VGM or Chiptune of The Year 2005

VORC's annual awards for the best chiptune works and artists turned five years old. As usual we have set eight categories.

The Best Record of The Year: YMCK "Family Racing"

We believe no one disputes the superb impact of YMCK's second album in the sense of quality, density and marketing scrupulousness, though it's not available outside Japan yet. Their elegant vocal + NES-pop style established on the first album brought not a few new audiences into the chiptune world, and it reached to the extremity of refinement through this album. Now the number of YMCK supporters may be larger than traditional chiptune freaks. Who can stop their solitary journey?

We should mention 8-bit Weapon's "Vaporware Soundtracks" and Mini Melodies' "If I never came home again EP" as another two hot release. Later one's brilliant fusion of deep female vocal and SID sound is especially noteworthy.

We have little to say about oldschool vgm reprints. Significant leaning to CD setbox doesn't develop new layer of listeners. Such boxes are interesting only for middle-aged collectors. Perhaps Japanese labels now believe oldschool vgms are not music but just nostalgic icons.

The Best Music Disk of The Year: Tinnitus - As far as the eye can see (Commodore 64)

We have really wavered between this one and YM Rockerz' "tYMewarp" (Atari ST). Both of them are singular masterpieces combining sophisticated sound, characteristic visuals and unique interface filled with playful mind. However, we'd like to give higher marks to Tinnitus rising from Poland for the fact that was created just by two lesser-known talents. Asterion's Celtic SID tunes spinning a story on medieval world indicates one of the complete forms of music disks.

Unlike usual years, Windows scene didn't reaped so many quality music disks. CoolPHat's "TECKNiCS" is outstanding exception. In the sense of verve and variety this is the best disk of the year.

The Best Artist of The Year: David E.Sugar (Gameboy)

2005 showed a breakthrough of band-oriented chip music. Introducing guitars or acoustic instruments to chiptunes is not a new trend, but most of bands prior this year have used chip sound just as additional instruments. Subject-object relationship is getting reversed. Now we could name some notable band-oriented artists without losing chip essense such as Anamanaguchi, Firebrand_Boy, Kplecraft and OMAC. But nobody couldn't exceed the presence of David E.Sugar.

This kind of trial is not easy, since acoustic instruments tend to lose touch with or sideline square waves. The guitar is especially grumpy instrument when it coexists with chip sound at equal value. However, Sugar got over such a problem handily by his brilliant sense of guitar pop. Along with the qualification of popstar he also exhibits another talent as a radical chip-electro bearer. Audacious funky style shown as Logic Bomb is amazing as well.

In contrast, usual chiptune artists in general were not so appealing this year. But of course there're some exciting exceptions; Zabutom, one of the best young talents from Sweden, expanded his versatility on wider platforms. Reed, the king of chip funk from Finland, exploded his sophistication also on the Commodore 64. Stu, the Atari electro don from Switzerland, truely bloomed his own style and techniques.

The Best Label of The Year: 8bitpeoples

The Best Label of The Year 2006 would be kept for Mp3death and 20kbps Recordings - last year we stated so. But sorry, it has to be backed down. Summarizing this year without 8bitpeoples is almost impossible. They were more positive to grub up lesser-known but noteworthy talents, and it resulted in firmer releases than previous years. 8bitpeoples were actually stately as a label with long history.

This year's net label scene was totally active by the rise of new labels such as Gainlad, Future:Komp and Fasion Proof. But unfortunately, much attention was not paid to old experienced artists.

The Best Competition of The Year: Goat Tracker 2 Music Compo (Commodore 64)

As the name shows, this online SID music festival was held to celebrate the birth of Goat Tracker 2. Like the first GoatTracker Compo or Polly Tracker Compo, competitions with the purpose for testing a new music editor always have special freshness, and such a mood tends to decoy certainly impressive works even if not many. The winner Randall from Poland was very powerful this year, and enjoyed another victory also on The SID Compo V.

Formal annual competitions were of course attractive. DHS Online Compo 2005 for Atari ST's 20th anniversary was especially impressive with its great vote pack as a megademo. The wide variety of entries on Famicompo Mini Vol.2 (NES) was also amusing, but it ended up as controversial results revealing a ditch between extra-chip-oriented Japanese scene and 2a03-oriented European/American scene.

The Best Software of The Year: maxYMiser (Atari ST)

This year saw many new music editors which let us take a look at new horizon of chip music; Mod2PSG2 finally allowed us to compose for the Sega Master System. FamiTracker made NES music much easier and structural. Polly Tracker told us the possibility of the Commodore 64 as a sample-based synthesizer. It's very difficult to decide which was the best, but in the sense of inquiry into the ideal form of chip editors, gwEm's maxYMiser draws a line. This is the grand sum of the dreams and achievement cultivated on 20 years history of YM sound editors. There aren't many users yet as it needs some getting used to, but anyway maxYMiser certainly tells us the future of Atari ST music still bright.

The Best Hardware of The Year: N/A

No innovations which could be breakthrough appeared. However, some of last year's products such as MIDINES (NES) and TNS-HFC1 (FC) are still worth to mention as they were largely upgraded and now spreading steadily.

The Best Website of The Year:

In the chiptune world there're still some visible barriers between each scene or each platform. A big conflict burst to the surface even among newer generations this year, and it resulted in a sort of alarming release named "DISSED BY THE QFS" (anti-micromusic compilation). Perhaps the root of the problem is the fact that too many songs are released under a website or a label closely related to some scene. From that standpoint, we have to say played a big role as a place where everyone can release any kind of chiptune without hesitating. also came to the front of chiptune release. It's rapidly growing like the second coming of But there aren't many things to listen to yet, as it's essentially community rather than release space.


Last year I've talked here about the casualization of chip music and the distortion caused by it. I don't know if it could be Beck's effect to a certain degree, but anyway those things proceeded farther. Positive aspect: the number of chip/lo-fi musicians is rapidly increasing. This year we saw countless newcomers, much more than previous years. Negative aspect: nonsensical common beliefs get to have wings. For example, people start thinking NES is based on MIDI.

Nowadays traditional chiptune scenes appear to be getting weaker in various ways. At least mod scene is not the center of the universe anymore. The positive aspect above means that generational shift in the scene is already inevitable and imperative. The negative aspect means that traditional listeners/anecdotis are not connected to newer listeners. Next year or so 'generation gap' might surface as a keyword.

[written by :hally/vorc]