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First post, by xjas

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You know that jazzy, upbeat, melodic synthpop that was used in heaps of oldschool platform games? I've been listening to a ton of this stuff lately but I can't figure out what it's called. It started on consoles in the early '90s (think Megadrive or SNES) but blew up way beyond background music in the tracker scene a little later, right when the first wave of digital synths got cheap-ish (Roland D50, Kawai K4, Yamaha SY, etc.) or everyone got their hands on a sample pack from them. Alexander Brandon was a master of the style.

It's not doskpop or spacesynth but has a lot in common with both of those. It's far more interesting than modern "tropical house" but sometimes (not always!) has tropical themes & instrumentation. I think it has roots in early-'80s Japanese jazz fusion, probably because it originated in Japanese games & that's what the composers were into, but it got heavily pop-ized and less experimental along the way.

These days you mostly hear it in... retro style platformers, naturally. 😜

Here are some examples (there may be a couple different subgenres or variants here) :
Alexander Brandon - Jazz 2 Laboratory
Bacter vs Saga Musix - Whiskey Drops
cTrix - Light N0va
Woofle - Dragon Valley
Skaven - Revenge of the Cats
Virt - Orbital Bombardment
Virt - Space Dojo 1

I feel like there's absolutely a name for this 'genre' but I just can't come up with what it is.

twitch.tv/oldskooljay - playing the obscure, forgotten & weird - most Tuesdays & Thursdays @ 6:30 PM PDT. Bonus streams elsewhen!

Reply 5 of 14, by xjas

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oeuvre wrote:

Vectorman is one of my favorite soundtracks on the Megadrive. 😀 The FM version is great but there's also a full CD audio version by the original composer that just blows me away. Tracks from this sneak into my DJ sets all the time. Nothing like watching a full crowd dance their asses off to music from an obscure-ass 16-bit game no one else in the room has heard of. It's a bit more techno & trance oriented than the stuff I'm thinking about though.

There's a great interview out there with the composer where he discusses the soundtrack among other things about his music.

shiva2004 wrote:

Although the tracks you posted vary greatly in style it's usually called synth-pop or synth-rock, depending on the stylistic emphasis (also 16-bit game music).

Sooooooort of... but "synthpop" is a really wide umbrella term that's dominated by more commercial, mainstream acts, usually with vocals, and is really rooted in '80s-style new-wave. I don't think the term quite nails it down... I'm specifically looking for something to call the mostly-non-vocal, heavily melodic style that incorporates a bunch of jazz elements that the mainstream acts didn't use.

There's probably not one specific name for this and yes, there's a ton of overlap. I was kind of hoping something would jump out.

Synth rock, some of it, sure... Synth jazz, maybe?

twitch.tv/oldskooljay - playing the obscure, forgotten & weird - most Tuesdays & Thursdays @ 6:30 PM PDT. Bonus streams elsewhen!

Reply 6 of 14, by VileR

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All those sub-sub-sub-genre qualifiers are excellent migraine generators. I can see where you take 'jazz' from, but (IMHO YMMV OFC BBQ) the jazzy elements are pretty diluted in this stuff. Somehow I associate a lot of these melody structures with 1970s prog-rock influences, like maybe in this song.

Curious, what would you call this?

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Reply 7 of 14, by xjas

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VileRancour wrote:

All those sub-sub-sub-genre qualifiers are excellent migraine generators. I can see where you take 'jazz' from, but (IMHO YMMV OFC BBQ) the jazzy elements are pretty diluted in this stuff. Somehow I associate a lot of these melody structures with 1970s prog-rock influences, like maybe in this song.

Curious, what would you call this?

Nice AT2 track! Hadn't heard that one. It reminds me of Acidjazzed Evening (which I don't like all that much - yours is way better), but then it's got a great techno kick drum, a bunch of chip influence from e.g. stuff by Sanxion & Vibrants, and then the "guitar" shredding... Jazzprog? Chip-jazz-prog? Chprog?

