8 Bit Weapon – Tron Tribute

8 Bit Weapon - Tron TributeChiptune champs 8 Bit Weapon pay tribute to one of electronic music’s true pioneers, Wendy Carlos, by way of reinterpreting Carlos’ music from the 1982 movie Tron. With Tron slowly bubbling back into the public consciousness by way of Disney’s attempt to revive the franchise on the big screen later in 2010, Tron Tribute is an inspired project with good timing.

Available as a free download, Tron Tribute basically cycles through variations on two different pieces of music from Tron, namely “Tron Scherzo” and the movie’s end credit suite (or at least about the first 1/3 of it). 8 Bit Weapon deploys its usual arsenal of classic Commodore 64 and Game Boy sounds for the occasion, and adds an Apple II-based synth for good measure. (The custom-made Apple II synth program is also available on their website.)

The variations aren’t wildly different – it’s more a case of subtly swapping out “instruments” – but the result is still quite an enjoyable new take on the music from Tron . (It’s also worth noting that 8 Bit Weapon isn’t the first act to take on such a reinterpretation – there was also a track of Tron music, appropriately arranged for the sound hardware of the Intellivision, whose maker had the license for home 4 out of 4video games based on Tron, on the Intellivision In Hi-Fi album.)

8 Bit Weapon’s take on Tron nicely splits the difference between Wendy Carlos’ complex harmonies and the unique harmonics of the machines used to play the music – and you sure can’t beat the price.

Download it!

  1. Tron Scherzo (Sark’s Revenge Mix) (2:00)
  2. Tron Theme & Ending (Flynn’s Farewell Mix) (1:10)
  3. Tron Scherzo (Solar Sailer Mix) (2:00)
  4. Tron Theme & Ending (Yori’s Game Boy Mix) (1:10)
  5. Discuss it in our forumTron Scherzo (Clu’s Game Boy Mix) (2:01)

Released by: 8 Bit Weapon
Release date: 2010
Total running time: 8:21

8 Bit Weapon & ComputeHer – It’s A Chiptune Holiday!

It's A Chiptune Holiday!A fun little EP released just in time for the holiday season, It’s A Chiptune Holiday! is a selection of traditional Christmas music, done in old-school video game style with 8 Bit Weapon’s usual arsenal of custom-programmed classic console sound chips.

“Deck The Halls” kicks things off with harmonized vocoder vocals – it’s like a cheerful choir of Christmas-caroling robots. “Jingle Bells” and “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” also have robotic vocals, though the latter has a kind of strange diction that makes me wonder if it really is a voice synthesizer as opposed to a human singer’s processed vocals.

The instrumentals are a treat too; “O Christmas Tree” is given a polyphonic arrangement that makes it sound like a “win” tune from Pole Position; “Ave Maria” actually comes closest to what I was expecting to hear from an EP of 8-bit Christmas tunes.

4 out of 4The only problem with It’s A Chiptune Holiday! is that it’s just too short! I instantly thought of about a dozen other Christmas tunes that would sound great with the 8 Bit Weapon treatment; I realize that it’d mean venturing into non-public-domain territory, but I can just about hear a chiptune version of “Christmastime Is Here” from Vince Guaraldi’s Charlie Brown Christmas special soundtrack in my head.

The good news is, I hear they’ve already scheduled Christmas for next year – you’ve got 12 months to get on the case, 8 Bit Weapon!

Order this CD

  1. Deck The Halls (Nos Galan) (1:52)
  2. Hanukkah (Festival Of Lights) (1:01)
  3. O Christmas Tree (O Chanukah) (1:31)
  4. Jingle Bells (One Horse Open Sleigh) (1:14)
  5. Joy To The World (2:09)
  6. Greensleeves (What Child Is This) (1:51)
  7. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen (2:13)
  8. Ave Maria (The Well-Tempered Clavier) (3:25)

Released by: 8 Bit Weapon
Release date: 2009
Total running time: 15:16

8 Bit Weapon – Electric High

8 Bit Weapon - Electric HighAnother group that I file under “doesn’t release new material as often as I’d like,” veteran chiptune pioneers 8 Bit Weapon are back, now pared down to a duo, with some incredibly catchy new tunes. The opening volley, “Closer (Bitpop Mix)”, is an infectiously catchy song with the welcome return of a female vocal. While still heavily processed (a la vocoder epics like “One Last Mission” and “Micro Boogie”), it’s an interesting sound and one that, surprisingly, is a stand-alone here; it’s not as if 8 Bit Weapon’s instrumentals are suddenly chopped liver, but I wish they’d sing some more. When I look back at the group’s post-Confidential output, the songs that stick out as my favorites are the ones with vocals. 8 Bit Weapon has a gift for catchy tunes and their instrumentation gives them a unique sound by default; their vocal offerings, more often than not, have clever lyrics and just a little extra something that turns a good instrumental into a great, addictive, fleshed-out song. With only six songs on the Electric High EP, it would’ve been nice to have two, even three songs with vocals. I’d love for 8 Bit Weapon to bring the vocal-to-instrumental ratio to parity.

Not that the instrumentals are anything to complain about here; “Kiss My Bits (ComputeHer Mashup Mix)” and “Macro Disko (Minimal Mix)” are early favorites. “Chiptune Attack 2600 A.D.” features a rare foray into the nearly-atonal sounds generated by an Atari 2600, and yet still manages to be a catchy – if quirky – tune. All of the tracks on Electric High are worth a listen, and at only six tracks, there’s no filler material – the EP makes a strong statement and doesn’t outstay its welcome.

8 Bit Weapon has a unique, fun sound – so much so that Sony’s production music department singled them out to build an effects and instrument library so that anyone with Nuendo, Cubase or other sequencing software can start cranking out chiptunes. (That, in and of itself, could be a great thing, or it could lead to a flood of dreck – part of the compelling appeal of chiptunes artists is that they are, in fact, using this old computer and game hardware to make these sounds. Sequencing and sampling one’s way to a new chiptune opus 4 out of 4almost seems like cheating. Of course, there’s probably some string quartet out there staring me down for all those string samples I mess around with in Cubase, so it’s all down to your point of view.) They’re still on top of their game (literally!) with Electric High – I just wish they’d belt out some words more often. (Seriously, guys, if you need help with lyrics, if that’d get some more songs with vocals out there, just call me.)

Order this CD

  1. Closer (Bitpop Mix) (2:52)
  2. Kiss My Bits (Computeher Mashup Mix) (2:05)
  3. Chip On Your Shoulder (3:24)
  4. FUNDanalogue (2:22)
  5. Chiptune Attack 2600 AD (3:16)
  6. Macro Disko (Minimal Mix) (3:38)

Released by: 8 Bit Weapon
Release date: 2009
Total running time: 17:37