pulsewave.jpg ['Cherish The Chips' is a bi-weekly column by Jeremiah 'Nullsleep' Johnson, discussing the latest and greatest goings-on in the world of the 'chiptune', and covering the best classic or modern music created using those pesky video game machines.]

PulseWave Rocks New York

For anyone in doubt about chiptunes being on the rise, there are some interesting developments in New York City that might convince you otherwise. Peter Swimm, administrator of the Toilville netlabel and guitarist in OMAC, as well as being a mighty chiptune musician in his own right under the guise of Mathletes, has spearheaded a new monthly live music event focusing specifically on low-bit music, called PulseWave. The kickoff show last Friday at Manhattan venue The Tank was an auspicioius start —

one-bit.jpgOne-Bit To Rule Them All

Tristan Perich was the first to play, sitting down at a drumkit to provide some beats for his bleeps. The bleeps being provided by his One-Bit Music project in which "Perich programs and packages electronics in a standard CD jewel case that generate minimal glitch/dance music when headphones are plugged in." The 1-bit sound may be simple, but in the best possible way. It's gritty and full of energy, and Tristan's live drumming suits it perfectly. And the crowd took to it immediately, you have not lived until you've seen a lanky dude in a mexican wrestling mask spontaneously begin spastically dancing to this stuff. If you can't catch a live performance though, consider picking up one of the limited edition copies of One-Bit Music, which comes with, "a silkscreened poster including the schematic, source code and part list."

bit_shifter.jpg Atomic Game Boy Kid

Next up was Bit Shifter, whose Game Boy based wizardry did not disappoint. Working with multiple GB units, NUBY lights attached to their screens like some type of glowing alien facehuggers, he proceeded to launch into a high energy set that didn't take long to set the room on fire. Somewhere around the half-way mark he succeeded in blowing out the tweeters in the PA with his sonic assault, giving the remainder of the night a Square Waves Under the Sea feeling. But it didn't matter much, by the end of his set Bit Shifter was the nucleus at the center of an atom of crazed, dancing maniacs, everyone burning up their mitochondria at a mean rate.

virt.jpgHave You Ever Seen a Chiptune God?

Virt took the stage last, and it was well worth the wait for his first NYC performance. With a setup that consisted of a Midines, laptop, keyboard, guitar, smoke machine, midi-synched lighting rig, and lasers, it was clear that he came prepared to flex his muscles. Appearing on stage in a puffy jacket, he looked like some kind of hip hop superstar that had been teleported into the world of chipmusic. But it was obvious that he was in his element, the hits did not stop coming for a second, an enhanced version of his cover of Michael Jackson's Thriller even made an appearance. And when he grabbed his electric guitar and started shredding away one-handed, over incomprehensibly intricate melodies, while playing keys with the other hand, the room began crackling with near limitless power. An amazing showing, and hopefully just the first of many more to come.

notendo.jpg Total Tileset Terrorism

Throughout the entire night Jeff Donaldson, also known as noteNdo, provided the visual component for the show. With dual circuit-bent NES consoles he threw switches, turned knobs and generally abused the hell out of helpless cartridges in time with the music. While most people get frustrated when they see their Nintendo glitch up, Jeff goes out of his way to mangle the graphics so far beyond their original appearance that they lose all context, becoming spasming, abstract, kinetic pixelscapes. The results are amazing, and his low-level controlled chaos provided the ideal complement for the obsessively meticulous chip programming behind the music.

The Pulse Is Rising

So, it's safe to say that this first PulseWave night bodes well for the future of the series. And The Tank's emerging reputation as the CBGBs of New York's chiptune scene will be further cemented this Friday night when we storm it once again for the International Chiptune Resistance World Tour fundraiser event. Beer will flow, old videogame hardware will be lovingly exploited, and I'll probably punch someone in the face for screaming out "Play the Tetris song!" — but those sore knuckles will be totally worth it.

[Jeremiah Johnson is co-founder of chipmusic and computer-art collective, 8bitpeoples.com based out of New York City. Working with Game Boys and NES consoles to create music, he has been featured in various publications ranging from Wired to Vogue.]