Electronic Music

My tastes in music have changed a lot over the years. In the early 80s I was listening to the current top-40 type stuff, like Billy Joel or Bruce Springsteen or, dare I admit it, Michael Jackson. Then I remember during the breakdance craze starting to listen to some rap and some techno-type music. Then by the end of the 80s I got into some harder rock and metal, but also into those dance-remixes that were becoming very popular.

Grunge arrived in the early 90s, and I liked the "be real" or "who cares" messages. Plaid, bass, drums and guitar is pretty much all I wanted, though a certain form of folk music fit in with this view too, and that was cool. I pretty much despised electronic instruments, like keyboards and drum machines (with the notable exception of Richard Pepper's music, of course).

However, throughout all this time I never stopped liking my favourite computer and video game music. From the moody (both happy and dismal) music of Super Mario Land on the original Gameboy to the Commodore 64's SID chip - the medieval songs of Ultima III & IV, the super-long epic soundtracks of Delta and Tetris, and the many games that Rob Hubbard's tunes made so much better (Last V8 and Master of Magic to just name a couple). Great stuff!

So what's the difference? I think it has to do with how I perceive music as being honest, or real. Most 8-bit type music is blatantly computer generated. Nobody is trying to hide anything - it's in your face. What I grew to dislike was electronic instruments trying too hard to be real. And it seemed the same artists that were happy to use a keyboard to replace their bassist and a little black box to replace their drummer were the same ones that wanted every last note in their recording to be sequenced to "perfection" - and they ended up sounding like yet another over-produced, homogenized piece of, um, music.

A lot of the music I'm listening to now is from individuals or small groups that are using 8-bit sounds in their music. Tree Wave uses a C64, Atari 2600, luggable ancient PC clone and a dot matrix printer(!) to make some fantastic music. Bud Melvin does a live show with Gameboy, banjo, and vocals. His recording of "Moonglow" is one of my favourite songs, ever.

These bands aren't using electronic music to sound slick, or over-produced - they're just using it to create cool sounds and original music. They've got the honesty in their art that makes me want to listen, even if it just sounds like beeps and boops to other people.

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