If there are any readers still out there, they may note that Richard D. James has been kind of prolific of late, new album 2 years ago and some other bits and pieces since then. Lately though, there was a release of something called Cheetah, and since I’m one of those oddities that still covets cassettes I was eager to acquire a copy of the tape version.
Fast forward a few weeks post release and I finally get round to listening to the tape, however on tugging the tiny plastic thread that released memoric endorphins and the delicate smell of plastic on the tape box I note that the title of the first track is CHEETAHT2 [Ld spectrum]. And it made me think, he’s a bit of a prankster when afforded the opportunity. And it’s a cassette, and if I were Richard, and I was releasing a cassette, I’d hide data on that tape. (And, of course there is the whole being subtitled Ld Spectrum thing which is a bit of a clue.) On the other side is a track subtitled Колхозная, which seems to be Kyrgyzstan for jumping tractor or farming collective.
For readers that aren’t familiar with the Spectrum, it was a home computer that was insanely popular in the UK during the 1980s, and various versions of it were launched across the world. Here’s one from Russia, which I believe was called the Companion.
It’s not as if he’s unfamiliar with the Spectrum, see Carnmarth from the Richard D. James album which has elements of Sabre Wulf loading embedded in the track.
So, how would I access that data? And without an actual Spectrum?
Last year I was gifted a Recreated Spectrum thing. It’s a bit of a shitshow really, Bluetooth was wonky in Windows, wouldn’t pair on OSX as I already have a Bluetooth keyboard connected and the app was discontinued and the keymap was busted and it only ate rechargable batteries and and and…
So we didn’t progress on that matter. It’s a nice looking ornament among the other electronic junk that fills this home. But I’ve been nudged by this, so let’s push things forward.
I remembered I had an actual Spectrum cassette in the basement of dead media, so I have a baseline to work from. Assuming this can be loaded from tape to an emulator, then I should be able to try loading from a tape via an emulator once I can find one to work with. I’ve got a tape deck to hopefully load from.
(Shout out to 2000AD here, my base tape is Strontium Dog – The Killing. It’s Prog 2000 day at the time of writing, it’ll probably be 2028 by the time I publish this and the post will be available in a nasal spray or something else instead.)
So on looking at worldofspectrum there are a handful of emulators that can load from tape, which would be the ideal scenario.
However, unsurprisingly I suppose, it isn’t as straightforward as I may have thought. So I wonder how much original hardware costs?
You know, I’m not quite rolling 65 quid on a theory crazy. And as I’m in the middle of Europe these days there are no carboot or similar opportunities to acquire a cheap version. So I guess I’m going back to alternative methods.
It seems that M.E.S.S. emulates various versions of the Spectrum, and it’s at least maintained (well, kind of, it’s been subsumed into M.A.M.E.) so I’ll try that. Looks like I’ll need to make a tape image as I don’t think load from hardware is supported.
M.A.M.E. of course powers this dust magnet in the corner, it’s an emulator core that can run many different computers/games/etcetera. I don’t think there is a version of MAME Pi that runs Spectrum, and you know I’m drifting away from the intended and imagine trying to control it with a joystick. QAOP12345M.
So, I’ve got the hardware and a way to load it and now I need to try and transfer the possible data from a tape to a file than can be loaded, so I need to find a program that can help me out with this.
According to worldofspectrum, there are a handful of programs that can help, so let’s try the one that’s Windows friendly, Spectrum Tape Reader v2.00 (PC/Windows) by Jocelyn Gibart. WOS says it saves out in the TZX format! The program is still fully in development and at the moment only ROM-timed blocks and fully generic turbo loaders can be handled (and the user needs to know the exact timing values of turbo loaders).
But, at this point in time I’m only looking to check whether or not there is actually data on the tape. And as I have an actual Spectrum cassette let’s try that first.
Now that we have something that can identify data blocks from a genuine spectrum tape, let’s try the Aphex Twin cassette.
Well, there’s a tone. That’s interesting at least, no? Don’t see a header so it may just be that there is a similar tone to a Spectrum key tone so inconclusive so far. Let’s wait a bit longer.
Oooh, there’s a data stream here.
There’s definitely something here, seems a bit unlikely there’s identifiable data by coincidence. So I’ve grabbed both sides of the cassette as there are similar traces. Now to try and load it into the machine.
I captured my baseline cassette, and have opened it in a hex editor. You can see it identifies as ZX binary data as presumably all Sinclair use a similar declaration.
So, let’s try the same thing with the data captured from Cheetah.
And side 2.
Even more data!
Now, let’s try to find out what’s on this cassette.
It was somewhat of a task to find something that might be able to load a self created .tzx, eventually Marvin on android looked like it might work.
This was looking quite promising until I realised it was slowly outputting an error message in basic and not something such as the question to the answer to the meaning of life as revealed by scrabble tiles.
