8 bit lo-fo chipsounds

Just got David Vien’s obssessive labor of love, brand new from over at Plogue.com, Chipsounds. David has been messing with computers and sound since the early 80s and was missing his early love, all the various 8 bit sounds built into the computers, gaming consoles, and arcade games of the day. To work within the limits of the chips, programmers had to resort to a number of musical hacks to get things done, and operating within those limits, they invented a bunch of techniques that were original but tied to the limitations. When the limits went, so did the chip sounds and along with them, many of the techniques. Vien’s has gone through his collection of vintage chips and reconstructed the sounds and some of the techniques, even including chip fails, or the sound of a cartridge when it was only partially plugged in.

Chip sounds are going through a retro hip phase. The first I heard them was in a Beck song, I think “Girl” and then in a couple of great songs by Broadcast, whom I am going to see, along with Atlas Sound, in just a few minutes.

Now I got my first computer only in 1989, and I did not get one with a sound card til 1995, so I’m not a chip geek. Let’s just say I wasn’t doing computers in the early 80s. I’m also a guitarist away from home with just my trusty Godin guitar with a built in synth controller, so I don’t play synth’s quite the same way as a keyboard player. And I am quite certain I break several 8-bit “rules” before I even plug my guitar in.  That said, I kinda like the tune I’m putting up today.

I recorded this song, “phillies in seven not this year” using seven tracks of nothing but Chipsounds played from my Godin guitar’s synth pickup. The only cheat was to run the Chipsound drums through Mokafix’s Mutine and CacoFx’s deceased AffectedME. Its is recorded and mixed in Bidule, although looking back it would have been easier to do it in Sonar, which tends to deal with standard multitracking better. Bidule’s real strong point is as a live instrument with lot’s of routing possibilities. Just for kicks is another version, “phillies in four maybe next time,” also all guitar (except for the drums) and all through Bidule. I’m in Philly for a few months, what can I say! The groovy guitar controlled organ, and the bass, are presets from Cakewalk’s excellent Dimension synth. The drums are from Nusofting’s DK+, an excellent and very reasonably priced drum sequencer/synth. If you listen carefully, both versions borrow changes from an old Gun Club hit, and the Chipsounds version borrows a well-covered Monkees song as well as a little surf rock for the bridge. Can anyone name the three songs? If you name them I’ll post versions of them.

Chipsounds costs a few bucks ($75) and has no demo version, but I have been a happy Plogue customer for a while. Bidule is one of the better few bucks I’ve spent. The plugin is just at 1.0, but plogue supports its flagship project, Bidule, quickly, thoroughly, responsively, and with lots of updates, so I expect some of the clumsiness of the interface will be worked out and a few more features worked in before long.

If I get the time, I will go over the pros and cons of some other chippy Lo-Fi plugins that are free so that the poor can fell the LoFi love too.

Remember if you are on Facebook that you have to come to way music to listen to the songs. And for everybody, don’t forget to check out the rest of the blog and way music. Off to the show, which I also went to last night when it wasn’t!

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