Archive for the ‘amiga’ Category

Top Amiga Scene Composers

May 23, 2014

Eurochart was a disk magazine that published perhaps the most well-respected charts of the Amiga demoscene. It was a big thing to be #1 there! Among other things, it ranked music composers and I found a list of all the #1-composers over the years (1989-2006). Made by Slash/Citron in a Facebook-group. So, I’ll just leave this here with links to their current work (not necessarily music).

Oh and just so you know – the Amiga scene didn’t die in 2006. There’s still plenty of good music being made by people like Hoffman and my group mates in Up Rough. Anyway:

Top Amiga composers (amount of #1-spots @ Eurochart)

1. Revisq – 7
2. Muffler – 6
3. Jester, Romeo Knight – 5
4. Audiomonster, 4-mat – 4
5. Tip, Moby, Jogeir – 3
6. Dr.Awesome, Reed – 2
7. TipMantronix, Dizzy, Ganja, Yolk 1

#1-spots for all Eurochart issues

#1 1. DR. AWESOME – CRUSADERS
#2 1. DR.AWESOME / CRUSADERS
#3 1. Romeo Knight / RSI
#4 1. Romeo Knight / Red Sector Inc. 
#5 1. Romeo Knight / Red Sector Inc. 
#6 1. Romeo Knight / Red Sector Inc.
#7 1. Romeo Knight / Red Sector Inc.
#8 1. 4-Mat / Anarchy (RSI?)
#9 1. 4-Mat / Anarchy 
#10 1. 4Mat (Ex.Anarchy – last appearance)
#11 1. 4-mat / Anarchy 
#12 1. Tip / Phenomena 
#13 1. Tip / Phenomena 
#14 1. Tip / Phenomena 
#15 1. Mantronix & Tip / Phenomena 
#16 1. Audiomonster / Silents 
#17 1. Audiomonster / Melon Dezign 
#18 1. Audiomonster / Melon Dezign 
#19 1. Audiomonster / Melon Dezign 
#20 1. Jester / Sanity 
#21 1. Jester / Sanity 
#22 1. Jester / Sanity 
#23 1. Jester / Sanity 
#24 1. Jester / Sanity 
#25 1. Moby / Sanity 
#26 1. Moby / Sanity 
#27 1. Moby / Sanity 
#28 1. Dizzy 
#29 1. Jogeir/Scoop
#30 1. Jogeir/Pulse&Noiseless
#31 1. Jogeir/Pulse&Noiseless
#32 1. Revisq/Anadune&Floppy
#33 1. Revisq/AND&FLP&NAH 
#34 1: Muffler of Haujobb&DCS 
#35 1: Muffler of Haujobb&DCS 
#36 1: Muffler of SCX&DCS&LVB 
#37 1. Muffler 
#38 1. Revisq 
#39 1. Revisq 
#40 1. Revisq 
#41 1. Ganja 
#42 1. Muffler 
#43 1. Muffler 
#44 1. Reed 
#45 1. Reed 
#46 1. Revisq 
#47 1. Revisq 
#48 1. Yolk

 

 

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New Media is More Obsolete than Old Media

May 18, 2014

Cory Arcangel, Golan Levin and others have done some great work to retrieve old Amiga graphics that Andy Warhol made back in the day. This is some great work! And I think it’s great that the Amiga gets some attention in terms of computer creativity instead of the constant Apple-ism. But.. what kind of attention is it?

Many artists, media scholars and journalists have a special way of talking about old media. The term hacking usually pops up. Even if you just download software and use it in a very normal way – like most chip music is made for example – we still love to call it hacking. But why? There are several possible explanations. First – we love to believe that humans are in control of technology and that fantasy can flourish with these old and supposedly non-user-friendly machines. Human intelligence can tame even this uncivilized digital beast! Secondly – the term hacking oozes creativity and innovation and has become an omnipotent term used for almost everything.

Obsolescence is another popular word. I’ve written about this many times before, for example in relation to zombie media. Let’s put it like this: new media is permeated with planned obsolescence. Old media is not. Amigas were not designed to be obsolete after a few years like so many modern platforms, systems and programs are. So from our current perspective it seems totally incredible that these old floppy disks and file formats can still be used. Because we’re not used to that anymore. Most people don’t know how easy it is to copy that floppy to a flash card and view the images with UAE or even Photoshop.

