Archive for the ‘atari’ Category

Black Dog, Swedish House Mafia, Anthony Rother – New Old Sceners!

November 13, 2015

After I published the rough blog post draft Famous People who Came From the Scene I received hundreds of suggestions of sceners who moved on to the music charts, the cinema, the gaming industry, and so on. The “success stories”. A bit overwhelming, and I had to try to decide which were relevant to include or not. I didn’t have time to do a thorough job, unfortunately.

But I learned a lot of new things! The Finnish games industry seems to be even more riddled with ex-sceners than Sweden is. I was also reminded that the softsynth company AudioRealism is from an Atari-scener. And that several sceners started to make 3D graphics and visual effects for Hollywood-style movies.

What I found even more interesting is that Anthony Rother, one of the bigger names in European “oldschool electro” scene especially 15 years ago, used to be in the C64-scene as Anthony R/Online. He didn’t release much it seems – there is just one song on CSDb – but he went to the legendary Venlo party in the Netherlands, December 1988. Although he never got there. He was stopped at the border because his passport was in bad shape. So Anthony and his group mates in Online ended up hanging around in Heinsberg until the discotheque opened as Paradroid put it. Thanks to Tero for digging up this information. And here is Tero’s C64 signed by Anthony, btw:

tero mäyränen anthony rother hacker online

Other sceners chose the mainstream, or eurodisco specifically. In Finland, Captain/Frantic was involved in the euro disco group Dance Nation (check this video!) and he probably even made some Smurf eurodisco. Thomas Detert, a famous name in C64-music, also made eurodisco in Activate (see video below).

A related genre to eurodisco, progressive trance (oops, dodging glow sticks from angry trancers once again), also has some big acts with scene backgrounds: Infected Mushroom and Logic Bomb. And in the real modern version of eurodisco, EDM, there is also some scene influence. Axwell of Swedish House Mafia used to make Amiga music as Quazar.

But what made me most happy to find, thanks to Tim Koch, was the old Amiga productions of Black Dog Productions. The two original members (now active as Plaid) made a few mysterious yet harmless Amiga “demos” before they pioneered the early 1990’s “intelligent techno” that led to IDM.

Fractal Factory #1 from 1990 (above) is way more hip hop inspired than most scene works at the time. Loopy and “trancey”, the rhythmic and harmonic approach has many similarities to their seminal Warp-album Bytes from 1993.

The Pharaoh amiga demo (above) is more rave-culture oriented. The music has these loopy, mysterious and monotonous beats and the visuals have.. well.. loopy, mysterious and monotonous animations. :)

They used a very odd music software. The comments on the Pharaoh-video (recommended reading) leads to this video of the Pharaoh-song playing in a tracker called MultiMedia Sound. This seems to be one of the least popular Amiga music programs ever, judging from SOAMC. To be fair though, there are hundreds of songs made in its predecessor, SoundFX.

Black Dog released more Amiga-stuff. Fractal Factory #2 was on a CU Amiga disk, for example. Interesting to note is that they released it in the public domain and not in the scene. While that might seem nitpicky, these were two culturally separated fields at the time. For sceners, the public domain was lame. You wouldn’t want to be caught dialling into a BBS full of PD-lamers! Although PD-people watched and distributed demos, afaik there was some resentment towards the cracker-parts of the scene. This distinction can still be seen today, for example in arguments about whether Compunet-productions should be on CSDb or not.

Black Dog had their own BBS called Black Dog Towers. I can’t find much info about it on the web, but I remember reading a log from a local trader who called the BBS using a Calling Card (w0w). He got to chat with Ken Downie who made some a snarky remark about the trader’s handle. Fair enough perhaps, becase he used the handle aPH3X tW1Nn. :)

Right, enough for now. Feel free to explore the list of “famous” sceners and add your suggestions to this neverending project.


