Army of 2600 - Atari Synthcart Maestro - Malcolm Ramage

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Army of 2600 - Atari Synthcart Maestro - Malcolm Ramage

Post by exxos »

"May synthcart users unite together and the old school bloop-beep-buzz never perish!" - General Mike, Army of 2600

Army-of-2600.jpg (205.74 KiB) Viewed 2540 times
General Mike of Army of 2600

"May synthcart users unite together and the old school bloop-beep-buzz never perish!" - General Mike, Army of 2600
The Army of 2600 (AO2600) consists of General Mike, a Generation X slacker and former metal-head who began his chiptune assault in 2008. Armed with duo Atari 2600s and multiple synthcarts (including one that's custom made) along with various pedals and programming, he records and releases music from his home base of Outpost Z in Omaha, Nebraska.

General Mike goal is to destroy the hearts and minds of the masses raised on guitars and drums and the usual versus/chorus approach to song structure with insane live shows featuring multiple pattern changing television screens and outlandish robotic dance moves.

Ever since his first Atari 2600 game system in 1978, General Mike has been enchanted by its sights and sounds. Nothing plays quite like an Atari 2600 and nothing feels quite like commanding 2 of them on stage with a shock and awe performance on an unprepared audience. Army of 2600 mixes unpredictable synthcart beats with actual 2600 game playing to create an atmosphere of a retro futuristic world of both low bit frenzy and laid back cosmic audio. To date, the AO2600 has a CD out on SinkHole Texas, Inc and numerous compilation and net releases.

His Studio Setup

Outpost Z is sometimes referred to as the "Millennium Falcon" of recording studios and the frugal General Mike (Mike Bourque in the real world) is proud of this backhanded compliment. His equipment is pieced together from Ebay purchases, hand-me-downs, and cheaply bought instruments.

General Mike explains the setup:
Army-of-2600-Equipment.jpg (85.89 KiB) Viewed 2540 times
Army of 2600's Atari Synthcart Setup

"Two Ataris run through a mixer with output through the televisions. Sometimes I run an Atari through a distortion or delay pedal first, other times clean. This mixer then inputs into my dinosaur of a laptop via ACID 6 where I can tweak the sounds and tracks to my liking. Before the Army of 2600 successfully staged its bloodless audio coup and became my lone project I recorded spacey, distorted, synth heavy noisescapes in the musical experimentations of first "Dark Cloud Nebula" (2006-2008) and later "Xenocats" (2008-2009). However, once I received my first Synthcart, the sounds of the 2600 began to dominate my work and I eventually felt compelled to find my niche in the chiptune/electronic genre and Atari was the catalyst." From then on, General Mike and his retro revolution was born.

Occasionaly, a keyboard finds it way onto a AO2600 track as well as warped records, sparse vocals, arcade and movie samples, and high frequency radio signals. No MIDI is involved. "Sometimes I record track by track, adding distorted layers over the top of one another to create an outer space meditative audio atmosphere. Other times the final recording comes out in one take - raw and usually slightly flawed, yet managing to capture the essence of the moment. Sometimes I command the music, other times the music commands me."

As for his Synthcarts, the General has two standard carts plus one programmed by the amazing Atarimatt. All were put together by Atariage. However, many 2600 games make great background noise accompaniment.

"I'll often play a 2600 game, like “Yars' Revenge” through a distortion pedal connected to a dual delay pedal with a final output from the laptop to a stereo system. I manipulate the joystick with one hand while turning knobs and pushing buttons with the other. Wait - is that some sort of sexual euphimism?"

The outcome is fun retro game playing that doubles as an intricate part of the final piece like in one of the AO2600's finest tracks, “Red Dragon vs. Square Dude”, which features the actual playing and defeating the first level of “Adventure” played live over synthcart grooves. Other tracks highlight the sounds of one game, like “Defender" while others involve multiple and more obscure games to weave an ambient mix of beat and sound - a congruent blend of General Mike's love of sound and music with his love of classic video games.

Listen to AO2600's recordings

"Baby Rumpkisser"
(2.86 MiB) Downloaded 195 times

"Jousting Time"
(3.52 MiB) Downloaded 205 times

"Red Dragon vs. Square Dude"
(4.57 MiB) Downloaded 214 times

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