Haha yeah, you can go down a rabbit hole with genres and never come back. For what it's worth, I'm trying to upload and properly tag some of shows I played last year so that people find them when they search by genre*. I was hoping a common name that everyone (but me) knew would pop out.

There's definitely a lot of prog in some of this too. The experimental jazz stuff did get toned down a lot as influences from pop & techno got absorbed in. That made it catchier and friendlier, but that's not a bad thing. I suspect we're talking about multiple tiny subgenres here anyway. Tracker music has always been really hard to shoehorn into standard categories.

I might just go with 'jazzpop' or 'synth-jazz'...

(* this does make a difference - one of my sets hit #10 in the 'electro-swing' charts on Mixcloud and got promoted a bit, getting me a whole bunch of plays. I think there are all of three people doing 'electro-swing' on Mixcloud.

A set I'm working on right now has Light N0va, Dragon Valley, Whiskey Drops, two Virt tracks, another one from Freedom Planet, plus a bunch of demoscene stuff, and no, I didn't play that to any kind of specific nerd/gamer audience. 😜 Another one has stuff from Vectorman and an obscure-ass 1997 Mac game called Battle Girl. I just do this kind of shit all the time.)

twitch.tv/oldskooljay - playing the obscure, forgotten & weird - most Tuesdays & Thursdays @ 6:30 PM PDT. Bonus streams elsewhen!

Reply 8 of 14, by Shponglefan

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There's a music genre called Outrun (aka Synthwave) named so after the 80's arcade game and based on retro-80's style synthesizer music. Although while a lot of 80's game music tended to be faster paced and have more melodic jazzy/rock aspects, I find a lot of modern synthwave tends to be slower and more rhythmic.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EQnd8TEcEM4
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LuDS1I9K0_w

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Reply 9 of 14, by DosDaddy

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Some of these tunes, like the Dragon Valley, strike me as distinctively "videogamish". In other words, I have no recollection of ever hearing something quite like that on the radio or any other place where music would be expected to be played.

If it were only as easy as it was with Amiga demo music!, where it'd pretty often be just a take on either New Order's "Blue Monday" (Synth-Pop) or Leftfield's "Open Up" (generic techno garbage).

Reply 11 of 14, by Kreshna Aryaguna Nurzaman

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xjas wrote:
Here are some examples (there may be a couple different subgenres or variants here) : Alexander Brandon - Jazz 2 Laboratory Bact […]
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Here are some examples (there may be a couple different subgenres or variants here) :
Alexander Brandon - Jazz 2 Laboratory
Bacter vs Saga Musix - Whiskey Drops
cTrix - Light N0va
Woofle - Dragon Valley
Skaven - Revenge of the Cats
Virt - Orbital Bombardment
Virt - Space Dojo 1

I feel like there's absolutely a name for this 'genre' but I just can't come up with what it is.

Those songs are almost like Star Control 2 soundtracks, the difference is the instruments being played, because Star Con 2 uses MOD tracker.

What really intrigues me is Japanese game soundtracks, like Ryu theme from Street Figh6er II. To what genre does it belong? Is that J-Rock? Japanese Rock?

Never thought this thread would be that long, but now, for something different.....
Kreshna Aryaguna Nurzaman.

Reply 12 of 14, by Scali

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Yea, I think I'd also go for jazz fusion, drawing from Japanese influences such as Casiopea perhaps.
The sound is somewhat different because guitars had to be replaced with synthesizers/samples due to the limitations of the hardware, making the sound closer to doskpop/spacesynth, but with more emphasis on complex harmonic structures and melodies. So still jazz fusion, just fused with other things.
The more diluted jazz variations would probably be more like Kenny G... Some call it smooth jazz, others argue that it's not jazzy enough to be called jazz.