It’s also common to think of old media as fragile. But then why do nuclear missiles rely on 8″ floppies? Why do so many airports use DOS, matrix printers and Hi8 video? Why did Sony sell 12 million 3.5″ floppies in 2009?Why did so many gabber/noise people use the Amiga for live shows? Because these things are stable, sturdy and built to last. And because it’s expensive to change it, sure, but the point is: old media is clearly not as fragile as many people seem to think.

To summarize this discourse we can say that 8-bit users are hacking media that is fragile and obsolete. While there is obviously some truth to that statement, a general adaptation of it rests on some pretty problematic ideological assumptions that we all need to relate to in order to get by in a consumer culture. For example:

“New media is better than old media because in technology, change = progress”.

I think we can all be more careful with how we discuss old media in order to move away from this dangerous misunderstanding. I know that there are many contexts where that is not suitable, possible or meaningful. But technological change oozes with politics and it doesn’t have to be conservative or retro-cool to criticize or reject the new. So bring it on, hipster!

 

► Omri Suleiman – Music For a 15 Year Old Me

August 26, 2012

A lot of chipmusic releases today is either “modern” or “chip”. Very few artists seem to pull off both, at the same time. This is exactly what Omri Suleiman does!

Music For a 15 Year Old Me builds on an oft-forgotten origin of chipmusic (crack intros) and fuses it with techno, house and UK hardcore from the 1990s. The results? A new future for chipmusic!

Stream and download for free at http://chipflip.org/05.

Crafted by the long-lost Amiga scene musician Omri Suleiman, it fuses dancefloor bass with sound tracker magic to form a refreshing mixture of crack intro mystics and dancefloor energy. Occasionally it has a similar machinic atmosphere to that of early Autechre, and other times it sounds like skilled guitar solos and computer ballads. As a plus, the original files all fit on a single floppy disk!

As usual, Chipflip doesn’t try to emulate the album form. Instead, this is more similar to a music disk with its eerie PETSCII  interface by Raquel Meyers and GotoAT. The MP3-archive is also available at archive.org.

Music For a 15 Year Old Me is Omri’s attempt to reach back to his teenage self, back when he was working with Amiga groups like Anarchy, Magnetic Fields and Scoopex. He was making chipmusic before the term even existed. Omri:

At that time maybe we referred to them more often as intro tunes, rather than chiptunes. The requirement that, after the copy protection was removed, a crack intro to publicise the group could be placed in the unused first sector of the floppy disk meant that the music had to be less than 10kb in size.

Eventually, Omri also started to perform in the London underground scene in acts like Afterglow and Invisible Technologies. They played live using two Amigas and a Yamaha music computer. While most of that music has been lost today (Raw EP on Beautiful Records is an exception), it is clear that Music For a 15 Year Old Me picks up on the ambience of Detroit techno, early UK hardcore and house. The process behind the release is also a nod back to himself:

To consider the only relevant audience to be, me, 20ish years ago – frees the creative process of considerations and conformities and fashion which can sometimes limit my approach to writing music.

In order to facilitate this concept, all of the songs have been produced using only a sound tracker type program (Milkytracker in this case), with the only sample editing being that available inside the tracker.

Which also means : no filters, no reverbs, no synths, no channel EQs or compression, no effects apart from those you program yourself by manipulating the pitch, volume or sample offset.

Here’s hoping that teenage Omri will pick up on this release, and respond with some more Suleiman music. To read Omri’s own words about this release, visit musicfora15yearoldme.com.

Amiga in the UK-charts: Dex & Jonesey

January 13, 2012

In the 1990’s you could use chipmusic tools to make dance music hits. It was r rare to hear 8-bit songs in public before that. With a few exceptions, records with 8-bit music appeared in the 90’s and were made on the Amiga (see the timeline).

The British duo Dex & Jonesey have probably been involved with more chart hits with the Amiga than anyone else. They worked with 15 UK chart hits between 1996 and 2001, even with mainstream folks like Phil Collins and Lionel Richie. Imagine feeding some phresh Phil Collins vocals into OctaMED, eyh!