The Truth Behind E.T + Something a Lot More Disturbing

May 2, 2014

In case you missed it – for the past week the internetz has been going bananas about Microsoft digging out tons of Atari cartridges in a desert in USA. Microsoft? Yeah, they are sponsoring a documentary about the “urban myth” that Atari’s game E.T was so bad that they buried it in a desert in USA in 1983. And now they’ve dug it out, and revealed the truth! Well…

1. It’s not news. It’s always been known that they buried cartridges (New York Times from 1983). Wikipedia even claims that kids looted the site to find not only E.T-carts but also Raiders of the Lost Ark, Defender, and Bezerk.

2. The E.T game was an experiment made in a few weeks. Whether the game is crap or not is up for debate, but it was a bold move in a flood of boring.

3. Atari made bad business choices and market predictions. They over-produced and over-priced their games, under pressure from their owner Warner. This was one of the factors of the North American video game crisis. It wasn’t about one single bad game. It was a bubble that burst. And it took years before it would inflate again, when Nintendo stepped up to show it’s done…

4. We now know for sure that it wasn’t only E.T in there, but several other games. In total more than 700,000 cartridges.

It’s going to be interesting to see the documentary, I guess. But the reporting of BREAKING! single game actually buried in the ground wow! is just wrong. The true story is more like a tech-bubble leading to tons of crap in the desert, which pissed off the locals living there. And that is actually not so far from how it works today. Only a lot more toxic, on a much larger scale, and completely normalized.

Planned obsolescence and “e-trash” commerce makes sure that tons of toxic tech-stuff  is shipped to e.g Africa and China to kill the kids who work with it. It’s a tech bubble – since both the production and disposal of consumer tech is ecologically and socially unsustainable – only this bubble is out of sight, and way more serious. Hey, maybe that could be topic of your next documentary on Xbox, Microsoft?


Toxics e-waste documentation (China : 2005)

Platform Studies: Think Inside the Box

December 18, 2009

Earlier this year, Nick Montfort & Ian Bogost released a book called Racing the Beam – The Atari Video Computer System. It examines how the Atari VCS was produced – how the cultural and economic contexts shaped the hardware – and perhaps more importantly, how it was used by videogame programmers.

This is the first book in an MIT book series called Platform studies, which somewhat surprisingly claims to introduce a new academic field. Hasn’t these sociotechnical studies been done many times before, both by scholars and other writers? There are hundreds of books about the social and the technological. Yeah, sure. But the point is that they are usually focusing on either technology or the social. Social scientists don’t code, and computer scientists don’t know sociocultural theory: they are two cultures. Eventhough that’s not really true, what is true is that Montfort & Bogost’s idea of Platform studies attentuates to “both sides” and “no sides” at the same time. They’re bringing social theory past the level of software, to the bare metal that feeds our data souls.

And that’s difficult. I know, because that is what I am currently doing with my thesis about chipmusic. It is, of course, crucial to use both technical and social perspectives – a perfect example of the relevance of platform studies. There is no way of understanding the personal motivations and (sub)cultural fields without studying the hardware. But of course, a soundchip is not much in itself. It is given meaning by software, people, culture and economics; it is society that continuosly shape both the materiality of and the conceptions about soundchips. The materiality has all the potential uses inside from the start, but maybe only certain sociocultural settings brings it forth.

Anyway, Montfort & Bogost recently published a paper, addressing some of the critique they have been receiving, most of which seem rather predictable considering their novel approach inbetween ‘two cultures’. It’s an interesting read, and while you’re at it you should also read their book(s). Oh, and as a nice coincidence Ian Bogost showed his Atari work Guru Meditation at Pixxelpoint where also e.g. HT Gold also was shown. And, well, tons of other good low-fi oriented stuff by Florian Cramer, Rosa Menkman, Vuk Cosic, Math Wrath,, Tonylight, and many others!

