chiptune sound. Video game music has occasionally gone mainstream, as on Kesha’s 2009 hit “Tik Tok,”  and there are some relatively well-known indie artists who work in the genre, such as the Los Angeles-based 8 Bit Weapon. But for the most part, the scene has remained a niche interest, a secret language in electronic tones decipherable only by those with the inner software to hear its particular arpeggiated runs.

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Japanese Experimental Pioneer Phew Is Back with Her First Solo Record in 20 Years

Phew

The last two years have been rewarding for fans of Japanese experimental artist Phew. She’s released a pair of full-lengths—2015’s A New World and the off-kilter Light Sleep, released this past March via New York label Mesh-Key. This is an especially welcome development, considering her last record before that was released in 1995.

It’s not that Phew—real name Hiromi Moritani—vanished, necessarily. Over the past 20 years, she’s collaborated with various musicians, fronted the punk-rock band Most, and played shows all across Japan. In recent years, local music media have begun affording Phew the critical respect she deserves; albums she created over the last 40 years have gone from record store rarities to being included on “best of” lists. She landed at number 35 on Japanese magazine Snoozer’s “150 Greatest Albums of Japanese Rock ‘n’ Roll,” and two of her albums were named Music Magazine’s best Japanese albums of the ‘90s list last year.

Yet despite the growing acclaim, Phew didn’t release any solo material until she started recording songs for Light Sleep in 2014.“I recorded at home casually,” she tells me. “My thoughts and feelings at the moment I made that music were reflected directly in the songs.”

This directness is readily apparent in Light Sleep, a six-song set featuring some of Phew’s most intimate songs to date. That closeness often feels tense; she’s constructed the music out of an assortment of analog synthesizers and vintage rhythm boxes, and the decades-old equipment creates an unnerving quality in the songs; as always, her voice, which is always unpredictable and commanding, is the central feature of her music. Here, it ranges from unsettlingly monotone on “New World” to frantic on “CQ Tokyo.”

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