Various Artists: Output64

Subtitle: 15 Ideas How To Treat Commodore 64 Game Tunes In The 21st Century

Output64 front cover The same Enduro Team that brought us "Input64", a collection of SID tunes burnt on a CD, has asked a bunch of artists to remix some classics and then put the results on this compilation album titled "Output64".

Take the CD in your hands and you'll discover that the packaging of the CD is a statement by itself. The back cover is entirely blue with a bunch of wireframe dudes on it. I think, the intention was to depict a club scene with dancers, instead all I see is a bunch of people with raised arms as they try to scare each other. The front CD cover is also almost entirely blue except for a neon-pink wireframe dude with a smirk on his face who holds a yellow "C64-guitar" the wrong way as he is trying to smash a monitor with it. In contrast, the CD case is yellow-orange and the inside of the CD booklet is neon-pink with yellow highlights. Definitely not your grandmother's tribute CD! And I haven't even started listening to it!

The CD booklet claims that this compilation "combines extremely varied sounds, remix approaches and interpretations". Instead all I've heard on the album - with a couple of exceptions - is a bunch of electronica tunes. Let me examine them one by one.

1. STEVE CLAYDON OF ADD N TO (X): Arkanoid/ Wicked Cool Rock School Mix

I never really liked distorted drums and this remix is full of them. But they fit the edgy nature of the tune well. Unfortunately, the monotone and unchanged repetitions of the Arkanoid theme drove me nuts pretty fast.

2. PLUNDERSONICS: Mutants Here I Am (remix of Mega Apocalypse)

Despite its title, this is actually a remix of Mega Apocalypse. Many of the drums and blips are straight from the SID, some of the added vocals are noisy (whether intentionally or not, I don't know). In general, this remix has not much to do with Hubbard's original (or rather, it remixes only a very small portion of it). The story being told by a nice female voice is a totally incomprehensible one about mutants - maybe I haven't taken enough drugs beforehand to appreciate it? I can't say I am impressed with this remix.

3. KISSOGRAM: My Love's A Demoversion (remix of Alloy Run)

A rather uninspired piece, which is unfortunate, because it's also 7 minutes long. Some interesting sounds spice it up, but those don't make up for the simple looped nature of the track (which, BTW, is prevalent on the other tracks, too). I was literally yawning by the end of it.

4. GEBR. TEICHMANN: Crazy64 (remix of Mega Apocalypse)

Sound samples from the SID tune consist most of this remix. But you'll hear none of the baroque complexity of the original in here. Just the sounds samples put together in a simple rhythmic pattern with a thumping base drum added to them. At around 3:30 we finally get to hear Hubbard's melodies - straight from the original SID. Erm, well, this pretty much describes this 5:23 long, uhh, remix.

5. RON&HIS 1541: Push My Button (remix of Bubble Bobble)

A wonderful vocoded (or synthetized?) singing voice carries the original's melody very nicely which put a nostalgic smile on my face. The rest of this remix consists of sounds from the SID tune - and that's it. A nice idea that is not fully developed.

6. BIG CHIEF ELECTRIC: Rote Welle/ Kölner Ring (remix of Turbo Outrun)

A very electronic piece with only traces of the original tune (and I mean the "original" literally, as in sampled). Many times it borders the avantgarde with its sample manipulations and it remains fairly simple throughout.

7. JEANS TEAM: Last Ninja Remix (remix of Wilderness In-Game)

As most other remixes, this one also relies heavily on samples of the original SID tune plus on sequenced drums and basslines which are often looped. You'll hear none of Ben's arrangement in it, it's basically a new tune that borrows sounds from his tune.

8. COMPUTERJOCKEYS: Turbo Dub (remix of Turbo Outrun)

It's not easy to discover the original's melody in here, but it's actually there manipulated beyond belief. At times it feels more ambient than the other tracks on the album, but it's still a genuine synthy tune. It drags on a bit too long for my taste.

9. LOPAZZ: Mittags Um 2:00 (remix of Bubble Bobble)

One of the three "organic" remixes on the CD with real live guitars and drums with your typical rock-band setup. It even features lyrics in German! It provides a refreshing break from all the electronica tracks.

10. OP:L BASTARDS: The Alloy Run Remix 2

Extremely funny vocals dominate this remix (imagine the voice of a drunken man in a pub repeatedly singing "The Alloy Ruuuun" :), although I am not entirely sure the pun was intended. Otherwise it's a pretty weird piece and I can't quite describe it. Definitely unique.

11. MINA: Theme From Arkanoid

Heavy rock might be the best description of the style of this remix. Distorted electric guitars provide the main framework on which samples from the SID are hanged from time to time together with even more electric guitars. Unfortunately, this tends to be chaotic which is why I have trouble with this remix.

12. OVUCA: Hit The Gas (remix of Turbo Outrun)

Back to electronica. Apparently, Output64's remixers had tons of trouble with Turbo Outrun, because this one doesn't feature much of the original, either. What I hear sounds like a haphazard jam-session of a drummer madly tapping the keys on his synth. If this didn't make sense it's because this remix doesn't make much sense to me, either. Call it avantgarde if you wish, but to me this is too much chaos.

13. CHAZAM/ PERREY/ ARREBATADO: Crazy Congas (remix of Mega Apocalypse)

As the title suggests, expect to hear a lot of real congas in this remix. And even someone singing the words "Crazy Comets"! Of all the remixes this is the one that follows the original's arrangement the most closely. Besides the great congas and the brief singing it features nothing but tons of playful synth sounds. Not bad, not bad!

14. RAUMAGENT ALPHA: Bublobl (remix of Bubble Bobble)

One of the better produced remixes on this album, although I am still trying to figure out what it actually remixes. If I weren't told I would've never guessed Bubble Bobble, that's for sure. It's a clubby tune - and also full of electronica. Gets somewhat boring towards the end.

15. MIKRON64: Kings Of Metal Rehearsal Tape (remix of One Man and His Droid)

I don't like intentional noise in tunes and this has ton of it. I guess, that explains the "Tape" in the title. The overdriven distorted original tune got tons of drums added to it - and that's essentially it. At times you can hear well-synthetized voices arguing with each other as they are trying to "rehearse" the tune - this gives a funny theme to the remix that is not explored fully. That's too bad, because it left me with a sour taste in my mouth as I finished listening to the CD.

Which one is my favorite track of the album? Neither of them. Nothing really jumps out here and they all sound pretty much the same to me. All in all, the promised wide variety of remixes is nowhere to be found which is exacerbated by the fact that the remixers were apparently given a very limited pool of SID tunes to play with. Worse, I got the feeling that the remixers didn't really care much about the original SID tunes: their tunes sound removed and mechanical, they lack passion and affection.

Most of the tracks feature not much more than the original SID samples with looped sequences of electronic drums and basslines. The first 8 tracks on the CD are definitely of the same genre, while the second half finally brings a few new styles - but even those have a rather synthy feel to them.

These are not remixes of arrangements or themes, but new compositions that happen to use SID sounds (with the exception of "Crazy Congas" and "Mittags um 2:00"). Personally, I find most of the average remixes on R.K.O. better than any of the tracks on this compilation, but to each his own. It's just too bad that this was the best the Enduro Team was able to get from their remixers.

© 2002 by LaLa