(btw, the title of the blog post was taken from here)

Free Friday Music on a Wednesday: little-scale

December 2, 2009

Check Handheld Heroes for little-scale‘s new release: Nothing Has Been Left Unspoken. As usual it is a delicate mixture of melancholy, spacious harmonies, crispy 8-bits, hardware hacking and FM and PSG. Being a multi-instrumentalist, this time he uses Sega Mega Drive, Atari 2600 and Commodore 64. For the last few years, little-scale from Australia has shown great new approaches to chipmusic by merging hardware hacking, programming and music. Little-scale is a good example of how hardcore technology appropriation/appreciation goes hand in hand with composition. He has transgressed many soundchips, but his music is good regardless (I think).

For example, take Molecules from his last release. I’m just guessing, but perhaps he’s using the Atari2600 for which he’s made several hacks. In this song, he’s doing something apparently basic: playing samples and slightly detuning a pulsewave melody over time. Thing is, this hasn’t been done on the Atari2600 before because its timbre & tuning is quite odd. But also, this kind of detuning is rare to hear in chipmusic in general. Most chipmusic is fixed to chromatic scales, and it is surprisingly rare that music moves outside of this. I think it’s wonderful how the detuning makes me feel a bit uncomfortable+happy. With little-scale, music and interface goes hand in hand into the data sunset. Oink!

update: oh, he just did 30 songs in 30 days too!

Crazy Frog Rock Bureaucracy

August 10, 2009

In my badly titled Plagiarism-page I have compiled a list of more or less questionable sampling and covering of 8-bit music. Drx from Bodenständig 2000 made a comment to reveal the story behind case of Jamster – one of the most notorious mobile phone terrorist companies. Cited here in its entirety:


the Jamster case went like this: The animator of the “crazy frog”, before known as “the annoying thing”, once contacted Bodenständig 2000 asking if he could use “In Rock 8 Bit” for his now legendary animation. At this point it was just some fun he made in his free time. We agreed on letting him do it, he was “one of us”.

The video he made spread online, people posted it around in emails etc. Jamster in many cases just took animations that were popular online and sold them to people with mobile phones. The same here, they contacted the animator and licensed the video from him. The animator made clear that they didn’t have the rights to the sound track though. Bodenständig 2000 was never contacted.

In Germany the daughter company Jamba ran TV ads with the “crazy frog” using another music, that sounded a quite familiar but was not the same. So we thought that everything was alright. But then fans from the rest of the world wrote emails to us stating that in their countries, Jamster was using the original tune in TV ads. It proved to be true, a bad-ass rip-off.

Our hippie-publisher Stora/Freibank started some lawyer action. Some lawyers wrote some letters to each other, an expert was commissioned to prove that the tune is not a composition, another expert was commissioned to prove the opposite … in the end, after many years of paper being filled up, Bodenständig got some pocket money without a trial.

Jamster until the end claimed that they have no idea themselves how often their spot was aired because “they keep no records”. People who watched TV during the period in question know that it was on almost every 15 minutes on music channels, for several weeks. However, the tune was never sold as a ringtone, but to advertise another ringtone.

Well, i am glad its over, was just eating up nerves and energy.

drx/Bodenständig 2000

Noise Music

March 2, 2009

Noise is not as boring as you think. Mathematically speaking, noise is maximum content. It is everything at once, all frequencies in random order. When other shapes have some kind of continuity to fall back on, noise goes full out to never return. It is random and lacks order,which does not mean that everything can happen. White noise always sounds and looks like noise, it doesn’t just randomize itself into an opera. That is why noise music is fascinating to me, because it explores randomness in a social sense. For me, ideal noise music keeps transforming and contrasting and makes me feel displaced, confused. Noisy soundscapes in all honour and cut-up frenetics yeah yeah, but making good noise music is something far more difficult. I am not sure I ever experienced something like that from a recorded piece of music.

