Friday, November 14, 2008

The 8bit Peoples

Q: What happens when you gather a bunch of techie musicians/artists, born of the NES generation, possessing a common preponderance for the DIY aesthetic and a love of all things 8-bit?

A: You end up with something like the 8bit Peoples, a label/art collective based in New York.

Yes, these children of the 80’s and 90’s have grown up, and taken the immense common influence of video gaming past and translated it post-millennium. Be it creating visual art via the distinct look of 8-bit graphics or crafting chiptunes i.e. using synthesis via computer or video game sound chip as opposed to sampling. Chiptunes were all the rage back in the 80’s, nearly ubiquitous due to the data processing constraints of gaming platforms of the day.

So they make vintage video game sounding music, of course it’s way more than that. It’s essentially an entire new genre unto itself. These inginuitive chaps- Bit Shifter, Nullsleep, Trash80, and NO CARRIER to name a few of the crew- use highly upgraded equipment. They do their own modds to Gameboys, Coleco Visions, Ataris, and NESsytems and write software to expand the limited capabilities of these arcane (by today's standards) platforms.

a typical setup might look something like this

So, how does it sound? There’s plenty of bleeps and bloops and the snares and hi-hats are comprised of white noise (run through an ASDR envelope to shape the transient). Actually there's a surprising amount of variation given the limited sonic palette. For instance, Mesu Kasumi crafts an homage to classic era Detroit techno, Belle Isle Raceway while Firebrand Boy makes what could be called “bit pop”. In keeping with the 80’s motif, Nullspeed turns in a 14 minute digitized mash-up of Depeche Mode songs. And there’s even a Christmas album (8bits of Christmas) featuring various crew members and affiliates.

As for how I’d describe the feel of most of my favorite tracks however, I’d say; imagine that you were somehow transported into an NES game, you then proceeded to do so well that you advance to a bonus stage. Now, once you get there you find that it is really an incredible rave with your favorite DJ’s playing and everyone’s on the best [free] drugs that you’ve ever had.

Oh and did I mention that essentially their whole catalogue (80+ releases!!!) is free for download? That’s right, go on and get you some...

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