Do you remember me asking you lot for free stuff a while back? Well, some of you were kind enough to send me free stuff. Free stuff like this – a CD (remember those?) of music tracks recorded using a ZX Spectrum (remember those?) beeper. Actually on a Spectrum. In this day and age. Wonders will never cease.
The beeper in the Speccy was never designed to be used for music, but some clever people figured out a way of fiddling with it to pump out some raspy excellence – notably Tim Follin. 1-Bit Mechanistic by Tufty (who presumably is a squirrel) takes the sort of thing Follin managed to a whole new level, with a full CD album of music unhindered by needing to, you know, have a game to process at the same time.
The first track on the album, Loading, is a musical approximation of the horrific squawking noise Spectrum tapes made when, er, loading. Somehow, the usual ear-splitting horror is – thanks mainly to a thumpy beat – transformed into a toe-tapping cacophony. It’s a mess, but of the sort you want to hear more of so it’s a shame it’s just 26 seconds long. No Speccy tapes loaded in 26 seconds!
Thumpy beats and hissy, rasping tunes are pretty much the order of the whole album, with most tracks impossible to listen to without some part of your body twitching with the beat. For example, the track So Cold the Night, an oppressive take on The Communards song of the same name, features a heavy bass line that forces you to tap along. It would work excellently as a “you’re approaching a boss” theme in a game too.
The title track, 1-Bit Mechanistic, sounds like a melody of a handful of other tracks somewhat distorted, of course, and only vaguely recognisable. This may be unintentional, but Duck Soup‘s Barbra Streisand, however, is quite clearly an influence.
As for the album as whole, it’s certainly my sort of thing but I suspect many people will find it hard going. The Spectrum’s music output is very raw and harsh, and without the context of an actual game to pair it with it becomes a difficult listen. You really should, however, especially if you’re a fan of the scene, or perhaps have enjoyed compositions from the likes of Anamanaguchi. There’s definitely talent here, and the knowledge that Tufty has produced this with such a limited system only impresses more – it’s just a genre that is somewhat demanding on the ears.
You can buy 1-Bit Mechanistic over on Bandcamp. CD for this review provided by Tufty.