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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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