Friday, November 17, 2006

Noisy Commodore 64 Slop Heap!

The High Voltage Sid Collection is a massive archive of almost every song composed on the Commodore 64- specifically the Sid 6581 chip...there are thousands! For years I have been periodically sifting through this mountain of chiptunes, plowing through a lot of mediocre crap and converting the gems to MP3s.

There is quite an array of C64 musical styles that have passed throughout the years. From the early primitive blink-blonk unfiltered tones playing loops of familiar classical phrases to the golden years of 85-90 where innovators like Rob Hubbard created memorable melodies and strange sounding complex rhythms. There is still a Commodore chiptune scene that writes new songs on the machine (no emulators!) to this day.

Although there is plenty of virtuosity in much of the writing- I have been searching out the obscure and incompetent songs where tones are grating, chords are sour and timing is off (of course I am). One of the best examples of this is the song for the game "Captive" by budget game company Mastertronic. This song was voted the #1 worst Sid tune ever!

(?) - The Captive

Here is another strange litttle dittie that might make you pull your hair out...

Daryll Reynolds - The Case Of The Mad Mummy

There are plenty of these strange little songs- but I have been desperately searching for Sid tunes that are completely abstract, devoid of obvious rhythm. New Sid composers do work in a more abstract framework but it usually is still grounded with some sort of beat- along the lines of IDM. What I want is a Commodore 64 noise composition! Sure, there are plenty of noise artists who utilize Commodore 64s in their work- but I always hope for a noise piece written exclusively for the Sid chip.

The other week I stumbled on these interesting abstract Sid compositions by Bug aka Patrick Becher from Germany (pictured). Done in 1989, these pieces are more of an experiment in digitizing sound on the Commodore 64. The noisy 8-bit samples, sparse composition and cut and paste collage aesthetic lend a bit of creepiness to the work.

Patrick Becher (Bug) - Error In Dur
Patrick Becher (Bug) - Save
Patrick Becher (Bug) - Computer Sound

...and here is another interesting 8-bit digi-experiment by Bug, albeit a bit more traditional but still quite weird:

Patrick Becher (Bug) - Katzenjammer

I have a special relationship with the Commodore 64 (you can read about it here). For those who think this was a dinky little machine that your older brother would play games on, think again. The Commodore 64 was an odd little machine, capable of far more than what it was intended for, that was pushed to its fullest capacity by game companies, demo makers and Sid composers.

Whereas I generally find the nostalgia trip of the 8-bit aesthetic in art a bit tedious- I am a sucker for the Sid-chip and the Commodore 64. Call me a snob, and partly going back on my own nostalgia trip- but the Commodore 64 was so much more than the passivity of playing your goddamn Ataris and Nintendos. (Again- I refer you HERE)

For more information on C64 Sid emulators go to the High Voltage Sid Collection FAQ page.