I know we here at ChipWIN generally tend to stay away from Buzzfeed-y listicle-type articles, but with all the different music coming out these days it can be super hard to actually keep up with everything. If you don’t know where to look, you’ll miss something great – and if you DO know where to look, all your friends will love you for giving them dank music recommendations!* (*Note: ChipWIN does not guarantee love of any kind regardless of the circumstance.)
While this is by no means an exhaustive list, here’s some of my favorite places to find chiptune and chiptune-adjacent music.
Data Airlines is basically the netlabel you want to aspire to be released on if you’re making smart, technical chiptunes (and, more likely than not, you’re European and have roots in the demoscene). They don’t have a lot of artists that they feature, but those that they do are the best of the best – and they always invest in putting out some of the most top notch physical releases too so if you’re someone who really likes to decorate with your musical tastes, you’ll want to keep an eye out here. Notable artists released here are Makeup and Vanity Set, Trey Frey and goto80.
I mentioned Telefuture back in my “YM2612 & You!” article, but Telefuture basically is the best place on Bandcamp if you want to get some extremely tasty synth jams. Basically everything on this label is like doing lines of crushed up 80’s movie soundtracks, so if that’s your gig, I’d recommend looking through their backlog. They don’t update much these days, but they’ve got a respectable archive. This is another place Makeup and Vanity Set released a lot of his albums, but you’ve also got Rolly Mingwald (one of the many faces of Carl Peczynski) and SID64 here among many others.
Boasting an impressive roster of international affiliated acts and coming from the folks who give us the Gamewave podcast, Pterodactyl Squad has been regularly pumping out music for ages! Their website boasts a few more vintage releases which have since been rereleased elsewhere (like Slime Girls’ Vacation Wasteland EP and the Weezer 8-bit tribute album which is old enough now that it’s hosted on the Wayback Machine), these guys are a great place to keep an eye on if you like LSDJ tunes as well as some more experimental projects. All of their music is free from their website, but if you’d like to support the artists then you can purchase from their Bandcamp page for all extremely reasonable prices.
Do you need some nostalgia but don’t want it to sound like it’s coming out of a handheld gaming system? Boy howdy do I have good news for you, NewRetroWave has you covered. I first discovered these guys on YouTube – they’re kind enough to put up all of their releases as well as making their own mix…tapes? I’m not really sure how that translates to modern parlance. Mixvids? Anyway, these guys are all about making sure you’ve got the full experience no matter what you’re looking for – they have interviews with their artists, they’ve got merch, they’ve got gaming reviews, they’ve got videos – what I’m saying is, they’ve got the whole multimedia experience down, dare I say maybe even better than we do? They’ve even helped sponsor some tours along with folks from the next group.
I first learned about Blood Music from one of Bandcamp’s album of the day messages (which turned out to be GosT’s Behemoth) and haven’t looked back. These guys are my go-to for really synth-heavy metal, and although they’re the folks rereleasing Perturbator’s work and have snagged a release or two from other synth folks like Tommy ’86, most of their catalogue is more avant garde stuff in the weird realm between black metal and prog rock. They’re also famous for releasing really beautiful vinyl records for not only their own acts but rereleasing older out of print albums as well. If you’re not as big into hard stuff that isn’t synthy, I’d still recommend peeking at their releases from GosT, Dan Terminus, Perturbator and Tommy ’86.
I first learned about KEATS//COLLECTIVE when I was first getting into vaporwa- excuse me, I mean ＶＡＰＯＲＷＡＶＥ. Flaunting one of the biggest discographies of vaporwave, future funk and other jazzy, funky sample based genres on the internet, this group is also where you’ll find the beginnings of some major players like Skylar Spence (formerly Saint Pepsi). While many of their albums do have a fairly reasonable cost associated with them, if you’re curious about the general vibes of the label they have many, many compilation albums which show off their hits. (Get it? Hits? Vibes? Hit Vibes, the Saint Pepsi album? Please notice me senpai.) Even if you never paid a cent, you’d still get hours of amazing content here. (But you will pay, won’t you? W̷̲͙̥O̶̰ͅŃ͉͖͉̼̼̣’̧̬̦̣̟͉̖̭Ț̯͜ ̸͇͇̙̺̬̖̮̣́Ỳ̮̩͍̜̝O̷̡͚͙̣͟U̴̠?̧͍̠̤̣̳)
Neoncity Records is a brand new label with an interesting business model – for the most part, this Hong Kong based label is a few artists’ work (like マクロスMACROSS 82-99), but also making sure there are high quality cassette and CD releases. They definitely do have some of their own unique releases, and they’ve also been able to do small concert series through Hong Kong and Taipei. If you’re a fan of limited releases and vaporwave/future funk, this is definitely something to check regularly, as the physical runs are quite short. I hope for great things from these guys in the years to come.
I’ve ranted about Battle of the Bits in the past, but seriously, if you want to be on the bleeding edge of chiptune hobbyists, this is the place to be. With roughly monthly curated competitions for all sorts of hardware and software parameters, BotB is a great community that focuses on making sure those that contribute throw down their best tunes. Also, as they’ve been pretty good about getting the best of the best tracks up in collections on their Bandcamp site, you COULD just go there – but if you make an account and stalk through the site you’ll find nigh-endless tunes, and some surprisingly big folks in the community lurk around there too. Go be a BotBer!
