Disco is a sub-genre of EDM that was most popular in the late 70s and early 80s. It is difficult to pinpoint exactly when the first disco song was recorded although it is safe to say that it probably wasn’t until the early 70s. Even so, elements of pre-disco are apparent in several 60s singles like “Touch Me” by the Doors (1968) and “The Love you Save” by Jackson 5. (1970). In any case, old school disco music as we know it was a synthesis of R&B, Funk, Soul, Pop, and Salsa among other musical styles.
Initially, this genre of music was dominated by producers and record labels with few influential DJs. Some of the most popular labels at the time included Salsoul Records, West End Records and Prelude. It was Tom Moulton, the iconic American record producer most remembered for the 12 inch single vinyl format and creating the concept of remixes, who produced Gloria Gaynor’s debut album “Never Can Say Goodbye” and won the title – Father of Disco. During this time, several influential DJs emerged who helped define the sound of disco like Nicky Siano, David Mancuso and Frankie Knuckles, popularly known for his contribution to developing and popularizing house music. In fact, house music has its roots in black and Latino discos where this style of music gained its first followers.
From mid-seventies onward, disco music soared in popularity and disco songs routinely topped national charts in USA & UK. The Hues Corporation’s 1974 hit single “Rock the Boat” topped the charts in both USA and the UK. Earlier that year, “Love’s Theme” by Love Unlimited Orchestra, reached No. 1 position on the Billboard Hot 100 US despite being an instrumental piece. The iconic John Travolta starrer, ‘Saturday Night Fever’, best epitomizes the love for disco that was gripping the world at the time. The soundtrack to the movie topped the album charts for 24 weeks in 1978. This led to non-disco artists like Rod Stewart, Elton John and David Bowie experimenting with elements of disco in their music with varying degrees of success.
In 21st century, the popularity of disco music has waned somewhat although old school disco has enjoyed brief revivals of interest throughout the 90s. From the mid 2000s, a new sub-genre of electronic music, nu-disco has achieved mainstream success with hit singles like Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” (2013) and Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” (2013). Nonetheless, the fact remains that many other popular non-disco artists like Bruno Mars and Justin Timberlake owe a huge debt to dance floor music that was popular during the 70s’.
Chiptune originated in the late 70s and early 80s in Japan and it was originally pioneered by soundtrack composers for early video games. This is why chiptune music is often called 8 bit music as it was initially composed by using 8 sound chips of old computers and video game consoles. It comprises of basic geometrical wave forms like pulse, square, triangle and sawtooth produced by a waveform generator. Evidently, this genre of EDM is heavily influenced by vintage video game soundtrack music. It should also be clarified that chiptune essentially describes the sound types created by computer or console sound chips which is why it is often referred to as chipmusic, not chiptune.
Chipmusic is an umbrella term that includes many sub-genres including bitpop, chip-hop, chipmetal, chipnoise, amigacore and many others. Even Yuzo Koshiro, widely regarded as one of the most innovative composers of chiptune, mainly composed on 16 bit FM synthesis sound chips. Today, even classic 8-bit chiptune composers use emulated chips for creating music.
Despite the overwhelming influence of chiptune on the development of EDM, it has remained an underground sub-genre throughout its lifetime. Its popularity peaked in the early 1980s especially in Japan partly on account of its strong gaming sub-culture. Around this time, some artists like Haruomi Hosono even created entire records from videogame sounds. Aside from purist chiptune artists and composers, many popular electronic and pop bands also started using video game console sounds in their songs. Yellow Orchestra’s Computer Game and Buckner & Garcia’s Pac-Man Fever are noteworthy mentions in this regard.
Nowadays, 8-bit exclusive artists are relatively uncommon and few have achieved mainstream recognition. However, from the early 2000s, a sub-genre of chiptune known as bitpop has grown in popularity. This term been used by artists who use additional instruments, vocals or modern equipment in addition to 8 bit sourced sounds. Many recent hit songs like Kei$ha’s ‘Tik Tok’ and ‘On Top’ by The Killers are notable for prominent use of Bitpop elements. Additionally, many indie and electropop bands like The Postal Service have brought chiptune to the forefront by incorporating 8-bit music into their songs.
If you are interested to know more about this under-appreciated genre of EDM, then you should check out 8bitpeoples. It is an artists’ collective that frequently releases 8-bit chiptune tracks free of charge. It also organizes the Blip Festival which attracts some of the leading 8-bit musicians in the world. Its members include innovators as well as classic 8-bit composers like Nullsleep, Random and Trash80.