If Rustie is the leader of the Coca-Cola and Nintendo approach to modern electronica, Soccer96 take a slightly more analogue route. As their name suggests, the band assimilate influences which date from the halcyon era of the Commodore Amiga and the trusty musicians friend, the Atari ST. In fact, their influences don’t simply date from the home computing machines of this era (or some years before) – their influences are these machines.
While claiming that the draw their energy rather than their aesthetic from the gaming world (in fact their aesthetic and name is more reminiscent of vintage Panini football sticker albums), the seven tracks on this album are best described as levels which increase in ferocity and intensity, opening with California, a slight and breezy joyful jaunt through digital arpeggios, closing with the lengthy Yoga Flame, a skittery, live-drum driven affair which rewards listeners for getting this far by transforming itself into a kinetic shot of hyperactive adrenalin.
The band, comprising the enigmatic twosome Danalogue and Beatamax, originate from Brighton and this eponymous debut album, engineered by Stereolab and Dam Funk acolytes, was recorded live on to tape, giving the whole affair a human element which seems perversely alien considering the competition. In fact, Soccer96 essentially apply a rockist concept to electronica; Call To Arms may have half shouted/sung vocals about sleeping on synthesisers but it’s a traditional indie played on keyboards and drums. Leve8Clouds is all bass synths and jazzy drum breaks, supplanted by spectral vocals and stabs of glitch while Adaptatrap is the most ‘out-there’ track on the album, presumably a bonus level, with tribal drumming, handclaps and what sounds like a motorbike attempting to rev up inside a matchbox.
The one thing the band do rather well is to evoke the fractal psychedelics of platform computer gaming. Each song is a rampaging run through musical peaks and troughs and there is quite a coherent sound on offer here, with the live drums offering a thread connecting the concept with the execution. However, the difficulty with Soccer96 is that it showcases all manner of influences but never manages to extend beyond a tinny, indie Fisher Price sound which renders the majority of tracks here rather forgettable. The band claim they play ‘rock shows, not cyber cafes’ but this particular rock show doesn’t translate so well to tape. It’s only by the initial gentle stride of the aforementioned closing track, leading into the excitable coda, that the duo seem to find their stride – the drums no longer seem intrusive and the electronics are less weedy.
All is not lost for Soccer96; if their name is to be believed, they are approximately 16 years behind the times and there is a plethora of electronic approaches honed and perfected in the interim which will welcome their technical nous. There’s undoubtedly a market for this ersatz synthesiser ecstastica at the minute but its surely only a passing fad amidst the sweeping march of retromania. Perhaps Soccer96 can keep up with the past but their fling with the present seems all too fleeting.