8-bit noise music is not very common, which means that good 8-bit noise music doesn’t really have best of compilations (yet!). It is maybe a bit like someone over at 8BC said about breakcore: the certain particularities with a genre that make it so good, are quite tricky to reproduce with an old soundchip and is therefore often completely lost. Indeed, good 8-bit breakcore is also quite rare (nevertheless something we will get back to in that thing called future). Here are a few examples of 8-bit noise music that I appreciate, and if you have more suggestions then feel free to leavy a harsh and random comment with maximum content. I must have left out a lot of gems, right?

Fjyssel is a Dane that uses the C64 data cassettes as audio material. He cuts it up, adds effects and other sounds.

Apostleship of Noise – a Swedish duo that use two Amiga500’s and other things, including about 10 effect pedals. The results are not very much like chip music at all.

Neurobit – Dutch one-man noise/ambient-band. “Producing soundscapes, drones, Pulses and noises using 4bit, 8bit, & LCD console sounds based on the idea of a live situation.”

Herr Galatran: Show 1×04 for Radio ill. (MP3 2008) Live noise improvisation on Atari 130XE in Berlin.

Narwhalz of Sound: American noise, probably irritating for some. Visit  dotcomandshit and myspace.

More occassional noise

Overthruster: Legendary American chaos musician, usually more rhythmical than drone-noisy.

Environmental Sound Collapse: Occasional noise from this American, usually harsh and dark.

Shame On Me

But a bit of self-promotion has to slip by here. I’ve done a few noise experiments, but this audiovisual piece is very overlooked. The visuals are made by Rosa Menkman (who also does research on glitch, noise, etc). I give you Eastern Fire Swim. (audio is an unedited C64-jam)

More Profit Magic!

December 1, 2008

Now here’s s what computing was always about! More Profit Magic! (hmm, only 2 hits on Google though) “Millipede is a fantastic new video adventure fantasy that continues and multiplies the sizzling profit tradition and excitement of ATARI Centipede. Read the text at the bottom. (photo by SA_Steve)


np: casiocrack (piggy-music, warning for chip purists, if there are any)

Chip Opera On Dark Roads

November 22, 2008

A few days ago I was driving a car through the first snowfall of south Sweden this year. People on the high way were driving 50 km/h through the dark and foggy night, with snow flakes twirling around like little bastard angels. In the speakers I had Bit by Bit, Cell by Cell – Music For Soprano & Atari 800XL by Yoav Gal & Yael Kanarek (2006) / (clips here). Not being very into opera voices (I am not even sure if it’s fair to call this music opera?), the music had a heaven-and-hell kind of vibe to me. It is both dreamy and uncomfortable. Yoav Gal is a professional composer and artist, and Yael Kanarek is also an artist. Both are based in New York.

The voices are quite clean sounding through out the album except for the reverbs, and also some pitch effects and a bit of data-style arpeggios aswell (or atleast it sounds like it). The Atari sounds are also clean:  pure squarewaves with lots of polyphony. The sequencing is sort of intricate, with some things outside of the strict quantisation grids. It seems unlikely that the songs are sequenced and played on an Atari 800XL. The sound chip of the computer (Pokey) has 4 channels of sounds and 4 bit volume, and there are more channels and more precise volume envelopes on this record. (other people are doing very interesting experiments with the Pokey though, which I will get back to in a future post).

If the sounds are sampled bits of the Pokey that were sequenced on a modern computer, it is interesting to think about whether this is chip music or not. We can try to use the medium & form categories that I use. It is not chip music as a medium, since nothing really points to it being made on the original hardware. So, is it chip music as form? I was thinking about this as I was driving the car, and it was a bit annoying. With form I have basically meant bleep-dance-pop-music, regardless of hardware (see chiptune-tag at The problem is that it leaves out music that sounds bleepy, is made with new hardware, but is nothing close to dance music. Like this record. Are there lots of more music like this?

Anyway. Here is more chip opera:
Tristan Perich
The Curve of Forgotten Things (soprano and 1-bit electronics, 2007)

And, here are two unrelated works to visualize this opera talk:

Screenscape by 320x200 (2007)


Anchor by Chris Ashley (2008)