8-Bit Punks

music_AnamanaguchiAnamanaguchi crafts jubilant, hard-hitting Nintendocore

Punk rock means many things to many people. For some it’s a genre of music, for others it’s a lifestyle. If you ask Luke Silas, drummer for Brooklyn-based quartet Anamanaguchi, he’ll tell you that for him and his band mates there is nothing that captures the DIY aesthetic of the punk movement more than the low-fidelity sounds of early Nintendo games.

“You have a shitty guitar,” Silas says, carrying on an imaginary conversation with Johnny Rotten or Joey Ramone. “Well, we have these shitty square waves.”

He is talking, of course, about chiptune—or Nintendocore, as it is alternatively called—a style of music that celebrates the jagged, unpolished sounds originally employed by pioneering electronic composer and Switched-On Bach mastermind Wendy Carlos, as well as early videogame soundtrack programmer Koji Kondo.

“Every sound is raw and gritty and there is nothing to hide behind,” Silas explains of his affinity for the music. He hears purity and truth ringing through the coarse, primitive electronic tones. It resonates deeply with Silas, who calls the score to the original Zelda videogame “timeless.”

Silas, along with band mates James DeVito, Ary Warnaar and Peter Berkman—who will perform this Saturday, Oct. 29, in the Catalyst Atrium—all feel a connection to such music, and it is apparent in their work.

Anamanaguchi sounds like a cheerier version of The Fall of Troy—albeit trapped inside a Nintendo Entertainment System and playing the soundtrack for a side-scrolling, fighting-adventure game, like Battletoads or Double Dragon.

On the band’s latest record, Dawn Metropolis, seizure-inducing, blippy arpeggios shimmer atop buzzing, angular bass notes and rapid-fire, post-hardcore drum programming—each snare hit recalling the sound of an 8-bit punch or karate kick. The record is one non-stop onslaught of bleeps and bloops, strung together by wavering monosynth leads and punctuated by dimension jumps, plasma beam shots and extra-life one-ups.

“We are all grounded in the same aesthetic and sound palate,” says Silas, explaining how the group has congealed around chiptune.

As Millennials—members of Generation Y—the guys of Anamanaguchi have grown up in a world saturated with electronic noise: the crackling and screeching of a dial-up modem connecting to the Internet, the sound of Mario sliding down a porthole, busy signals and more cell phone ringtones than you can shake a stick at. Although two of the members of Anamanaguchi grew up in Los Angeles and the other two came of age in Weschester, N.Y., they are all united by a force that has come to shape an entire generation of 20-to-30-somethings: videogames and the electronic revolution.

Silas says his band definitely has strong nostalgic ties to videogames and nerd culture. In fact, a Nintendo console and a Nintendo Game Boy serve as instruments in Anamanaguchi. Using a handful of programs—including NerdTracker 2, Scream Tracker and Little Sound DJ—Silas and others in his band build the 8-bit backing tracks, over which they ultimately play their guitar, bass and drum lines.

While it might not be the most appropriate music for every mood (getting pumped for Halloween weekend? check; romantic candle light dinner? definitely not)—and while some may find Dawn Metropolis downright nauseating—one thing is for sure: the group has Nintendocore nailed down tight, and the band’s latest record is sure to strike a chord with anyone who can recall wasting entire summer days mashing their thumbs raw against the rectangular, red, black and gray NES control pad.

Anamanaguchi plays at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 29, at The Catalyst Atrium, 1011 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz. Tickets are $10. 423-1338.

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