The Oddly Likable Input 64

Written by Everett True on . Posted in Miscellaneous, Posts.


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.