The Chiptune Underground: Lana Del Rey, Radiohead, and Beethoven in 8-Bit


Go back to music recorded before the advent of MIDIs and grid-snaps, and the digital spectrum of sound is often a completely different listening experience. When musicians finally started experimenting with 0s and 1s, the first attempts were primitive, simply made, and occupied a sonic space all their own. These early experiments, the 8-bit chief amongst them, were quickly corralled into a pen with another burgeoning digital technology, the video game. The two became inextricably linked, and while popular music left the spare sounds of the 8-bit behind, it found new life as a tool for transposition. Chiptuning was the beginning of something big, electronic sampling manipulated and twisted, not just... sampled.

Suddenly everything from Michael Jackson to Beethoven was getting passed through the filter and reduced to eight bony bits, and the sound has continued to live on beyond the arcade, in the referential music of Daft Punk and the hallowed hallways of early video game culture. From Radiohead to Beethoven, here are some of the most weird, wonderful, and best songs we heard during our journey into the 8-bit underground.


  • LES

    Really awesome article on chip tunes! Probably the easiest narritive over their evolution ive read. the wiki on it is like reading a wall… this Makes me want to dissect my childhood game boys.

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