Not too long ago I read about how some genius called ‘irrlicht project’ had hacked old Texas Instruments graphing calculators so they could be used to make 1-bit music. Naturally, I had to have a bash at this myself. There’s something particularly special and rewarding about being able to compose whole tracks on devices that were never intended to work that way.
The models that support the ‘Houston Tracker‘ software are seemingly everywhere in the US, as they were apparently a mandatory purchase for many schools. That means they can usually be picked up fairly cheap second hand over there. However, as it turns out, these weren’t all that prevalent in the UK, so they are still fairly pricey – coming in at around £30 on eBay.
I finally got an okay deal though, and got to work getting Houston Tracker onto the device. It’s not all that straightforward, as you need a specific kind of cable – which costs almost the same as the damn calculator. Importing one from America worked out to be the most cost effective route in the end. Installation wise, there’s a lot of fiddling about to get the dependencies right on OSX, unless you use MacPorts – which saved the day. Once it was all up and running though, it was pretty good fun to use – with a whole host of features that I didn’t expect.
I recorded a fairly simple tune to find my way around the controls, and decided to record it. The raw calculator sound was a bit too bare for my tastes, so I threw in some minimal effects and overlaid some glitchy guitars/harmonised vocals. Here it is, my first calculator music track:
After the last few posts concentrating largely on gear and production stuff, it’s good to be able to follow up with one centred on music.
I had planned to wait until I had an album together before releasing anything, but it became clear that a number of the earlier tracks had a sound that naturally branched off in a group. As a result, my first release in 4 years will be a 5 track EP titled ‘really something’. I can’t quite believe it’s been that long, but there we go.
The tracks themselves are all fairly laid back, and stripped back a lot from my previous sample-heavy chiptune releases. The only time the pulse really increases a shade is on ‘Down Street’, a track which previously only ever featured on the ‘Relycs‘ collaborative release that was put out on cassette, and dedicated to abandoned tube stations.
It feels like a nice transition. Listen out for my pal Haigie’s laugh on track 5.
As weird as it seems to be announcing the release of one record whilst having worked on a totally different one for the past few weeks, that’s the way it goes in the life-cycle of things.
This is an awesome split EP of the 8-bit inspired chiptune electronic variety, with The Wet Dreams taking the first half of the record; myself the second. We took a basic melody for one of the tracks, and wrote our own versions (tracks 3 and 4) which made it all the more interesting.
Click through to the music page for the relevant links and all that.
For those of you not so enamoured with the chiptune side of things, watch this space – there’s other creations in the works.
Without being entirely sure of where this all may head, you can check out the finished mix of ‘let’s get explicit’, composed with Commodore 64 sounds, guitar parts and other samples over at the 8 bit collective. – and only from there at the moment.
So what started out as a tidy up of a few song tags has resulted in me staying up all night, bleary eyed, to finally get everything together and release an album properly.
I remember thinking out loud on here once about the difficulty of knowing where and when to draw the dividing line in a collection of tracks and separate them off as an individual package or collection. It turns out that that sometimes that realisation of when is appropriate creeps up on you and presents itself magician-like out of the blue, seemingly stating the obvious.
As a result, you can now download the resplendent debut ‘26 hour days‘ in its entirety, along with lyrics, printable artwork and all that by clicking through to the relevant page via the bowtie-man crested image above. If you’d rather just stream or download the tracks individually, you can do that too.