Features, Music March 16, 2010 By Sonaar Luthra

filler39 Chip Music: a history of the future



chipmusic title Chip Music: a history of the future
We’ve hit the boss level. Hally’s jumping around the stage like a hopped up game-show host, spitting out robotic vocals into a microphone. On the screen behind him, CHiKA’s visuals are spinning and pulsing a ride through letters spelling out his name. He’s wearing mirrored sunglasses and a red leather jacket, and his hair slicked back. He’s ripping through a manic set at the after-party for the second night of 2009’s Blip Festival, and a room full of the world’s greatest chip musicians is dancing like mad. As he breaks into the first verse of “Surfin’ USA”, riding a stream of chords that hit like power-ups, it’s impossible to grasp how music on hardware three-decades old (in this case a stack of customized Famicoms) could be fueling an orgy of pixels and square waves straight out of a William Gibson novel.
     This is the fourth Blip Festival, the brainchild of 8bitpeoples, a chip music collective founded by Jeremiah Johnson (a.k.a. Nullsleep) in 1999 and co-administered by Josh Davis (a.k.a. Bit Shifter), and The Tank, a performance art space that’s been the heart of the New York chip music scene since 2002.

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Music July 8, 2009 By Sonaar Luthra
tortoise page1 Tortoise
Photography by Jim Newberry for Thrill Jockey

tortoisetitle1 Tortoise

Here on Chicago’s west side, the streets are closed for Puerto Rican pride weekend. A swirl of festivities that could just as easily be celebrating a return to form for the pioneering avant-garde instrumentalists whose Beacons of Ancestorship, the follow-up to 2004’s tepidly received It’s All Around You, is just days away from hitting record stores.
     Tortoise has never been a full-time band, yet with all five members involved in countless side-projects – drummer Dan Bitney’s Isotope 217, for example – their many hiatuses have ensured an endurance that most indie bands from the ‘90s failed to cultivate. “High Class Slim Came Floating In”, the opening track on Beacons of Ancestorship, finds Tortoise embracing more playful and fuzzed-out sounds that Bitney admits might have been reserved for other projects in the past. “There’s always been a line with my ideas and stuff that I didn’t think was appropriate for Tortoise,” he says. “When I started 217 it was kind of a way to do what Tortoise was doing but more stripped down. It could be more funky or have hip-hop elements. So now I think that line of what was appropriate is gone.”


Features October 4, 2008 By Sonaar Luthra

Illustration by Tracy Robinson