Atarimatt vs. great unwashed luminaries, I Was a Teenage Metalhead

Atarimatt vs. great unwashed luminaries, I Was a Teenage Metalhead

One of the more intriguing artistic trends in recent years is the reconstitution of the debris of mainstream culture and industry into forms standing at a substantial distance from their original intent. From the sardonic collages of advertising and news broadcasts by Negativland to the recovery of plastic, paper, and other commercial would-be waste for installations and sculptures, recycling appears to have found its artistic side. Atarimatt and great unwashed luminaries both find inspiration in the two sound sources long rendered obsolete but enjoying a degree of renaissance in recent years: the single-bit soundtracks to Atari video games and the synthesized soundtracks to B-grade midnight movies.

As his handle suggests, Atarimatt composes on an Atari 2600. The resulting compositions serve as good introductions to the world of 8-bit electronic music. Despite his avowed love of the thrashy end of punk rock, Atarimatt produces charming little ditties teeming with the binary crunch and squiggle of many a misspent hour playing Duck Hunt. “Space Squid Shakedown” backs up a an eminently hummable sinewave melody with rhythms fit together like a successful round of Tetris — perfectly even, but full of color. “The Electric Monsters” is aptly named, bringing to mind the frenetic tempo and modulation of the last forty seconds of Megaman’s contests with Tree/Ice/Running Man. A remix of AM’s own “Commuter” pulls in samples taken from what one can only guess is Logan’s Run and fits them over a downsampled electro track that resembles a pitch-perfect 8-bit take on electro and Italo-disco tracks from the 2600’s heyday. Despite his instrumentation, Atarimatt proves to be a competent songwriter with enough pop sensibility to keep his music from being relegated to a mere novelty.

great unwashed luminaries trafficks in a different set of antiquated ’80s technology. Synthesizers and drum machines are the primary tools here, carrying the faint aura of an entire generation of genre movie soundtracks and furtive high school escapes to Numbers. There are no direct rip-offs of The Burning or Madman here, but sole member Kelly Minnis manages to evoke the same dramatic tension that kept the Class of ’85 on the edge of their theater seats and on the dancefloor. The 16th note sequencing and liquid bassline of “Bodyrocking” may very well live up to its title at the tail end of a long D&D session. “Silence Sea & Sky” cruises along like Kraftwerk riding shotgun with Knight Rider in some alternate version of Beverly Hills Cop. It isn’t all Me Decade with great unwashed luminaries, however; his remix of Atarimatt’s “Commuter” stretches enough to incorporate a cut-up Amen break alongside its synths but falters under its eleven-and-a-half minute length.

Released by the prolific College Station(!) label SinkHole Texas, Inc., this EP is an enjoyable survey of two artists mining new sounds from the obsolete resources of the recent past. As the children of the Me Decade catch wind of them, they may find themselves able to afford forays into other realms of untapped nostalgia. In the meantime, they offer solid proof that there are some portions of the ’80s worth remembering.

[Atarimatt & great unwashed luminaries are playing 5/1/09 at Super Happy Fun Land, along with Pretty & Nice, The Dee Use, Tran Tran, & Female Demand.]
(SinkHole Texas, Inc. -- 1707 Austin Ave., College Station, TX. 77845; http://www.myspace.com/sinkholetexas; Atarimatt -- http://www.myspace.com/atarimatt; great unwashed luminaries -- http://www.myspace.com/greatunwashedluminaries)
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Review by . Review posted Friday, May 1st, 2009. Filed under Features, Reviews.

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