Ecco the Dolphin playthrough with Drexciya music is today’s perfect trip

I don’t know about you, but the next time I need to cool down, trip out, and feel good about the universe, I will turn to this epic playthrough of Ecco the Dolphin with soundtrack by Detroit’s Drexciya. Humans made this. We can follow those humans, or dolphins, or some combination to the future.

Ecco the Dolphin is the 90s Sega Genesis hit developed by Ed Annunziata and Novotrade International. Drexciya is the Detroit futuristic electro duo who imagined an underwater future. Together, they make more sense than peanut butter and jelly, or Dark Side of the Moon and The Wizard of Oz.

Though, to be fair, after I was tweeted at that I should really transcribe the interviews with James Stinson (I should), it is now dangerously possible that I wind up getting sucked into Ecco and some Drexciya records. Uh… whoops.

But let us heed these words, anyway:

I know a lot of people going through a rough time right now – personally, globally. Sing to the shelled ones and they will heal your wounds.

Thanks, David Abravanel, CDM at-large Nerd of All Things Good.

Previously:

Underwater electronic futurism, in the words of James Stinson (Drexciya)

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Forget vinyl: here’s a DJ rig with two Amiga 1200 PCs

Computers will never die. Now they’re even old enough to be retro. So watch a DJ rig that combines two Commodore Amigas for MOD DJing, thanks to recent software.

“The kids are coming up from behind. I’m losing my edge. I hear that you and your band have sold your turntables and bought Amigas.”

The beauty of this approach is, those Amigas play MOD files – tracker-based music sequences with elaborate, hyperactive sounds from the golden age of video game composition and chip music. And just as you really want to hear certain things on tape or digital or vinyl, some music really lends itself to that format.

And yes, there really is (fairly) new software for this – new Amiga software, no joke. It’s called PT-1210, and it transforms vintage Amigas (or Atari ST) into a kind of CDJ for MOD files. It debuted – where else, at a demoscene/hacker conference – at Revision 2014 in Saarbrücken, Germany. Here’s how the developers describe it:

PT-1210 Mk1 is a Protracker Digital Turntable, that is, a computer program that will let you play your Amiga Protracker module files (.MOD) as if you were playing with CDJ turntables, inspired by gwEm’s STJ. Think of it as Traktor for the Protracker generation.

Hilarious banner:

That software is the work of Akira (concept/UI), h0ffman (concept/code), and tecon (testing). It’s even written in Assembler code for maximum performance on vintage hardware. Grab it here:

http://pt1210.abime.net/

Atari ST fans, this Amiga creation was in turn inspired by Atari ST software with the same aim, by gwEM, cleverly dubbed STJ:

http://www.preromanbritain.com/stj/

The rig in the video at top:

Small monitors (for analog video output)
Mono-to-stereo adapters (since the Amigas have mono output)
DJ mixer
SD cards (in place of floppy disks, which means massive supplies of MOD files)

They found their MOD files at ModLand

Oh yeah, there are even instant doubles – you can load up the same track on both machines.)

Beat matching is still a thing here, so you get human sync by your ear rather than something electronically locked in. (That’s also beautiful, frankly!)

To show off all this goodness, the RetroManCave YouTube channel goes to these folks:

Retro Ravi – https://www.youtube.com/user/the4mula
8bitmixshow – http://8bitmix.com/

Okay, so that’s the tech stuff. But now the important bit – can you make a compelling DJ set with this rig? Here’s one answer, from Ravi:

Thanks to Noncompliant for the link! Can I request my favorite MOD at Berghain this Saturday, Lisa?

https://www.noncompliantmusic.com/#!

Don’t just want to DJ, but produce, too? Check this out:

The 90s are alive, with a free, modern clone of FastTracker II

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Forget vinyl: here’s a DJ rig with two Amiga 1200 PCs

Computers will never die. Now they’re even old enough to be retro. So watch a DJ rig that combines two Commodore Amigas for MOD DJing, thanks to recent software.