So let’s back up here. I’ve got a cassette which very likely has hidden data on it, but my captured data is junk. Transferring data via analogue methods is a bit of a mess at the best of times anyway, especially if your equipment is suboptimal and that tape deck isn’t great, it’s got a bit of flutter on one channel so this might be a problem.
Let’s see what the basement of old junk has for us today.
A Sony Walkman that I’ve been considering adding a Raspberry Pi zero to as a media player, but also a cheapo tape deck that looks exactly the part. So, let’s try again. In the interest of time preservation, I was able to redo The Killing, and it looks a bit better (less data missing), so I’ll redo Cheetah.
Alas, redoing these doesn’t seem to have particularly successful despite the appearance of the loading screen from The Killing in the transfer process. so I think I need to sleep on this, I’m sure my theory is good here but something is failing me.
(Additionally, I tried grabbing the wav from bleep.com and rendering it down to 8bit mono 44.1, it doesn’t seem to load either but I can’t say for sure that the wav would have the Spectrum elements.)
At this point, I think I need to publish and walk away from it for a little time to let some other thoughts percolate. There does appear to be data in the tracks (which may just be random snippets though) but I can’t seem to make it work just now. I may need actual hardware instead.
For anyone interested, the tracks converted to wav files are here : cheetah.
Hope you’re well! Not much to report here, finally got a Home Taping Is Killing Music tattoo.
Home Taping is Killing Music Tattoo
Got an email reminder about some SQL gubbins today and I found this half finished post. I’m just going to post it anyway. Would have been more timely 2 years ago, but, hey. Look at that, this blog is nearly 10 years old.
From about 6 years old I read 2000AD religiously, if you’re of my age (and that’s a distinct possibility) it’s probably had some influence on your own childhood even if it’s only due to the quite awful Sylvester Stallone movie (although this has since been somewhat diminished by the excellent Dredd of late).
My favourite comics though were the one picked up on the corner of Buchanan Street & Argyll Street, a street vendor sold newsstand copies of US comics and other those I had a particular fondness for DC Comics. More specifically I really enjoyed the alternative takes on the heroes such as those from Earth-2 or some other parallel universe where Batman wore the colourful costume of Zur-En-Arh or Superman was made of gold and lived in the Sun or you know, something that was grounded in this reality but slightly warped and alternative.
To go back to 2000AD, the Glaswegian writer Grant Morrison did some work for the comic, perhaps most famously the Superhero saga, Zenith. And again, the most enjoyable chapter of this for me was the war of heroes with many alternative takes from parallel dimensions on long forgotten and not forgotten characters such as an Acid House interpretation of Robot Archie or a grown-up Billy Whizz. All very silly, but I’ve always appreciated a sharp take on alternative histories or the Sci-Fi staple of the Mirror Universe.
Which ultimately brings me to this.
This is the back of the Dayglo Maradona sleeve, most of the following are shown on the back with the exception of Pit-Yackers theme, which thematically looks like The Prodigy – Baby’s Got A Temper.
Dub House Disco maybe? Spackhouse Tottu seems a bit of a dig at Guerilla but I might be off base here. Also seems to be a bit of a riff on Back 2 Basics.
Sueno Latino surely. Manuel Gottsching’s E2-E4 inspired that and I’m sure his influence with Ash Ra Tempel is significant here.
Throbbing Gristle/Ash Ra Tempel/Popul Vuh
I think these are both Happy Mondays/Black Grape riffs. Pit-Yacker is a bit Kermit/Shaun Ryder inspired.
Not sure about this one.
The only one that physically exists (so far), this is Julian Cope working the balearic rave sound of 1989, remixed by Andrew Weatherall and recalling his remix work of that time really well. Available on White 12″ from Rough Trade. The sleeve recalls Bocca Juniors – Raise pretty well. And although I can’t quite discern it from this particular track, it’s worth noting the influence of Thrashing Doves – Jesus On The Payroll across these tracks.
Perfecto Allstars – Pigbag a bit? Certainly the superstar DJ cult of Oakenfold must have some influence over the characterisations.
Could be any one of a number of famous Dutch DJs, (Armand Van Helden isn’t Dutch is he?)
Glasgow’s Slam ran a club night in the Sub Club called Atlantis for many years. I spent many nights there in various states. Sheer Taft released a track called Atlantis on Creation records. I don’t think either of these is depicted here though. More likely something like E2-E4
This is such a great track, sprinkles of Finitribe – Monster In The House/Animal Farm (Foghorn Leghorn & Sweep samples) and again a bit of the Mondays. Also Fluke’s remix of World of Twist – She’s A Rainbow seems quite relevant here.
Guessing Adamski, Liveanddirect. Also remininscent of Underworld – Big Mouth & the Sandals – We Wanna Live. Particularly the DSS remix involving Sabres & David Holmes.
Not sure about this one, Bocca Juniors follow up to Raise (referenced above) was Substance, touching on Aleister Crowley in it’s lyrics but I’m not really seeing the connection with Werwolf(sic).
