There are myriads of awesome instrumental true chip artists and bands out there, but the ones that break the norm the most are the ones that combine chip music with other genres of music and add lyrics. This article is not about the best live performing bands but rather those of the highest quality music and lyrics.
The Depreciation Guild
Style: Shoegaze + Chiptune
Sounds like: The Cure, Cocteau Twins, Armor For Sleep (the music anyways)
If you never heard the term shoegaze, it’s a style that started in the early 90s and had to do with using layers of guitar effects and lots of keyboards to create a dense dreamy wall of sound. If you ask me, chiptune and shoegaze go together perfectly and it’s a widely unexplored area of music that has massive potential.
Heartfelt romantic chiptune? Yeah! You may recognize the names and voices of Kurt Feldman and Christoph Hochheim from their currently popular indie pop/noise rock band The Pains of Being Pure at Heart which is also riddle with nostalgic nods to the Smiths, Smashing Pumpkins and other things from the past. The Depreciation Guild is one of my all time favorite acts. They are now broken up but you can still find their albums out there for download. My favorites are Butterfly Kisses, Sky Phantoms (epic feels!) and Dream About Me.
Style: Rock + Math Rock + Chiptune
Sounds like: A little bit of everything all mixed together
There’s nothing cheap about Cheap Dinosaurs. This is some high quality music here with jagged math rock tempo switches and unexpected changes. Their tracks are mostly straight-up chiptune with just some light drums and guitar augmenting them. The trippy Train Hop is one of my favorites and it has a whacky video to match.
Style: Post Rock + Chiptune
Sounds like: A more rockin’ Six Parts Seven, Tristezza, Solar Powered Sun Destroyer
Post rock is an instrumental style with lots of dynamic changes. I think Revengineers captures this better than any other band I’ve heard. The amazing song Laika is a prime example of this bands powerful sound. It’s emotional and uplifting and gets you banging your head at the same time.
The Flight Away
Style: Punk Pop + Electropop + Chiptune
Sounds like: Angels And Airwaves, A remix of Dangerous Summer, Owl City (just a little)
The Flight Away has some of what might be called an “emo” sound (although I hate to use the word) by some with their expressive vocals. It’s one of the catchiest chiptune rock band type groups you’ll find. I really can’t get enough of their EP.
The J. Arthur Keenes Band.
Style: Ska + Regae + Rock + Chiptune
Sounds like: 311, Elvis Costello, Dub (not step), Various other rock groups
While their name sounds like some kind of blues trio, The J. Arthur Keenes Band’s album “Computer Saavy” is a great little smattering of ska, regae and rock influences with excellent vocals and lyrics. The vocals will remind you of 311 or Solar Powered Sun Destroyer. You have to love that they have a song called, “The Bus That Couldn’t Slow Down.”
Style: Noise Rock + Ambient + Post Rock + Shoegaze + Chiptune
Sounds like: Caspian, Hammock, Solar Powered Sun Destroyer, Explosions in the Sky, most Shoegaze acts
Another shoegaze+ chiptune pioneer, Kangawa combines high quality production values with lush synth backgrounds and Gameboy thumps and bass lines. Their songs range from post rock anthems to gentle yet noisy ambient tracks. There are also some surprising moments on this album that you won’t be expecting.
Super Danger Casper
Style: Punk Pop, Ted Leo and the Pharmacists if Ted was from Indonesia + Chiptune
Super Danger Casper is similar to Anamanaguchi musically, but they have wonderful emotional vocals over top of it…in Indonesian. Yeah, I have no idea what they’re saying but it sounds very endearing and emotional. I love all those rolled R sounds too. After a few listens, you’ll find yourself singing along although you have no idea what they’re saying. If you speak their language, tell them to set up a bandcamp and a soundcloud page! The song above is one of their few english songs.
Beatscribe is a full time indie composer, musician and writer. By day he creates soundtracks for various mobile gaming companies, by night creates megaman-inspired chiptunes, in the afternoons he drinks tea. Check out his latest releases, tutorials and retro ruminations at www.beatscribe.com