“The kids are coming up from behind. I’m losing my edge. I hear that you and your band have sold your turntables and bought Amigas.”

The beauty of this approach is, those Amigas play MOD files – tracker-based music sequences with elaborate, hyperactive sounds from the golden age of video game composition and chip music. And just as you really want to hear certain things on tape or digital or vinyl, some music really lends itself to that format.

And yes, there really is (fairly) new software for this – new Amiga software, no joke. It’s called PT-1210, and it transforms vintage Amigas (or Atari ST) into a kind of CDJ for MOD files. It debuted – where else, at a demoscene/hacker conference – at Revision 2014 in Saarbrücken, Germany. Here’s how the developers describe it:

PT-1210 Mk1 is a Protracker Digital Turntable, that is, a computer program that will let you play your Amiga Protracker module files (.MOD) as if you were playing with CDJ turntables, inspired by gwEm’s STJ. Think of it as Traktor for the Protracker generation.

Hilarious banner:

That software is the work of Akira (concept/UI), h0ffman (concept/code), and tecon (testing). It’s even written in Assembler code for maximum performance on vintage hardware. Grab it here:

http://pt1210.abime.net/

Atari ST fans, this Amiga creation was in turn inspired by Atari ST software with the same aim, by gwEM, cleverly dubbed STJ:

http://www.preromanbritain.com/stj/

The rig in the video at top:

Small monitors (for analog video output)
Mono-to-stereo adapters (since the Amigas have mono output)
DJ mixer
SD cards (in place of floppy disks, which means massive supplies of MOD files)

They found their MOD files at ModLand

Oh yeah, there are even instant doubles – you can load up the same track on both machines.)

Beat matching is still a thing here, so you get human sync by your ear rather than something electronically locked in. (That’s also beautiful, frankly!)

To show off all this goodness, the RetroManCave YouTube channel goes to these folks:

Retro Ravi – https://www.youtube.com/user/the4mula
8bitmixshow – http://8bitmix.com/

Okay, so that’s the tech stuff. But now the important bit – can you make a compelling DJ set with this rig? Here’s one answer, from Ravi:

Thanks to Noncompliant for the link! Can I request my favorite MOD at Berghain this Saturday, Lisa?

https://www.noncompliantmusic.com/#!

Don’t just want to DJ, but produce, too? Check this out:

The 90s are alive, with a free, modern clone of FastTracker II

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The vaporwave Windows 98 startup sound remix no one asked for

Time-stretched remixes of Microsoft startup sounds: they just never get old. But maybe we need this vaporwave Windows 98 in our lives.

The source material in this case isn’t Brian Eno – that’s Windows 95. Instead, Microsoft’s own Ken Kato is credited with the composition.

Apart from the glitched-out thumbnail and wonderful sound, I’ll give extra points to this remix on a couple of counts. First, it leads to Indonesian artist Fahmi Mursyid, who has a Bandcamp full of sonic delights. Fahmi, if you were using this as a scheme to bait us into clicking on your music, well … why not? I did:

https://ideologikal.bandcamp.com

And second, it has this fantastic quote attached to it … for some reason:

“Global capitalism is nearly there. At the end of the world there will only be liquid advertisement and gaseous desire.

Sublimated from our bodies, our untethered senses will endlessly ride escalators through pristine artificial environments, more and less than human, drugged-up and drugged down, catalysed, consuming and consumed by a relentlessly rich economy of sensory information, valued by the pixel. The Virtual Plaza welcomes you, and you will welcome it too.”
— Adam Harper, in his initial Dummymag article

I miss those innocent days when the thing we were afraid of was too many computers using Windows.

Now we live in the fantastic world where totalitarian governments are watching us through our phones and we aren’t just paranoid … and that’s presuming a social network on our phone doesn’t make us so depressed we ourselves become a danger.

No, let’s loop this beautiful 90s sound and make the world … melt away.

You’re welcome.

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The 90s are alive, with a free, modern clone of FastTracker II

It ran natively in MS-DOS, then died by the end of the 90s. But now it’s back: one of the greatest chip music trackers of all time has been cloned to run on modern machines.

