Today our featured chiptunes artists is the amazing Chipzel.
Chipzel is is the stage name for London-based, Irish-born chiptunes musician and video game music composer Niamh Houston. Her albums and soundtracks are both created and performed by using music tracker software and Game Boy portable gaming devices.
For her live performance, she utilizes two Nintendo Game Boys, a music tracker program, and a mixing console.
Over this past decade, she has garnered a dedicated following in the 8-bit electronic music underworld, as the revival of retro gaming sounds grows in an intriguing nexus of nostalgia and futurism.
Using Little Sound DJ software (LSDJ), Chipzel experimented for a few years before releasing her first EP in 2009 titled Judgement Day.
For those interested in creating their own 8-bit music, the Little Sound DJ cartridges are now out of production, but they can be found used, here and there, on sites like Amazon, and a software duplication exists otherwise.
For more information on LSDJ you can check them out on their official website at http://www.littlesounddj.com/
Cracked software and user shareability has existed in the digital underground since the 1980’s, but has only grown with the abundance of softwares of all types and also with the increased participation from the ever-growing hacker population. Early evidence of the hacker era came from such communities as the demoscene.
“Demos” are audio-visual creations made from shared and cracked software – the creators would use existing softwares in new ways to showcase new computer art made from old familiar mediums.
With innovation and artistic ego as the prime mover – rather than the more basic values of fame and fortune, the demoscene emerged to allow creative competition between demo artists, many who used machines familiar to the 8-bit or chiptune music scene such as the Nintendo Game Boy, Atari, or Commodore64.
Chipzel says of this cracked software sharing: “It’s the essence of the digital era: where hackability is to participate, instead of being a passive consumer. We can invent the future that we want, and not the one that we’re given.”
Since 2009’s Judgement Day, Chipzel has released four more LP’s/EP’s, which respectively include 2010’s Disconnected; 2012’s Phonetic Symphony; 2012’s Fragments; and 2017’s Chipped of the Necrodancer.
Further, in 2012 she partnered as the soundtrack artist for the UK game Super Hexagon – which was nominated by BAFTA in 2014 – and has since released seven more video game soundtracks. They are: Spectra (2013); Size DOES Matter (2014); Adventure Time: The Secret of the Nameless Kingdom (2014); Interstellaria (2015); Chime Sharp (2015); Crypt of the Necrodancer (2017); and Octahedron (2018).
Niamh Houston’s 2016 TedX talk “We Are All Hackers” offers insight into her artistic essence, which resonate deeply with the creative process overall, stating that using outdated machines with few capabilities “…forced me to overcome limitations in a creative way”, and that, “…having fun and dismissing standards was the focus”.
From her modest beginnings as a chiptunes experimenter, Niamh Houston as Chipzel has become a celebrated and award-winning artist.
Super Hexagon, a UK game that featured her soundtrack, was nominated for a BAFTA in 2014. She has been named VGMO’s best independent composer. And in 2015 she received Best Music Award in XBLA Fans’ Game of the Year.
You can check out Chipzel on her official website http://chipzel.co.uk/, just one of many relevant artists using old technologies to create new sounds and new artistic cultures.