They mainly worked with more dancefloor oriented artists though. Their remixes of Josh Wink’s Higher State of Consciousness apparently sold about half a million copies (including their radio edit). Dex & Jonesey used the Amiga for Hardfloor, Usura, Todd Terry and about 40 other releases (check the discography, up until Strings of Justice).

Back in the 1990’s, music retromania was more about synthesizers than computers. It wasn’t like today, when you get bonus points for any 8-bit reference. I mail-talked with Jonesey to get some more information.

– The music biz found out soon enough after attending the studio that we were literally running a Phil Collins record from 1000 pounds worth of studio and out doing David Morales and Arman van Helden. It was bizarre looking back! We did some huge magazine interviews which was really fun. Yet the music industry hated the fact we were not Apple Mac focused and produced so many hit records from a ‘poor man’s’ computer. There was a lot of negativity that we had to fight, but content as always was king and we made it through the storm!

Dex & Jonesey started with Amiga 500 and Protracker, but quickly moved on to using two Amiga 1200 running OctaMED, complemented by a keyboard. – The 44khz quality of DAT was good enough to master from. We had literally a full studio although everything had to be recorded live to DAT including live keyboards which I played. It was daunting but at the same time great fun, it was like being on tour and playing in a live band.

Dex & Jonesey had a competetive edge in two ways. They had a huge library of sounds that they’d sampled from extended mixes amongst other things (all stored on floppies, of course). Secondly, the sound of the Amiga made it stand out from the others. – The sounds were crunchy and tough, not dull and bland, thus allowed my music to have an advantage that others could not replicate. I even had a famous product downgrade to an 8 bit to get the ‘sound’ but it was more than technology that drove the output/results.

In 1999 the duo split up, but Jonesey continued to use the Amiga for hits like Independence. He stuck with the Amigas for another two years, but then switched to Logic on Mac. – When finance got much better I bailed out on the Amigas as technology had caught up and the machines had broken down. I had bought around 15 of them and grown tired of the failures. I went to Apple Mac and still have the leading 8 core system that runs Logic Pro. 

What OctaMED provided compared to the new setup, was a fast work pace. – The part I missed about the Amigas the most was the quickness of operations. It was so user friendly where Macs are always so complex!

Such ‘immersive’ qualities of trackers are often forgotten. Once you know them, they are really quick to work with. A lot of the people I interviewed for my thesis mentioned it, and it was recently empirically researched by Nash & Blackwell of the Rainbow Research Group (pdf). But trackers are not made for handling long chunks of audio. If you’re a remixer and use the original audio, even a modern tracker like Renoise is a bit painful. So respect to Dex & Jonesey for keeping it up for so long!

Amigacore Without Amiga?

November 21, 2011

At the excellent Bimbo Tower store in Paris, they have a specific section for Amigacore. I’ve never seen that before. It had about 10 vinyls with classics from DHR-people like Catani and Babalon, artists from Bloody Fist, and so on. But there were also two releases that I’d never heard about.

R-ictus – Onanisme Rituel (video) is some sort of speedcore and Vverevvolf Grehv’s album Zombie Aesthetics is a bit more metal-oriented (video). They are both quite lo-fi, but obviously not produced only with Amiga.

But it has the Amiga spirit. And perhaps some of it was even made with the Paula chip of the Amiga. But that’s not the point here. Perhaps Amigacore is a valid genre even without the Amiga? I wasn’t convinced about the term when I wrote this. But if there’s a special section for amigacore in a record store, it does have a broader relevance for music listeners.

I suppose that amigacore has lo-fi and distorted sounds that has not been drenched in cheesy postproduction effects like a lot of breakcore still seems to be. So it’s not only about the raw timbre, but also about the sequencing technique. I believe that trackers were highly influential on both IDM and breakcore in the 1990’s. Early ‘breakcore’ acts like Venetian Snares and Nasenbluten used the Amiga. So perhaps amigacore is basically like ‘oldschool breakcore’…?

 

► Phriz-B Live at Lazybird

October 18, 2011

Like many others, Phriz-B was making loud dance music on his Amiga in the early 1990’s. He didn’t exactly reach the charts with his tracker rave (unlike e.g. Urban Shakedown), but it was definitely good enough to go on an underground vinyl label.