FastTracker II will now run on Windows and Mac (and should run on Linux). The clone project started last year, but it seems to have picked up pace – a new set of binaries are out this week, and MIDI input support was added this month.

FastTracker II is a singular piece of software that helped define trackers, demoscene, and the music produced with it. If you’ve used it, I don’t really have to say more. If you haven’t, but you’ve used other trackers – even up to modern takes on the genre like Renoise – you’ve used software influenced by its design.

Like all trackers, the fundamental use of the tool is as a sequencer. But unlike other sequencer concepts – piano rolls which represent time visually like pianolas and music boxes do, multitrack recorders and DAWs modeled on mixers and tape, or notation views – the tracker is a natively computer-oriented tool. Its paradigm is simply about a vertical grid, with shortcuts for entry (represented as numerals) via the computer interface.

That makes trackers uncommonly quick via the computer interface. In the case of FastTracker II, you program every note and timbral change via mouse or keyboard shortcut, and it’s represented compactly in characters onscreen. FT2’s doubling up of mouse and keyboard shortcuts also makes it quick to learn and still quicker to use once you’ve mastered it.

In fact, firing up this build (in 64-bit on Windows 10, no less), I’m struck by how friendly and immediate it is. It’s not a bad introduction to the genre.

MIDI in is great, too, though MIDI out will “never” happen (in a message from the 13th of April).

But it’s kind of amazing this thing even exists. The clone is built in SDL, a cross-platform media library, the work of one Olav “8bitbubsy” Sørensen, who apparently got permission to do this. And it was never supposed to even happen. Heck, the thing was even buried with this note:

“FT2 has been put on hold indefinitely. […] If this was an ideal world, where there was infinite time and no need to make a living, there would definitely be a multiplatform Fasttracker3. Unfortunately this world is nothing like that.”

So, we may not live in an ideal world. But we live in a world where FT2 again runs on our machines. (Amiga fans, there’s also a ProTracker clone.)

Download it:

https://16-bits.org/ft2.php

Thanks to Nicolas Bougaïeff for this one, fresh off his Berghain debut. I want some new chip music from you, man.

And it’s … like the 90s are alive.

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This is what Dutch raves looked like in the 1990s

Dance or die? Some kind of robot with killer lasers? Well, if you happened to be in Leeuwarden in the Netherlands round late April 1996, that’s what was promised.

There’s so much to love in this VHS vintage gem. There’s the retro Wolfenstein-styled 3D opening with the dramatic threatening voice over. Or the extensive footage of the build-up of the venue … and drug pat-downs. And then, there’s nothing quite like the 90s sound – mad, mental, absurdly fast, totally dry synths and drum machines. It’s a cartoon-ish silliness that’s a far cry from even the self-seriousness of EDM, let alone the somber, mechanical dirge Eventide-drenched cave techno that’s often in fashion. If that’s a Bach Toccata & Fugue on a pipe organ, this is Spike Jones.

But of course, Dutch people shouting is always the best part of all. (Yes, my friends in the Netherlands, I know you can still get just this crazy.)

I’m sure this has been passed around before. On the other hand, it’s a nice antidote to the potential conformity of today’s parties – and today’s might seem just as odd to someone looking back from 2027. Plus, some fashion tips.

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Enter the surreal 1995 world of Laurie Anderson multimedia

Ah, the mid 1990s. We used terms like “new media,” and the idea of a record label of sorts devoted to the multimedia CD-ROM seemed natural and futuristic.

It was the era of the Voyager Company, a pioneering media firm that spawned the Criterion Collection (via beautifully curated LaserDisc editions of great films), and an interactive line for Windows and Mac. Voyager is a story all its own, but I think Laurie Anderson’s Puppet Motel stands out.

Being led through three dozen virtual rooms by a ventriloquist version of Laurie Anderson finally made me feel like I understood why the computer was invented. But I think I'm not an average person.