I suppose this is also in the genre you are talking about? https://youtu.be/3qHJ5ki1Eyg

http://scalibq.wordpress.com/just-keeping-it- … ro-programming/

Reply 13 of 14, by subhuman@xgtx

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Scali wrote:
Yea, I think I'd also go for jazz fusion, drawing from Japanese influences such as Casiopea perhaps. The sound is somewhat diffe […]
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Yea, I think I'd also go for jazz fusion, drawing from Japanese influences such as Casiopea perhaps.
The sound is somewhat different because guitars had to be replaced with synthesizers/samples due to the limitations of the hardware, making the sound closer to doskpop/spacesynth, but with more emphasis on complex harmonic structures and melodies. So still jazz fusion, just fused with other things.
The more diluted jazz variations would probably be more like Kenny G... Some call it smooth jazz, others argue that it's not jazzy enough to be called jazz.

I suppose this is also in the genre you are talking about? https://youtu.be/3qHJ5ki1Eyg

Casiopea / T-Square.. that sound is very prevalent on 90's japanese games soundtracks.

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Reply 14 of 14, by creepingnet

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Shponglefan wrote:

There's a music genre called Outrun (aka Synthwave) named so after the 80's arcade game and based on retro-80's style synthesizer music. Although while a lot of 80's game music tended to be faster paced and have more melodic jazzy/rock aspects, I find a lot of modern synthwave tends to be slower and more rhythmic.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EQnd8TEcEM4
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LuDS1I9K0_w

I f***in' LOVE Outrun/New Retro Wave music. Some of my favorite stuff to listen to when working on my old machines. Fits the mood. I don't consider any of the stuff in this thread that style though to my ears since I kind of think of NRW/Outrun as more of a 80's genre - kind of like listening to Loverboy with the guitars removed, or something like a instrumental (usually) version of The Cars Heartbeat City.

Anyway, back on topic.....

oeuvre wrote:

I like that stuff, if I had to give it a name, I'd call it "Adlib Techno" - just because it sounds like an old Adlib card doing it's thing to me in a techno style. I like that piece, kind of hilarious but ominous at the same time. Sort of like a confused Trent Reznor trying to make a new NIN album using a 486 with an early SoundBlaster.

xjas wrote:
You know that jazzy, upbeat, melodic synthpop that was used in heaps of oldschool platform games? I've been listening to a ton o […]
Show full quote

You know that jazzy, upbeat, melodic synthpop that was used in heaps of oldschool platform games? I've been listening to a ton of this stuff lately but I can't figure out what it's called. It started on consoles in the early '90s (think Megadrive or SNES) but blew up way beyond background music in the tracker scene a little later, right when the first wave of digital synths got cheap-ish (Roland D50, Kawai K4, Yamaha SY, etc.) or everyone got their hands on a sample pack from them. Alexander Brandon was a master of the style.

It's not doskpop or spacesynth but has a lot in common with both of those. It's far more interesting than modern "tropical house" but sometimes (not always!) has tropical themes & instrumentation. I think it has roots in early-'80s Japanese jazz fusion, probably because it originated in Japanese games & that's what the composers were into, but it got heavily pop-ized and less experimental along the way.

These days you mostly hear it in... retro style platformers, naturally. 😜

Here are some examples (there may be a couple different subgenres or variants here) :
Alexander Brandon - Jazz 2 Laboratory
Bacter vs Saga Musix - Whiskey Drops
cTrix - Light N0va
Woofle - Dragon Valley
Skaven - Revenge of the Cats
Virt - Orbital Bombardment
Virt - Space Dojo 1

I feel like there's absolutely a name for this 'genre' but I just can't come up with what it is.

The main element is those water-drop noises and sychopated synth rhythms. Outrun/NRW sometimes leans on the 80's variant of those elements. In the early 90's I recall us calling it "World Music", probably because it was still very popular all over the world even while/after Grunge was going on. A lot of that stuff I think was done because A.) in the early 1990's, just a smidge before Grunge came around, projects like C&C Music Factory and the like made dance music that was like this in style and B.) It's a lot easier to have dance music on a PC in the early 1990's via MIDI than to do some junky sounding MIDI MEtal - which is what DOOM used (though it might have sounded better with a Gravis Ultrasound or a SoundBlaster AWE with a custom Soundfont).

In general I'd just group all those in the "Techno" group though. Though cTrix sounds more like a 90's leaning Outrun track to me.

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