a moment of sonic nostalgia

Every now and then something reconnects in my brain and I remember being eighteen and sticking a pirated copy of Shufflepuck Cafe into my Amiga and hearing its weird, wonderful opening music fill my bedroom.

The game itself was a decent conversion of a Mac game from the year before, simulating a tournament of air hocky with an assortment of goofy aliens. But what was really memorable about it was that opening music. Go on. Hit play if you haven’t already.

It’s exemplary of a lot of music found on the Amiga around this time. A little bit off-key and atonal (and a lot harder to listen to because of that now that I’m an adult), but chock full of weirdness for its own sake, and reveling in being on the first home computer to have a sound chip that was based entirely on playing back wavetables instead of producing simple bleeps. This one especially stands out because it was really trying to sell the idea that you were standing outside a bar on some alien planet; are the weird blurbles that come and go part of the music, or part of the ambient noise? What does alien music even sound like? It also sticks out because it tries to cram so much into so little space; it lurches drunkenly from one riff to another over the course of its four minutes, refusing to ever commit to a groove for more than a few measures. It’s a raw, jagged artifact of technology people were just beginning to get a handle on. Unpolished, chaotic, and anarchic.

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