Last Tango In Paris lyrics
Sugary drinks across the ages,
Tales of pick-me-ups by sages,
Caffeinated to the max,
Delivering drinks down ancient tracks,
‘The King of Vienna needs some sugar,
You’re heading east, you lucky bugger.’
Red Bull comes in cans, I know,
I’ve followed its career,
Since I chanced upon its Austrian debut,
It was 1987 and our youth team played East Tyrol,
Where the fighting hordes are few.
So we loaded up with Kola Max,
We loaded up with sickly snacks,
Got overloaded on the aeroplane,
Then descended as one sugary mass,
We crossed the tarmac,
Reached the grass,
Then retched collectively, ooh!
(Pause) Let’s start again.
Sugary drinks across the ages,
Tales of pick-me-ups by sages,
Caffeinated to the max,
Delivering drinks down ancient tracks,
‘The King of France, he needs some sugar,
You’re heading south, you lucky bugger.’
Red Star, Paris: green-and-white,
A year or so ago,
Your soft drinks were all gone long before Half Time,
So I had to mug a tourist fairly near the Eiffel Tower,
Half a Tango is no crime!
Your Honour, it was lack of fizz,
Your Honour, Coke won’t do the biz,
And your baggage handlers cracked the fizz I’d packed,
If you run a Euro football club,
We Anglos don’t all need the pub,
White sugar: it’s a fact.
Mick collects the kind of drinks that keep you up all night,
All you kiddies, too much pop will make you sick,
Unto every son and daughter,
Give them juice and give them water,
Then there’s all the more for Mick.
Was it the first Vimto in Cannock?
No, it was the last Tango in Paris,
Was it the final Britvic in Bury?
No, it was the last Tango in Paris.
It was not the penultimate Coke in Berlin
Quaffed down with a bongload of charis;
Indeed, it would go down in history
As the last Tango in Paris.
Was it the final R. White’s in Westminster?
No, it was the last Tango in Paris.
It was not the penultimate Tizer in Hull,
It was the last Tango in Paris.
Was it the ultimate Fanta in Nazi Germany?
The last Dr. Pepper on Broadway?
The last Kia-Ora to escape from Andorra?
Just take this Ribena and go away.
Was it the last Dandelion and Burdock in the Quantocks?
No, I won’t speak of it longer,
The only contender was My Mum’s Cola,
And that’s only because it’s stronger.
Was it the second-to-last Irn Bru in the Shetlands?
Or the final Corona on Skye?
Well, me I can’t answer,
All clammy and sweaty,
Just gimme one quick or I’ll die.
Once I bought what I thought was a nice vinyl jacket thing (for a human) from Esprit a few years ago, it’s like a suit jacket made out of vinyl. Anyway, I employed a new guy in my department who turned out to be a rather flamboyant gay man, and at one point he mentioned that he thought my jacket was a bit over the top. I figured that when the most fabulous gay man I’ve ever met considered my clothing was too much for him then I might want to reign my sartorial flare in somewhat.
Anyway, anyone reading might be interested in this at Boomkat, it’s a limited collected cassette of the HATE 12″ singles from about 4 years ago. HATE are G.H., Andy Stott and Miles Whittaker and the music is really good, it’s a great revision of Junglish sounds from 2008 via 1998.
I step away from this and weeks turn into months, there are a couple of drafts here but are mostly only collections of unrelated words which may have been meaningful to me 9 months ago but emerge blinking into my editor confused. Any ideas I had for posts have turned to dust and symbols, A draft title of Mashed Potatoes stares up at me, and I can only guess at what it’s referring to although it could have been used for this post. I could apologise for not posting, but as I’m probably writing mostly for myself it would merely be cathartic so I won’t. I only suggest to myself that I should at least try to post more than once a year.
This has been on my todo list for a while, but I always had some problems finding the right version of the disc. My discogs adventures would inevitably turn up the wrong version, which was an easy mistake to make as I didn’t know how to tell one version from the other until a wonderful soul noticed a difference on the runout groove. On the bright side I’ve got a few generic Perfecto sleeves if I wanted to paper the wall or something.
Spotify is kind of neat, isn’t it? It takes mere seconds to find Pinball Cha Cha, Nlogax, the Cinematic Orchestra’s fabulous Late Night Tales session or Blanck Mass without having to journey down to the archive. Which is admittedly about 5 steps over there and 15 steps downstairs but it’s the principle that counts. From an artist point of view it doesn’t seem to be all that fair, each play probably nets you about 0.000003 pence per play which is about as much exposure as you get from some guy on the Internet posting the tracks you hoped were in the permanent bin.
It’s probably been nearly two years since I’ve posted anything so I guess it’s about time I changed that. What I wanted to achieve with this blog was to share music that hadn’t been heard in some time or only by a limited audience, so I did that for a while but couldn’t find the momentum to go on and kind of gave up.