June 11, 2009

LABEL PROFILE: Jahtari Netlabel (Germany)

In the past few years, chiptunes have been gaining more popularity and respect in the music underground, with the sound crossing over into club-oriented dubstep and minimal techno productions. The concept is essentially a digital production technique using vintage computer synthesis software, hardware and/or effects to produce ultra lo-fi, videogame-esque tracks. Some artists get really into production with old Atari ST or Amiga computers, while others use Tracker software on PCs that has been around since the early '90s (I got my start on an ancient tracker software for the Mac around '96, and still use Jeskola Buzz today). Other people get into vintage digital synthesizers, NanoLoop software for Gameboy or Nintendo DS, or even build/modify their own sound modules. The outcome is typically gritty, raw-sounding electronic music that sounds strongly dated, yet with an experimental, futuristic direction. To be honest, I still associate a lot of what I hear with the "tracker demos" that one could find on the web throughout the '90s, and a lot of it sounds like second-rate videogame music. Still there are some exotic effects, textures and noises that can be coaxed from these digital tools, and I have been getting excited by some of the more recent developements in the genre. Jahtari started producing "digital 7"s" in '04, and caught my attention in '06 with a minor buzz around their Mikey Murka & Disrupt "Sensi Addict/Arcade Addict" release, which featured samples from a collection of vintage arcade machine recordings made by some kids in the '80s. Jahtari's aesthetic is to create Digital Laptop Reggae, using the lo-fi chiptune sounds to compose dancehall and dub beats. Entirely different from the "dub techno" sound, many Jahtari releases sound like vintage game music (such as Dubmood's "Atari-Ska", out-takes from some "Reggae Adventure Island". Other material by Illyah & Ltd. Candy adds smooth vocal elements and gets into abstract IDM territory, while retaining a strong reggae beat. I particularly enjoy the releases by label-boss Disrupt, which frequently features humorous and trippy samples from old films. The production is impressively high-end considering the lo-fi sound sources, and usually not too abrassive for casual listening. Best of all, most of Jahtari's material is available for FREE. They have also produced actual vinyl releases and a CD compilation, although it is probably unlikely you'll find them in US stores. Disrupt, Bo Marley, Rootah and co. are on tour all over Europe this summer!