Being led through three dozen virtual rooms by a ventriloquist version of Laurie Anderson finally made me feel like I understood why the computer was invented. But I think I’m not an average person.

The breakthrough in technology at the time was that rich media could be distributed to a wide variety of platforms. On the Mac side, this came in the form of newer-generation models and the availability of QuickTime. (It’s actually easy to forget just how radical an invention QuickTime was at the time.) On the PC side, there were somewhat dubious multimedia standards, but a general availability of computers capable of playing video and audio on Windows. And this all coincided with Macromedia Director (born Macromind Director), a deep scripting tool for creating interactive content – one with capabilities that actually exceeded Flash.

But that’s just the technical side. It’s the way this capability was received by a handful of forward-thinking artists that’s notable.

Perhaps 90s media thinking is the perfect antidote to today’s online media, driven as it is by big data, ads, and mobile-digestible content. In fact, the legacy of the Voyager creation is more on the side of experimental gaming, when users of PCs and consoles are willing to shut off other distractions and immerse themselves.

Morton Subotnick spoke about his own contribution to the Voyager line as an opportunity to create a new “chamber music,” to embrace the intimacy of a private experience in the home.

The reason I single out Laurie Anderson is that her work felt most at ease with the format. Laurie Anderson’s performance style had already by the 90s matured into fragmentary narratives – bits of stories, interwoven, with poetic slices of phrases added sometimes almost decoratively to more linear tales.

In other words, watching Laurie Anderson perform is already a bit like experiencing something immersive and non-linear. Her content was already tailor-made for the format.

Laurie Anderson presented her latest show this past weekend in Berlin, and alluded to the inadequacy of conventional performance presentations to her style. She told a story about someone shouting at her “play jazz!” at a jazz festival to which she’d been booked, and introduced the show by saying she stumbled around the idea of trying to do it as standup comedy. (The strung-together story bit works, but … only barely, even then.)

On a CD-ROM, you can wander and linger and let bits wash over you in any fashion. You can string together those pieces like a performance, almost as Laurie Anderson does in variations on hers. Her tendency in her work to repeat and vary tropes, working over past notes, naturally fits the flow of interactive media. It’s a world you can enter and leave.

She was also paired with a perfect collaborator, Taiwanese media artist Hsin-Chien Huang. Huang’s aesthetic perfectly fits Anderson’s – stark, surrealist, contemporary. It’s a world built as an echo of ours, a pastiche made from the component furniture of our everyday landscape, once removed from its expected context. And Huang’s experience in building large scale and mechanical installations gives the virtual world a sense of solidity and impossible realness.

He’s also easily another story topic, but here’s a place to start:
Hsin-Chien Huang @ Storynest

https://www.youtube.com/user/HuangHsinChien

And there’s the fact that Laurie Anderson’s work was at the peak of what might be considered a mature style, a combination of spoken word, stories, electric violin, and songwriting, in a collaboration with Brian Eno that filled out the electronic orchestrations. In advance of Anderson’s return to Berlin, I went back and did some quality listening to the album from which most of the material is taken, Bright Red. And I think it’s a weird masterpiece, one that seems oddly resonant and relevant today. There are some “hit” singles in there, mixed with more of these fragments that seem to want to spill off the album and into their own universe. These then make a perfect soundtrack and landscape to the interactive version.

There are also bits of the 1986 Anderson short film What You Mean We?, but given her cyclical, iterative working methods, it’s impossible to tell which is which unless you know the material separately.

The work is fully digital, but self-aware – media recognizing the demise of the CD, the overload of digital information, and the way in which that would destroy old notions like LPs or linear narrative.

The return to Berlin was fitting, as the Transmediale festival celebrated its thirtieth year, and Andersen herself came back to perform in Berlin having presented Puppet Motel at an edition of Transmediale back when it was stilled called VideoFilmFest.

This week, Laurie Anderson described our world of constant Twitter updates from the President and fake news as being one in which we are “drowning in our own stories.”

Puppet Motel was an early experiment in re-imagining media and learning to swim.