Sadly, it never did. All that was ever released was a CDr in 2004. Luckily, I heard of this release from herv and got in touch with Phriz-B to get it re-released. What I got was even better – a live gig performed exactly 7 years ago with the original floppies from 1992-1994. No fancy equipment like hard drives or mixers. Original floppy headz, sweat!

Live at Lazybird contains some classic Amiga samples that some of you nerds might recognize. But other than that (and the precious Amiga distortion) this has little to do with chip/demo-blabla. This is party, not packdisk! Rave on!

Get it here

► Goto80 + Raquel Meyers: 2SLEEP1

September 14, 2011

2SLEEP1 is a playlist of audiovisual performances in text mode, designed to make you fall asleep. The idea is to show the music being composed in real-time (Exedub) along with typewriter-style animations (e.g. Sjöman).

Both the music interface and the graphics are built up from text symbols. This means that the (graphical) objects can work together with the (musical) instructions, on a visual level. Vank is a first rough test of this and Matsamöt makes a similar thing, without the improvisation. Finally, Echidna is a silent movie with semi-live music.

Made by Raquel Meyers and Goto80 (me), mostly using c-64 and Amiga. The videos are early explorations of new methods, so it’s rather brutal at times. Greetz to Poison (rip) and Toplap!

Chipmusic Festival, 1990

August 31, 2011

“We just called it “chiptune” then. I think. I mean, we really didn’t have anything else to call it”. That’s what Minusbaby says about the early days of the chipscene in USA. Nice to read some thoughts about this. My own memories are a bit blurry. But it was certainly unchartered territory back then, perhaps even more so in USA then Europe. Chiptune was the most popular term in the 00’s. I suppose 8bitpeoples contributed to that, like most others. The old VORC was perhaps even more important. Now, the chipmusic term seems to be getting more <3 again, judging from biographies, forums (chipmusic.org), etc.

In the 1980s some people talked about micromusic as music made with microcomputers (8-bit home computers with PSG soundchips, mostly). When the Amiga came out, it could play things that didn’t sound like micromusic. Therefore the terms chiptune and chipmusic appeared. But what did these terms mean 20 years ago?

I’ve previously argued that in 1990 chipmusic was equal to chipmodules but that was probably wrong, actually. I’ve discussed it with several of ye old legends, and there are different opinions. Except for chipmodules, around 1990 chipmusic could also refer to synthetical Amiga music or PSG-music.

What can the archives tell us? According to a search at Bitfellas there seems to have been chipmodules as early as 1988, in Compackting Disk Intro by The Supply Team (a Danish pioneer group also on the C64). I was too lazy to setup UAE and check it out though, so I’m not sure. :) UPDATE: mod.introsound was made by Rambones (still active), and uses a short non-looped sample.

The Supply Team - Compackting Disk Intro (1988)

In 1989 the word ‘chip’ starts to appear here and there without any apparent chipmusic-reason. More importantly, 4-mat makes chipmodules and releases them in a lost production and in an intro without music :) [1]. TSM released something like a chipmodule in Invasion, called weinigkb – few kilobytes [2]. He told me that he heard the chiptune-term only years later, and it meant Soundtracker-based songs with short C64-samples. (I mistook TSM for Suntronic)

Surely enough, 1990 saw the release of atleast two chipmodule music disks with C64-covers: Sludger’s Music Demo and Captured Imagination by 4-mat. He also released chip-things like Mole’s Hot Demo PackSkywise’s IntroMusic Demo (called Chip Music Demo at Bitfellas?) and Inspired SoundsChip Music Festival by Magnetic Fields is the earliest use of the term that I’ve found, and there are no chipmodules in it. It’s all synthetical songs made by Jochen Hippel, Ziphoid & Uncle Tom, Walkman, etc. Chipmodules is a new method and there’s no established term. Look for example at the text in Blazer’s Riots or Savage’s Short.

Commercial break! Some chip-hits of 1990 are Gonad’s Cracks by Omri Suleiman, Fireworx by Mantronix, Paranoimia by TSM (video below) and intro-music by 4-mat.

