Nanoloop Gameboy Synthesizer
Music for the Low Tech society

The Nanoloop software is a strange thing. Its purpose is to turn a silly video game console designed to host Super Mario and the Pokemons into a musical instrument. The development of the software had started as a students experiment at Hamburg's art school, but soon turned into a commercial project.

The mere thought of using a game console for creating sounds might make some people want to burst into laughter - you might as well use a mobile phone or an answering machine instead. In days like these, where many electronic musicians rely on superfast computers for sound production, an old-fashioned Gameboy seems like a joke. And indeed, a game console was never intended to be used as a musical tool, the duty of its poor sound-hardware being to create some simple background noises to enhance the likewise simple games.

But here is Nanoloop, the first (and last) synthesizer and sequencer software for the Gameboy platform. It comes stored on a cartridge like any video game and sports some impressive features, like FM- and Wavetable sound synthesis and a 16-step sequencer - Nanoloop can even be MIDI-synced via a special adaptor cable. In fact, Nanoloop gives the user full access to the console's built-in sound hardware, and it is strictly not sample-based. Sound alterations are performed in real time, and there is no doubt that a simple game console's operating system will run more stable than a PC's. On the other hand, if the unit's battery runs empty, all the data that has been stored is lost.

The Nanoloop developers say their user interface is dedicated to Techno-style music, but it looks more as if it had been designed by the Russian Suprematist art and design movement of the late 1910s, with its radical and minimal aesthetics. The layout is indeed very simple with black symbols on a white background.

Who needs Nanoloop? Perhaps nobody, but it can be a lot of fun to play around with LoFi equipment that lacks all the perfection that normally surrounds us.

Obviously, a product like Nanoloop is likely to attract musicians with a decidedly different approach towards music production. French label "Disco Bruit" have released a compilation of recordings by various artists who used Nanoloop. The musical range spans from minimal pop to atonal music and features artists like Japanese noise terrorists Merzbow or Pyrolator. Some of these artists use the Nanoloop-Gameboy in their regular setup, so there must be something to it.

(rh MMI)
>> Nanoloop on the Web

This is a musical instrument (quite)