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Channeling the spirit of Lou Reed in 8-bit form, Mark Denardo put together Graffiti Monsters to blend videogame sounds with pounding drums, twangy guitars, and bluesy vocals for an electrifying and frenetic aural concoction. Mixing elements of punk, noise, blues, art-rock, and chiptune music, the group continues to tear its way through the Brooklyn underground music scene.
Above: Graffiti Monsters at Blip Festival ‘07
Building tunes by adding in instrumental and vocal layers, the band drapes its sonic accompaniment on a branching chiptune foundation laid out by a Game Boy running Little Sound DJ. With two drum kits, a small piece of gaming hardware, a battered guitar, and a strong set of pipes, Graffiti Monsters musters up a formidable 8-bit howl.
Above: The band’s fifth member
Above: Graffiti Monsters live at SXSW
Above: Graffiti Monsters at SXSW 2008
Listening to the blipped-out sounds of Animal Style without seeing them performed live, it’s almost impossible to tell that a good portion of the melodies are actually being played on a guitar.
Above: Animal Style onstage in Philadelphia
Accomplished instrumentalist and 8-bit tinkerer Joey Mariano may be a bit of a guitar geek (he holds a degree in jazz guitar performance), but his knack for videogame audio wizardry also abounds. With the aid of his trusty guitar, an 8-bit fuzz pedal, a few homebrew music programs, a hacked Game Boy Color and an octopus-like array of custom modified footswitches, Mariano crafts moody, thematic rock soundscapes that hint they might have a deeper story to tell.
Above: Mariano demonstrates his array of footswitches
There’s far more kick to 8 Bit Weapon’s music making arsenal than its killer name. This duo packs serious dance-worthy chiptune heat made with a staggering cornucopia of leftover electronics from generations past.
Above: 8 Bit Weapon performs onstage
Their list of must-have sound creation devices includes a Commodore 64, a Commodore 128, a NES, an Intellivision synthesizer, a Speak-n-Spell, a Speak-n-Music, several classic Game Boys, a mix of acoustic and electronic drums, and a pile of other vintage electronic toys. 8 Bit Weapon have rocked E3 on numerous occasions, provided the soundtrack for Reset Generation (Nokia’s N-Gage game about videogames), and more recently compiled an extensive retro computer sound loop library released by Sony.
Above: A small part of 8 Bit Weapon’s rhythmic arsenal
Above: 8 Bit Weapon performs its song Bombs Away
A melancholic wall of fuzz-out guitars and melodic vocals are the only distinctly human-driven elements found in The Depreciation Guild’s music. The rest of the band’s sound is provided by a mint-condition Japanese Nintendo Famicom loaded with a modded game cartridge that churns out the drum, synth, and bass lines for each tune.
Above: The Depreciation Guild performs live
The rhythm sections and accompanying synth line are written and programmed using Nerdtracker II before being loaded onto the Famicom. With their foundation locked and loaded, The Depreciation Guild lets loose its sonic volley in conjunction with the chime of reverb-laden guitars and live drums.
Despite possessing a heavy shoe-gaze audio aesthetic that leans more towards indie rock than traditional chiptunes, the group’s music bears the unmistakable mark of 8-bit influence throughout.
Above: The Depreciation Guild at the New American Music Union summer concert in 2008
July 2, 2009
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