Chip Music Festival, 1990

It seems like chipmusic appeared before chiptune. Chiptune was a noun, meaning a piece of chipmusic. (That always annoyed me with chipmusic chiptune later. Could it originate from a linguistic glitch between English and Japanese?). Anyway, by 1991 the chiptune term was well established. Nuke/Anarchy made a song called chiptune-12k, 4-mat’s song L.F.F also appears as mod.chiptune, and there’s this. The musicdisk Synthetic Vibes includes some of the most famous chip-names at the time (except the already mentioned also Mantronix, Heatbeat, Emax). [3]

(Btw, if there was a competing term, it could’ve been intro-music. There are many songs called that, for example by Heatbeat, Dr. Awesome, 4-mat, etc. But I guess the C64-inspiration made the chip-terms seem more fitting?)

Unfortunately music archives don’t really date its entries, so it’s hard to do a similar research. But on the other hand, you can search for text inside the songs. That way, we can find songs like megademo-vectorbobs where 4-mat claims to have invented chipmodules and asks all sample-rippers to piss off. When I interviewed him for my thesis he was not very proud of this, and admitted to being a sample-ripper too :)

This little excursion tells us that the chipmusic-term was used in 1990, and that chipmodules might’ve been around in 1988. Also, the use of the chip-term seems to have a UK-origin (Anarchy, Magnetic Fields, etc). But hopefully someone can take this research further. Would be interesting to see more heavy data analysis of these archives, to find out more about how chip-terms were used in demos and songs. (And who stole whose samples, for example. Remix culture 30 years ahead of its time!)

But one thing that strikes me, is that the synthetical Amiga tunes around 1990 have aged quite well. If you listen to this MP3-playlist of Amiga tunes from 1989, it feels very modern compared to other electronic music from that time (for a chip-literate, anyway). First of all, it’s not really songs – it’s loops. The linear song-format, on which most music consumption is based, is not really applicable here (great!). Secondly, the minimalist sound capabilities make it less dated. Elsewhere there were orgies in cut-up sampling, drum machines, consumerized sequencers and FM-synths. But the assembler-based 8-bit micro synthesis led to … something else. And last but not least – the music was embedded in a cracker culture that we – the consumers – were mesmerized by. Who were they? How did they make the music? How can I do it? No recording artist could get the same kind of mysterious distribution.

Some people would say it’s “only nostalgia”. Maybe it is, whatever people mean by that expression. But at the same time, this is so different from most contemporary chipmusic. In fact, it doesn’t share much with it at all. During the pinnacle of chip-purism a few years ago it would not even qualify as chipmusic. But today it feels like its pointing towards a possible future for chipmusic. The chipscene is described mostly in dusty postmodern technoid terms á la remix culture (like appropriation). But that’s going to change in the 2010s. You read it here first!

[1] 4-mat’s first chipmodules were Autumn, Knighthawk and Space Journey according to himself. They were based on ST-01 samples.

[2] Check TSM’s page about his 1989-activities, including the source code to a 1988 text editor softsynth for Amiga. Some great crackmospherical space ambient electro in there.

[3] As for 1992: Music Madness is a large v/a chipmod musicdisk. Some songs called chip music. Also Chip On My Shoulder. Possibly also look at Pink’s Ansi Music series and Chipmania (92-94).

Is ANSI ASCII or is ASCII ANSI?

August 23, 2011

Text art is having a revival of sorts. If you didn’t notice it yet, you’ll see it in the next release on Chipflip with some goodness from Raquel Meyers. I recently saw some nice work made with Melly’s ASCIIPaint and also good animations made in a program called ascii-paint (which was built from ASCII-Paint).

ASCIIPaint-work by Markham, 2010 (cropped, to avoid artefacts)

Yeah. Hm. Since ASCII is the lowest common denominator for all (?) computer character sets since the 1960s, I suppose that most other standards (Unicode, PETSCII, ATASCII, ANSI, etc) can be called ASCII art aswell. But that’s an engineer perspective. From a more cultural point of view, you could argue that each of these charsets has its own function, history, aesthetics and users. So they are more different than similar.

