We're still discussing Bodenstandig in the comments to an earlier post. Jonathan Brodsky has led me to do some poking into the "tracker scene" and I still have questions if anyone feels up to it. Brodsky says "the tracker (impulse, octamed, fasttracker) has become the clearest interface choice for musicians doing the proto-jungle/noise thing." A nitpick, if people are using these old school tracker programs to make current drum and bass it's not "proto-" jungle, because that means "an early or previous form of"; it's more like post-jungle, unless you mean "proto-jungle-esque" (i.e., like early '90s breakbeat techno, jungle's precursor). I know, ridiculous. My (slightly edited) response to Jonathan and standing questions for anybody:
Here's a wikipedia article and another piece on the tracker scene. Also some info on Atari chip-music editors such as the one Bodenstandig used. I'm still curious (and googling) about the interrelationship of the Atari demoscene, amigatrackers, and early rave and 'ardkore. How much was hobbyist/cultist vs real club/dancefloor breakthroughs? Also how much was actually hacked and/or open source vs just using the products companies were selling? Then or now? From the wiki article it sounds like the Akai and the tracker software were inseparable 50/50 partners in defining the "tracker" sound. Is that the same thing as "classic" breakbeat rave or breakbeat techno? The article makes "tracker" music sound like a cheesy variant--did that happen later or was tracker music always the music of hobbyists/Atari cultists? Finally, is the "tracker scene" mainly a European thing?
Also, FWIW, the octamed link has a picture of Aphrodite's studio...

aphrodite's studio

- tom moody 3-02-2005 7:02 am

true. I did mean post jungle, but I get words mixed up sometimes. I was refering specifically to venetian snares or shitmat or other artists that seem to work more in the heavy edit style that reminds me of early jungle. If I was to back up my bad vocab, I would explain my words by saying that these artists music remind me of what I thought jungle was when I was only reading about it, and before I ever heard it.

It seems that the point about trackers and akai being inseperable in defining the "tracker" sound comes from this line in the wiki entry...

Tracker music was a fantastic training ground for a generation of electronic dance musicians, many of whom saved up for an Akai sampler, a multi-effects unit, a mixer and a microphone, thence to storm the charts.

I don't really know what part of the tracker required these kids to upgrade to an akai sampler, as there were quite a few ways to get your tracker up to the 44.1 / 16 bit standard set by hardware samplers. Most trackers were still missing the really nice filters that came with most akai samplers, and there may have been other items missing as well. It may have been the input methods, or the monophonic method of thinking about composition that a tracker forces the user into. I think that the interview with aphrodite is quite revealing, as it shows that his studio focused quite a bit around a tracker. I would not be suprised to find out that quite a few other electronic musicians of that era worked in a similar manner.

I just wanted to bring up that most trackers are certainly not open source, but they were created in an environment that pushed shareware / lowcost principals, and if I understand it correctly, were mostly in house creations for musicians working with demo groups to create soundtracks.
- jonbro 3-02-2005 9:34 am

What is the advantage of a tracker over a current sequencer like Cakewalk, Cubase, etc? (Other than that it's old school and hip.) Is it faster? Is there less latency? Less crash prone?
- tom moody 3-02-2005 7:30 pm

if you don't have a midi keyboard... it is really fast to interact with. Even if you do have a midi keyboard, entering chopped up sample loops is easier (I think) in the tracker interface.

This may just be because I am used to it, and can't be bothered to 1) buy a midi interface (I have a keyboard) or 2) learn how to play keyboard.

So the answer is the interface can be faster.
- jonbro 3-02-2005 9:13 pm

Thanks. I'm still trying things out and would like something faster and more intuitive than Cubase. What I need, though, is notation software I can use to write fairly elaborate musical phrases that will then play softsynths or outboard gear, not just trigger loops and/samples. Nothing I'm using now for writing is as hands-on as the old Macintosh MusicWorks program I used off and on from '88 until my SE started dying. I also don't have a keyboard, and I am not a programmer, so I'm fucked.

But I'm also leary of just doing stuff that just sounds like chiptunes from the 80s. I will check out Venetian Snares and Shitmat; curious to hear something current that relates to older jungle but isn't jungle.

- tom moody 3-02-2005 9:35 pm

I think alternative interfaces are always good to explore because they make you think about composition differently, even if they don't work great for ya. My printer and Atari 2600 parts are all just written in text files.

But I always end up going back to the sequencer and midi keyboard for input (usually to drive the OPL3 FM chip), Part of my problem with trackers is they're usually pattern based. I often prefer to just set the sequencer to record and play the whole thing on a keyboard so a repeating pattern is never exactly the same. And there's no substitute for a pitch bend wheel (which I use obsessively).

I think my next interface adventure will be borrowing my friend's MIDI guitar.

- paul (guest) 3-02-2005 10:43 pm

Here's a shitmat page with a bunch of breakcore mashups of Rolf "Tie Me Kangaroo Down" Harris. Pretty sick. Based on listening a little to shitmat and venetian snares, I'd say they bear roughly the same relation to old school jungle that Lightning Bolt bears to skiffle--I mean both are in the world of music, but... Seriously, these guys may very well be using lightweight tracker programs to trigger all these samples, but from the historical descriptions of tracker music it sounds more like cheesy rave than any kind of predecessor of this demonic high speed noizecore. This is just speculation until I actually fool around with a program and read more about the old days.

- tom moody 3-03-2005 11:55 pm

Info on the modplug tracker (and related pages) is helping me understand this better. I still don't understand how tracker programs are different from current sequencers (Cubase et al), other than having their own formats that combine compositions with samples and being lower in memory requirements, etc. It seems like some retro purist/hobbyist version of programs that continued to evolve and add more depth and capablilities (but which could still be retro as you wanted them to sound). Like me using MSPaintbrush instead of Photoshop, the difference being there's no scene around MSPaintbrush.

- tom moody 4-24-2005 2:48 am

Interview with a UK oldskool hardcore/junglist from 90-96 lists his gear as follows:

--my mixing desk was a 24 into 8 into 2 SECK with a totally silent phantom power unit…i really loved that mixer.
--AKAI S900 and an S950, giving me 16 seperate sample outputs
--Roland JUNO1 as my main keyboard and midi controller
--Alesis Qudraverb and a Midiverb II for effects
--KORG M1 rack module
--ATARI-STFM computer which I ran strictly and only CUBASE on for sequencing and arrangements

- tom moody 12-05-2008 12:04 am