A few months back I asked some questions* about how "tracker music" differed from early breakbeat hardcore and sequencer-based music generally, and I've still been somewhat confused. This post by Marius Watz, which Marisa Olson recently reblogged on Rhizome**, helped me quite a bit.
The arcane art of tracking takes what I like to think of as a hacker’s approach to making music. The interface is primarily numeric, notes are entered via the keyboard, length, parameters, effects are often entered in hexadecimal notation, and code flies across the screen as if you were looking at the opening credits of The Matrix. What’s not to like?*My questions from last April were: "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?"
I've concluded that the scenes were completely separate in the late 80s/early 90s: tracking was the domain of hackers making mostly chiptunes or cheesy rave tracks, while Rob Playford, A Guy Called Gerald and other mainstays of early breakbeat and jungle were using primordial versions of programs like Logic, hardware sequencers, and more pricy (?) samplers. What's happened in the last few years is a late merger of the two styles, with trackers being used to trigger samples in very fast "jungle-like" music. In the earlier thread we had some miscommunication but I think I'm clear on this now.
**Update, 2011: The Rhizome link has been changed to http://rhizome.org/editorial/2005/nov/26/the-arcane-art-of-tracking-vs-the-amen-break/
Interview with a UK oldskool hardcore/junglist from 90-96 lists his gear as follows: