MUSIC MONDAY

Music Monday: Xenon 2: Megablast

So the obvious Music Monday this week would almost certainly be the one that ties in with issue 150 of the podcast, and celebrates the much-lauded soundtrack to Hotline Miami.

However, though I like what I’ve heard of the music used in that game, I’ve only played the first few levels and so to talk about how much the OST means to me would be disingenuous.

Anyway, there are plenty of bits from the game on the podcast, hopefully enough to tempt you into seeking the full selection out.

Instead I thought I’d go for another ‘crowd-pleaser’, from the fondly remembered Bitmap Bros. designed shooter from 1989, Xenon 2: Megablast.

I say Bitmap. Bros. designed because, as often seems to be forgotten, Xenon 2 wasn’t coded by the Ray-ban wearing, non-biological siblings of Montgomery, Matthews, Kelly and co., but by The Assembly Line (Interphase, Cybercon III, Pipe Mania, E-motion).

Back in the late 80s, coming off the back of some amazing but obviously computer chip-generated tunes we could scarcely believe what our Amigas (and STs) were pumping out – serviceable and entirely recognisable versions of recent chart hits (see also The Power)!

Even those of us who were already into the computer game music scene started hooking our gaming machines and TVs up to superior sound systems to get the extra oomph that these thumping beats deserved.

I bought myself a pair of speakers which were clearly a hastily repurposed rear set for a car, as well as plugging the Amiga and Mega Drive through to a friend’s ‘ghetto blaster’ to record two 90 minute cassette tapes full of game music (which I still have to this day).

This is the version – the sample-infested Amiga intro incarnation – I committed to cassette for posterity (and portable listening pleasure):

I don’t mind admitting that my 17-year-old self felt pretty fucking cool walking around with a cheap, plasticky Sony Walkman rip-off pumping that into my ears.

David Whittaker, and now head of audio on the LEGO games and already a renowned composer of his own pieces for 8 and 16-bit games like Lazy Jones, Panther and Shadow of the Beast, was the audio-coding expert tasked with reproducing the music on Amiga and Atari ST.

Quite understandably the latter version’s equivalent relied more heavily on samples, before breaking into a far tinnier title screen interpretation than the fuller and more convincing Amiga equivalent.

Famously Xenon 2 licensed and sampled Bomb the Bass’ (a.k.a. Tim Simenon British hip hop hit Megablast (Assault on Hip Hop 13), from the 1988 album Into the Dragon:

Simenon built Megablast around a sped up version of John Carpenter’s typically minimalistic and doom-laden synth riff for his violent 1976 siege movie Assault on Precinct 13 (to all intents and purposes a remake of the Howard Hawks/John Wayne Western, Rio Bravo):

My final selection is the remixed CDTV version. I wasn’t lucky (read: well-off) enough to get hold of either a CD drive for my Amiga, a CD32, or a CDTV – in fact I didn’t even own a CD-capable music player until 1994.

Yet the lure of digital high-definition, compact disc quality music certainly provided temptation to raid the piggy bank at times:

Here’s to a quarter of a century of Megablastin’!

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