You might have to do some hacking to make it run, but there’s an ISO of the 1998 Windows/Mac edition on the Internet Archive. I kinda sorta made something happen with it, but maybe someone smarter out there has some tips on running this with emulators:

https://archive.org/details/puppet-motel-1998

(Hey, I do own the original 1995 disc, so I think I’m entitled! Actually bought that in a store or something absurd!)

Some text descriptions:

Puppet Motel, an arts CD ROM by writer, musician, composer, performer, and photographer Laurie Anderson, is an imaginary universe made up of the interplay between light and darkness, mystery and poetry. This universe is populated by puppets and, of course, its creator, the artist herself. Wandering around the visitor is often tempted to put a story together from the succesive images displayed on a virtual TV screen in a “black jack manner” or from the objects found in a dim lit room but in the end he must realize that he has been chasing after shadows since the CD ROM does not belong to the tradition of the great narration. These three dimensional virtual spaces are crammed with ghosts and secrets: the visitor is constantly taken by surprise. He is trapped, over and over again, by the virtual setting so he must switch off the computer and start again in order to escape. This platonic vale of tears radiates an enigmatical atmosphere which, all too often, appears manneristic and over-refined.

I’m not sure what that last sentence means, actually, but thank you artpool.hu.

This is an interactive environment containing music, videos, monologues, and art-jokes from performance artist and musician Laurie Anderson with the help of designer Hsin-Chien Huang. It begins with an electrical outlet that glows and howls into the darkness. Then you enter “The Hall of Time”, a corridor in the motel where icons cover the walls, and lead to 33 symbol-crowded rooms. A puppet Laurie Anderson sparingly appears as a guide.

The surreal rooms include one full of exotic musical instruments from her performance-art career such as the “tape bow violin”. Clocks abound and floating telephone receivers on tree-like stiff cords, televisions showing static, and airplane kaleidoscopes. In one room with a maze of chairs, Anderson steps out waving flashlights like a runway attendant and recites the legend of Plato’s Cave – where prisoners are doomed never to see the true images of things but only to glimpse their fleeting shadows. In another room, she gives a long palm-reading session asking many questions of the player, and in yet another there is “The Amazing Ouija Floor Board” where you get to ask the questions. You must figure out what to do in each room, complete interactive art puzzles, and find how to exit.

Throughout the game, your recorded voice and typed responses will be used and information from Anderson’s website will be downloaded including new videos and concert information. It’s recommended that you play the cd-rom while listening with headphones as small sounds and poetry flows back and forth from one ear to the other to impart a message. There’s ethereal music and Anderson whispers in your ear in a dark, soothing voice.

Actually, part of what’s interesting about this is, it’s hard to describe Puppet Motel. It’s like someone trying to recount a dream. So thanks, Laurie and Hsin-Chien, for giving me this dream material and probably being one of the big reasons I wound up getting hooked on the computer as a medium.

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Recreate classic MP3 visualizers, free – and use them in VJ apps

It’s funny, some things you really didn’t imagine looking back on with nostalgia. And yet, there you are – reminiscing about the days of staring at your Winamp MP3 visualizer.

Well, I totally missed it, but there are some free projects that let you bring back those visualizers. Better still, you can pipe them into VJ apps on both Mac and Windows.

First off, MilkDrop itself is a fascinating story. I won’t dive all the way down that rabbit hole at the moment, but here’s a short version of the story. Creator Ryan Geiss was (and is) a talented electronic creator, who first used assembly code to coax late 90s CPUs into producing hallucinogenic, music-reactive animations in real-time. First as a plug-in for the legendary Winamp, then as a default visualizer, “geiss” and then “MilkDrop” made history with their ability to produce ever-changing generative imagery for music. (Side note: Justin Frankel, co-creator of Winamp, has gone on to found the Reaper DAW – and is also the inventor of peer-to-peer tech gnutella. That’s… yet another rabbit hole. I digress.)

