The Oddly Likable Input 64
Prior to 1985, the music supplied for rudimentary computer games such as Boulder Dash or Lazy Jones had mainly been tinny, barely recognizable cover versions and short sound loops. The arrival of people such as Ron Hubbard ("Thalamusic") into the world of the C64 rapidly changed all that. As the games themselves became more and more visually exciting and also idiosyncratic, making up for any lack of technical detail with sheer enthusiasm and imagination, so the music adapted and progressed. Sports games, war games, jump and run games, space scenarios, Japanese beat 'em ups?the market exploded into fierce competition, helped by the fact it was as easy for a home user to come up with and conceptualize an idea as it was for a professional designer. All you needed was a C64, a monitor, 1541 floppy, a datasette, joystick, 5-1/4-inch diskette and a 9-pin printer. Oh, and a little time didn't hurt.
Some of us old-time music purists put the blame for the demise of analog sound?warm, human, vinyl?squarely on the shoulders of C64 pioneers such as Hubbard and Martin Galway ("Arkanoid," "Magnetic Fields IV," "Insects in Space"). When Kraftwerk and other electro-pop pioneers such as Joe Meek utilized synthesizers, it was partly to achieve the disorientating juxtaposition of the human and the alien (the modern, the space age, the new). Hubbard and Galway were attempting to approximate analog sound with their 8-bit computer delay, and whether they ever achieved this aim or not, one thing is for sure: through their music, they acclimatized the Western (and Japanese and what have you) marketplaces to a particular sound and approach to music, one that later paved the way for nonvocal jungle and trance rhythms. (Jeroen Tel's "Music from Turbo Outrun" could have been directly lifted from last year's Creamfields festival.) Indeed, what is 2001's fascination with the vocoder if not a throwback to the naive digital explorations as represented on this fascinating, oddly likable album? The tracks here are all culled from the glory days of the C64, between 1984 and 1989, and frankly they'd make a marvelous present to the next person who wants to get snobby about Trans Am or Krautrock on your ass.
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