Это не музыка вашего папы. UBIKTUNE, brainchild of c-jeff and the first of our Russia-based labels, not only takes the prize for being one of the oldest consistently releasing labels, but also one of the most star-studded. When I say that anyone who is anyone has released music on UBIKTUNE, I don’t mean that in some kind of exaggerated snooty way – I mean that the required caliber of musicians who partner with UBIKTUNE is such that you can basically just throw a dart and hit an amazing album by someone you’ve probably heard of, or at the very least one of their amazing compilations like the FM Soundshock series. The age of the label is such that you also get a really interesting history lesson as you browse the catalogue – some people no longer write music, some have started their own labels, and at least four albums here are by people who would later go on to work on the Steven Universe soundtrack. Best of all, most of the albums are free, and those that are not are extremely cheap.
Brave Wave exists for those of us who sit there thinking “Man, I really love the soundtracks to a lot of third party NES and Sega console games, I wonder whatever happened to those composers?” The answer is they kept working, and eventually found out there was enough interest from their fans to release more music. That’s not to say that Brave Wave is just vintage game music composers – you’ve still got folks like Stemage and ap0c and chipzel who lend their talents to the team, but you’ve also got folks like Keiji Yamagashi and Manami Matsumae who are out here proving they still have it. Many of these releases are available in physical form in CD and vinyl, and while they’re on the whole pricier than the rest of the music I’ve mentioned so far, you’re basically guaranteed of the quality of the music ahead of time.
Bleep-Love, the next of our Russian labels, is definitely one of the more prolific labels boasting 64 regular releases since 2011 at the time of this article! Even if all you did was check out their several compilations, you’d have enough to keep you occupied for quite some time. If you like how we do things here but wish we also released solo albums, you’ll love Bleep-Love.
Cheapbeats, run by James York AKA Cheapshot, not only collects some of the finest talent across Japan and Europe, but is also the label end of the Square Sounds music festival series. We have reviewed many of the albums from this group (and collaborated with them, of course!) – the Cheapbeats Bandcamp is basically just a self-renewing gold mine. Go get lost in it.
Another one of our collaboration groups, DESKPOP is a new-ish label that is dedicated to bringing out some of the coolest digital music out there right now. And I know, “digital music” isn’t really descriptive in text, but you’ll know what I mean when you start plowing through their releases – this is music that lives in the uncanny valley between beep-boop music and real life, with samples of real sounds and people mashing up against synthesized sounds. They tend to shy away from being overtly poppy, but I can say many of these releases are the kinds of things you’d want to hear on your radio while driving around in the summer with your friends. They also occasionally release albums on credit card sized USB drives, which…I mean, why don’t more people do that? Seriously?
ESC TRAX, another one of the Japanese labels on this list, has their focus more on either very underprocessed but technically stunning LSDJ tracks or much more highly processed “chiptune+” kind of tunes. They’re also relatively new, and their releases tend to be very short so there’s not a whole lot for you to explore just yet, their entire release list does basically sound like someone wrote a computer program to make tracks similar to the very best of modern chiptune. Keep an eye on these guys!
Hyperwave Records is, effectively, “Shirobon: The Label,” plus some friends. That’s not meant pejoratively – Shirobon is great, Jamatar is great, and this label is starting to release some other folks who have needed to be in the public eye for a very long time (like YMCK). Again, this label is fairly light on new releases, but it does seem like regular album drops are happening. If you like Shirobon, you’re already sold here, but if you come for Shirobon you should stay for the folks he’s been finding to release as well.
Madmilky Records is the internet home of TORIENA and NNNNNNNNNNN, two of the biggest names in chiptune from Japan (and I’ll fight you if you say otherwise). This is one of those labels you’ve just got to keep checking back on – while most of the folks who have releases here also have releases elsewhere, this does basically just seem to be another group for one or two people to put their music in a publicly accessible place and promote their friends too. Honestly, there’s nothing more pure than that and I wish more people would do it, so – poke your head in, download the freebies, pay for the ones that aren’t free, and bookmark the site.
Thebasebit Recordings is another one of those groups you just set yourself a calendar reminder to check on every six months or so – while they basically only put out one release a year, each release is fire. I can’t say much else, aside from the fact that you almost certainly know everyone who has released on this label – they represent a pretty good spread of what people look for in chiptune and related genres, and each new release fills in a bit more in places that might not have been represented.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: quality releases plus the added bonus of cassette releases. Tracked is still a growing label, but they know what they’re about. Subscribe to their newsletter already.
Galaxy Swim Team is what happens when you get a bunch of musical friends together who just want to help each other succeed and put out music. Like DESKPOP above, Galaxy Swim Team is a group that basically just found a way to distill and bottle late summer evenings and turn them into music (and it’s no wonder those two groups did a collab album for just that reason). With GST, you could get anything from shoegazey pop punk minimalist electronica to full on weeb music (I say lovingly, as I am also a weeb who loves weeb music). While not all of these releases are full length, they’re definitely cranking them out, and that alone means they’re worth keeping an eye on.
And so we come to Business Casual, my final recommendation on this list. As far as I’m concerned, Business Casual is the only netlabel Doing It Right™ in terms of price point and offerings for the consumer. There’s a new release every single Friday, you can buy their entire discography for a single dollar (which means that whenever you come back to fill in your backlog, you’re just paying another dollar), and they’ve got pretty regular cassette runs for their longer releases. This and KEATS//COLLECTIVE are the only two places I get my vaporwave/future funk fix, and I’m not sad about that in the least.
You’ll notice that many labels mentioned above have shared artists, and many artists on these labels have worked with us in the past. Do you know why? Because aside from just being homes for damn fine musicians, that’s what netlabels do – they help you get your music out there, they network, and hopefully they make some cool merch for you so that you don’t have to break character when trying to live the ＃ａｅｓｔｈｅｔｉｃ of the era that your music sounds like it came from. It seems to be working so far – and I’m happy to keep this signal alive and keep promoting good work. Happy listening!