We can all remember when we first played a game on the 48K ZX Spectrum and remember the first time we heard some music playing out of the tiny little speaker in the corner. For many, those sounds really opened our eyes (or ears, I guess) and thought what a world we live in that not only can we play games, but also listen to its accompanying music too. In our own house. Amazing. For others though, they may have found it a bit of an earache (Manic Miner, anyone?). For the latter, I guess maybe you were listening to the wrong tunes as here is an album called Spectronica that will undoubtedly change your mind about what a tiny little black box can do for your ears when it’s in the right hands.
Consisting of 15 tracks, Spectronica by Richard ‘Tufty’ Hollins, will certainly get your ears attention; starting off with Space Beeps Pt.1, it sets off at a relaxing pace with sounds remenicsent of sounds you may have heard from Future Games by Mastertronic. Though somehow relaxing, chilling and rousing, it sets the tone for the rest of the album as you’re drawn into a world of electronica, wonder and memories of your early days with your Spectrum. Nice.
PFM sees a change of pace with its upbeat tempo and plugging bassline as you tap your foot away (try and stop it) as it takes you up and up but then gradually pulls you back down as you move onto the next track – the next track being Space Beeps Pt.2 (more space beeps can only be a good thing surely?). With its kicking beat, lovely eighties synth sounds, it stops starts its way hitting just the right notes and then picks up the pace, hurtling you through by the ears. No doubt this is one that needs to be listened to at high volume with headphones as you lose yourself in approximately three minutes of beeper bliss.
What’s this? Was that some speech? Indeed it was and it’s the next track ‘Beeper Expanded’ which features what I would call ‘classic’ ZX Spectrum beeper sounds. You know, the ones you found on a lot of early Spectrum games when games started to experiment with music as people become more au fait with the Spectrum’s beeper, and knew what could be done with it. A rousing a little tune with uplifiting notes with added robotic speech and added stop-start which has you pausing for a while..is that the en…ah, there it goes. Crafty little thing.
The Temporal beeper comes along next with hints of The Chemical Brothers thrown into its chilled vibes and more robotic voices. Just picture yourself late night clubbing, when most people have gone home and your head is on another level after one too many swift drinks and you feel on another planet. What a great place to be.
The next tune that catches my ear is the excellent Rude House Beeps that brings back a nineties rave vibe with added robo speech and if I’m not mistaken – did he just call me an arsehole? Maybe it’s my hearing but I’m 99% sure he called me an arsehole. *rewinds the tape* Yep. he did. By the time you’ve laughed at such an exclaimation and how cheeky old Tufty has been, it’s all over. Short and to the point, you may say.
What you may not know about the track Still Fascinated is it was actually directly recorded from a Vega+. A very interesting fact and leaving any negativity out that came from that project, it’s good to hear that from the consoles that were received, it was put to extremely good and creative use. A personal highlight of the album, with it’s cool beat and the keyboard keys working overdrive; my only criticism would be maybe it’s all over all too quickly. It’s not a short track by any stretch, but it certainly sucks you in and leaves you wanting more. The consolation being that there are plenty more tracks left to enjoy.
The album’s title track is pure sci-fi and Spectrum heaven. A tune that would not go amiss during the opening credits in a futuristic-set space movie. Some amazing eighties electro vibes which really take you back to the time of the Speccy’s heyday, with enough beeps to keep not only keep beeper fans happy but also ticking those sci-fi boxes which capture the atmosphere of space.
Didn’t you know that it’s Difficult For Cyborgs? Well, that’s what track thirteen will have you believe. Whilst we’re on the subject, were all those robot voices I heard earlier actually cyborgs? I hope I didn’t offend any. If any cyborgs are reading this then accept my wholehearted apologies. (I’ve seen The Terminator – I know what they’re capable of.) Anyway, I digress. Our robotic (sorry, cyborg) friends are back here, lending their voices to what is a very serious sounding tune; one that sounds like it’s on a mission, or indeed that sounds like the kind of thing that would run through your head whilst you’re on one. The nice Speccy game ‘splat’ at the end is cool way to finish things.
Any fans of the ZX Omni will be pleased to know that the final track on the album was composed on said device (the title does elude to that fact). Spectronica ZX Omni from the off, leaves you in no doubt that it’s about to take you somewhere. It’s slow start coupled with the slightly speeding noises leave you waiting with anticipation about where it’s going to go. Hang on, you’ll get there. It’s pace gradually increasing and then…winds you back down again. Tease. A few more beeps and the build starts again. Though it never gets to the pumping beats you may expect to hear, it is a fine way to finish the album and leaves you feeling very satisfied indeed.
Spectronica is a great listen for any fans of the ZX Spectrum, electronica and fans of retro music. If you were a child, or young adult of the eighties, this will really tickle your nostalgia buds. For added nostalgia, the album was recently available on cassette tape but unfortunately, sold out very quickly. Fortunately, record label Cow Tongue Taco records will be producing another run of albums in the near future, with that lovely blood red case you can see in the images above. Nice. If you can’t wait that long, Spectronica is available to listen to on Spotify right now, downloadable from Amazon and can also be listened to on Bandcamp. Please see all links below.
Right, I’m off to go spend some time with my friendly Cyborg (Terminator 2) as they do get lonely, you know.
Now, where’s my Spectrum got to?
Some amazing eighties electro vibes which really take you back to the time of the Speccy’s heyday, with enough beeps to keep not only keep beeper fans happy but also ticking those sci-fi boxes which capture the atmosphere of space.
ZX Spectrum enthusiast. Crash, Zzap64 and Amtix magazine writer – I also have a book called Florin’s Haul of ZX Spectrum Games available from Fusion Retro Books.