The C64’s PETSCII gave BBS’s (and disk directories, BASIC-games, etc) a special feel, especially since the slow modem speeds made them automatically “animated“. Telnetting to for example Antidote today is an experience that is hard to match. As you read the messages posted in the PETSCII-section, you can see how the text (art) slowly builds up, char by char. Check out Poison’s Notemaker demo to see how it can look. Can you feel the baud rate, aww yeah?!

PETSCII-stuff by Raquel Meyers, 2010, for chipflip.org/02 (coming soon)

Afaik, PETSCII was never released on its own. But on the Amiga scene dedicated ASCII-groups was formed, and the so-called ASCII-colly started to appear as separate artefacts around 1992 [1]. It was mostly connected with warez/hacking but also the demoscene. These cultural settings and the tight monospaced fonts and line spacing led to an eLiTE mixture of graffiti and poetry. When they used colours, they sometimes called it (Amiga) ANSI.

Razor 1911 logo by Skope of Up Rough & Divine Stylers, 2010

On the PC, you couldn’t make ASCII the same way. The most popular characters ( /  –  _  \ ) had space inbetween them, so it wasn’t possible to make continuous lines in the same way. PC ASCII-artists had to find other ways, and they mostly relied on the extra characters found in the 8-bit MS DOS font. It was a new style that the Amiga-people called ANSI, and the PC-people called (Block) ASCII. A couple of years later some PC-users returned to the 7-bit ASCII-usage and called it … newskool! This style became popular on the web, of course, but is nowadays often complemented with Unicode characters.

ANSI then, seems to be applicable to most text art that has colours. But if it’s Amiga text art (which isn’t really supposed to use any DOS/IBM-shit) you should watch out. And of course, if it’s PETSCII, you shouldn’t call it ANSI. You might get seriously injured.

But anyway – it seems that according to the PC’s “art scene” ideas the various ASCII-Paint softwares above should in fact be called ANSI-Paint. But I guess this is a battle that will be lost. For most people it’s not very relevant to distinguish between ANSI and ASCII. Just like with “8-bit” or “chipmusic” or “electro” it gets pretty complicated if you refuse to accept the dominant use.

Besides, is there anyone who wants to discuss the difference between ANSI and ASCII anyway? \o/

Btw#1: if you need more text art, you can also check out these posts
Btw #2: if you know of good resources on text art, get in touch.

[1] Year taken from Freax (p.121). Rotox, Desert and other West Germans are described as the first Amiga ASCII-artists in the late 1980s (which I have not been able to confirm). Other early ASCII-groups artists were H2O and Mogul (de) and U-Man (se). Some of the earliest Amiga ASCII groups are Epsilon Design (se) and Dezign (de). More info wanted!

Taketracker Mystery Solved?

April 22, 2011

In a previous post we saw that Taketracker was listed as the second most popular Amiga tracker, which was odd since it’s an obscure DOS-software. According to Redneckerz it was the most powerful 16-channel-tracker that used the MOD format.

I looked into it a bit more. According to Stone Oakvalley, the SOAMC collection used Deliplayer 2 to identify the music format. Other programs identify these “Taketracker-songs” as either Sound-, Noise- or Protracker. Below you can see Stone’s screenshots.

There are TT-songs in SOAMC that were made by Maktone, Dubmood, Zalza, Josss, Zabutom, Nagz and Cerror. Atleast some of their songs are made in Fasttracker II, saved as MOD. Also, if an FT2-songs are loaded into Protracker and saved again, they are still identified as Taketracker (according to Deetsay aka Tero).

On the other hand, Beathawk’s ambient-tune says in the sample-info “hopefully ucan play this right with pc”. Rez says that his TT-songs were made with Protracker 3.52. And if you search the TT-songs’ sample-infos for “amiga” you can find more songs that were definitely made on the Amiga. There are songs by Allister Brimble and Moby, but also those pioneerings works by 4-mat around 1990 (which were made in Protracker 1.3b).

The header of a MOD file only seems to have rough details about which tracker was used. Afaik, there’s no way to know for sure which tracker was used to make the songs. But there are obviously different ways to go, since the TT-songs are identified so differently by various software.

Stone decided to relabel all the TT-songs as Protracker. You can see a list of all the the conversions here. Hopefully someday there’ll be a proper MOD-identifier around. Until then, the Taketracker mystery is not solved!