In today’s world of hi-gloss electro, you’d be hard-pressed to find gritty laser zaps and the sounds of Zelda poking their way into the L.A. club scene. But as they unpack their arsenal of glitchy Game Boy beats on a sweaty, warehouse dance floor surrounded by blinking lights and acid-trip wall projections, the local practitioners in the chiptune scene don’t seem to mind much. Especially now that they have a slice of underground nightlife of to call their own.
In recent months, a pool of innovative L.A.-based artists who create music in an electronic subgenre called chiptune have formed the Obsolete collective, and have commenced throwing shows to celebrate their lo-bit love affair.
This weekend, the consortium offers the second installment of a monthly, downtown party at their designated warehouse space, dubbed Pixel Frequency. Held on the first Saturday of every month, Obsolete’s flagship event is forging a meeting ground for an open-ended chiptune genre with roots that stem back to the ’70s (though it was rarely performed live until the 2000s).
Despite being a worldwide sonic medium, chiptune rarely pokes its head above ground in L.A.’s saturated club scene. The idea, as the name implies, is to highlight artists whose musical ingenuity embraces out-of-date NES cartridges, Commodore 64 computers and any gaming or electronic technology built before the Clinton administration — a niche pedigree to say the least. Cristina Fuentes, an artist performing under the moniker Wet Mango, has helped wrangle some of the scene’s most active artists within L.A.’s micro-sized chiptune community.
“Even though it’s a really young scene, we pretty much already know each other,” Fuentes said. “It’s an Internet-based genre — everyone communicated and shares through the Internet. But getting all of us together to play shows is the new part of this.”Casting a rotating lineup of artists for every show, the second Obsolete party features performances by Beta to the Max and Wizwars, each of whom foster unique blends of blips and bass. Often relegated to performing in scattered, random shows throughout the city, members of the collective are hoping to not only bond over their own prideful Nintendo geekdom, but also to expose new fans to a genre that’s much more varied and ill-defined than many realize. Also on the bill will be Mike Bleeds, Encord, daSID and DJ Sysop.
“Chiptune is as wide for genres as guitar or any other genre,” said Seth Sternberger, one half of chiptune duo 8 Bit Weapon. Based in the Simi Valley area, he and his wife, Michelle (who also performs solo as ComputeHer), were the driving force behind Club Microwave, a chiptune monthly that traveled between venues such as the Echoplex and Lava Lounge before extinguishing in 2005. (updated note from ComputeHer 2014: We have since restarted Club Microwave!)
“It’s country, it’s bluegrass, it’s blues,” added Sternberger. “It’s such a wide range of performers and artists and I think everyone’s doing their part for their specific genre.”
Started in February by a core of about 20 local members — including musicians, radio DJs, promoters and visual artists — Obsolete offers fans and practitioners in the L.A. chip scene a unified outlet for live performance. In a constellation of underground collectives and labels such as So Simple and Dark Matter Sound System that focus on harsh electro sounds and roaming warehouse parties, Obsolete’s platform connoisseurs of outdated tones is starting its own brand of underground buzz.
For Pablo Bert, a.k.a DJ Mike Haggar, regular events such as the ones on Saturday have been a long time coming.
“It’s really cool that they’re starting a monthly show,” said Bert, who has also played on the L.A. chiptune scene since the Club Microwave days in the early 2000s.
“The chip scene wasn’t really that big back then,” Bert said. “But now that they’re doing this, now there’s a big enough following in L.A. to actually succeed.”
Obsolete occurs on Saturday, July 2 (first Saturday of every month) at Pixel Frequency warehouse, 931 E. Pico Blvd., Suite 202, Los Angeles. 8:30 p.m. All ages. $5 at the door. Obsolete.fm/