VA, Input 64: A Collection of Commodore 64 Game Music 1984-1989
Released: March 2001
With the resurgence of lo-fi emulations of early 1980s techno all over the electronic sphere (the Suction label, parts of Boards of Canada and ISAN, and so on), not to mention releases of such early electronic pioneers as Raymond Scott, it shouldn't be surprising that someone would have the brillant idea to resurrect all those theme songs to the early computer games, most notably those found on the Commodore 64. For those of you not alive in 1983, the Commodore 64 was the Titanium Powerbook of its time: the sleekest, fastest, and coolest computer money could buy. In fact, the great selling point of the Commodore models was their absolute bottom-basement prices. Now, my parents were cheap and wouldn't buy me a computer of my own (though they did, um, feed me and stuff), so I never acquired the magic C64; instead, I pulled weeds one summer to earn enough for the C64's older and less cool cousin, the Vic-20; to top it off, I couldn't even afford the tape recorder that served as a floppy disk drive, so all I was able to do was type programs I found in the various magazines into the V20, play whatever the game was that emerged, and then, when I was done, turn the computer off and lose whatever I'd created. Pretty pathetic, huh? But why am I bringing all of this up now? Because it's so easy for us today, in 2001, to recognize how quickly computers have advanced in speed, storage, affordability, and availability. Just think: the C64 was a great computer for gamers and noodlers alike, and yet, not 20 years later, the computer looks so fundamentally primitive by today's standards that when I tell stories about it people just laugh, like we laugh about people 100 years ago using leeches for medicine. Desipte the great leaps forward in computing technology, when I listen to the music on this wonderful collection, I am struck by only one thought: things haven't changed nearly as much as we'd like to think. The music on this collection was, in fact, made on a Commodore 64, using an 8-bit stereo system that was impressive for its time (heck, we still use 16-bit today, not a huge improvement), and using proto MIDI and software synth programs that are certainly not that different from the Reaktors and Retro AS-1s and Cubases of today. And, you know what? This music is in every way as good as the most current releases by Solvent, ISAN, the Warp guys, and just about every electronic music released in the last few years. What makes this music good? Simple: it's damn fine work, both aesthetically and technically. They are good songs, and they are a lot of fun. In fact, I would say that this release does Lucky Kitchen's 1998 release Blip, Bleep: Soundtracks to Imaginary Video Games one better by actually being songs from real video games (and weird video games at that, as the titles "Insects in Space," "One Man and His Droid," and "Monty on the Run" attest). Of course, in both releases, the secret is a simple one: the songs are far more interesting than the games themselves. But that's why music lasts, and video games die quick deaths.
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