Renaissance of retro sounds: chiptune documentary “Europe in 8 bits”

André Vatter Writer

Oh, yes, the good old days. I only need to hear the Tetris theme tune today to feel like I have travelled back in time to the eighties. As a child sitting on the back seat of my parents’ car, knee pressed against the seat in front, Gameboy in my hand. And just like that—off to France! Or wherever we were off to that year…

Such is the power of old video games. Previously sold as entertainment for children, now invaluable retro time machines that transport us back to an era of bad haircuts, gobstoppers that change color and free commercial television.

Rejuvenated computer history

Memories, bitpop and sound artists

It is precisely this intimate feeling about the eighties that is presented in the new documentary “Europe in 8 bits”. The documentary deals with chiptunes, a genre of music that is still young, video game hardware (such as the Gameboy, Atari, Amiga or Commodore 64) and celebrates their comeback — in the form of sound machines. It deals with memories, squeaky bitpop and plenty of gifted audio artists who resurrect computer history in sounds and images. The following is the opening title of a film that gives a taste of bitpop as a whole:

Isn’t that good? Year after year, hundreds of thousands of tons of electronic waste land on garbage dumps. Chiptune is a way of saving a vew treasures—after all, recent technological developments has limited the repertoire of available instruments.

100 Interviews with chiptune musicians

“Europe in 8 bits” can now be rented from Vimeo On Demand

The documentation itself explores the European chiptune scene in minute detail and includes 100 interviews with musicians who use old game consoles. Two Germans who have contributed a lot are Catani and Midiman (for sampled sounds please follow the links). Here’s a another clip:

“Europe in 8 bits” is immediately available to rent from Vimeo On Demand. Costs? USD 2.92, roughly equivalent to EUR 2.15.

After you have enjoyed the movie, I recommend that you still detour to VGMusic, an audio archive that is growing daily. VGMusic collects rare sounds from the days of computer games and makes the sounds available as MIDI files.

Teaser photo: Flickr / Bryan Ochalla (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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