The story might have ended there, but Milkdrop made itself future-proof in other ways. The format for making custom visualizers was open to end users. The 2001 iteration was built around GPUs, in a way that would lend itself to future platforms and mobile devices. And then, in 2005, the code was open sourced. That has spawned various developments, including even video synth hardware.

milkdroppy

So, if you find yourself nostalgic for the days of staring at your screen whilst your gnutella-downloaded MP3s play, here you go.

The open source implementation of MilkDrop lives on as projectM – a bit dusty, but you’ll find some kind of builds for Mac, Windows, and Linux, iTunes and Winamp plug-ins, and now mobile versions for Android and iOS:

http://projectm.sourceforge.net/

So, what if you wanted to use one of these visualizers in a VJ set? Well, that actually turns out to be very possible.

syphon

On Mac, you can use the nicely-developed ProjectMilkSyphon, which outputs all these animations as a texture you can use in Syphon-compatible VJ/live visual apps like VDMX, Resolume, and others. (Syphon routes textures between apps, like inter-app audio or MIDI, but for visuals.)

http://vdmx.vidvox.net/blog/projectmilksyphon

On Windows, there’s a version that outputs Spout, the equivalent on that OS (Syphon predates Spout, but the Spout MilkDrop came first):

Winamp Milkdrop plugin with Spout output [Spout forum]

It’s actually part of the Spout distribution, which includes loads of other goodies (Processing, for instance):
https://github.com/leadedge/Spout2/releases

Plus, find lots of digital art and projects from Mr. Geiss at his site:
http://www.geisswerks.com/

Now you can add these visualizations with a dose of nostalgia to a VJ set, or find a creative way of using these textures in a new context.

(Thanks to David Lublin of Vidvox/VDMX for pointing me to this. I actually love that I found a Windows version within a few seconds of running a DuckDuckGo search, not so much because I particularly care whether or not I can do this on a different OS, but because I love the fact that the open source community just solves this stuff for the hell of it.)

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A patchable, circuit bent Sony Discman turns into a glitch instrument

It’s happened: CD players are officially retro/vintage. (Heck, so is the iPod at this point.) But that means it’s time to open them up and glitch them out – at least for some intrepid inventors, that is.

Actually, this video is itself vintage, coming from the innocent days of 2012. (Ah – remember then? If only we knew what world awaited us in 2017. We’d… probably have hidden in a basement and all started circuit bending Sony CD players.)

Anyway, I digress. Sony Discman. Renamed “Discbitch” – complete with laser-etched name on the case. Patchable. Glitching. Watch:

Somehow, it’s trending right now on YouTube, because… this is how people are getting over hangovers / returning to their work life, apparently. Even odder, my colleagues note that what appears to be making it trend is a chorus of angry commenters. It’s the latest proof that of the many, many things I truly don’t understand, the emotional motivation of YouTube commenters is way up on the list.

But it’s here on CDM, too, because maybe one of you knows who r20029 is, or maybe it’s you.

Let us know.

Documentation on the project:

https://r20029.wordpress.com/

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Someone custom-skinned a Roland MC-505 to look like an AIRA

Now having let the genie out of the bottle, there’s no saying where Roland will turn next with reboots and reissues. But some people are evidently not content to wait. So, via Twitter via Facebook, we see this lovely image of the 1998 Roland MC-505 groovebox, reimagined for people who love that black-with-Matrixsynth green-trim look of the new AIRAs.

And… well, it’s kind of hilarious. It definitely cleans up the legibility of the labels.

aira505

Now, the MC-505 isn’t quite what you’d call a “classic” or “legendary.” But don’t scoff: I know some folks who really love this 90s beast, proof there’s basically a home for anything you put on eBay.

When I start this headline with “someone…,” I’m not just aping viral headline style, either. I have no idea who did this.

I’m hoping they read CDM. Please, come forward.

Oh, and Roland, if this somehow accidentally really is an AIRA reissue (almost certainly impossible given that it has the exact actual MC-505 controls), please come forward, cease and desist.

Anyway, I love the 90s. Hillary Clinton’s back, and so is the MC-505?

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