Pterodactyl Squad, a self-described “video game music netlabel”, has just released The Dark Side of the Moon – The 8-bit Album, the follow-up to its wildly successful 8-bit Weezer tribute. In a sense, it’s a re-imagining of the 1973 prog-rock classic from Pink Floyd as if their medium were an Atari 2600.
This sort of technological revisionism is interesting because it helps elucidate the role of technology and the performance. On Dark Side, Pink Floyd notably used early synthesizers, a multitude of effects, and snippets of noise such as the cash register sounds on “Money.” These effects, which were unusual for the time, were used to realize the band’s specific vision for the album. Given the record’s distinction of being one of the most popular records of all time, it would be hard to imagine novelty being its sole appeal.
Given the record’s enormous influence on music, several bands have been inspired to reinterpret the album using their preferred modes. Some examples include: dub reggae tribute Dub Side of the Moon; voice-only Dark Side Of The Moon A Cappella; and bluegrass album Dark Side of the Moonshine. The Dark Side of the Moon – The 8-bit Album is clearly among these quirky offshoots of the original album, but also makes one consider what music would be like had any one of these genres elicited the same reverence of the rock quartet. Perhaps the greatest significance of The 8-bit Album is that it elevates nostalgia-laden, video-game inspired music to a genre.
More fundamentally, these reinterpretations of Dark Side, are exercises in different techniques of producing sound. Whatever messages and themes in the original recording are inevitably overshadowed by its form. Given the gimmicks surrounding this truly classic work, it’s sometimes easy to forget that Dark Side was defying conventions at the time, and simultaneously forming new conventions.
I imagine that these tribute albums are truly the product of musicians who feel that they owe a debt to this album. As each generation reinvents itself, it, too, must reestablish the connections to the past that are still worthwhile. By reinterpreting Dark Side in fun and interesting ways, these artists are calling on new listeners to go to the original work, which was once more widely known. Its outside reinvention and reiteration shows that Dark Side, nearly 40-years after it was released, is still relevant. The 8-bit Album can be thought of as a conduit that uses video game music nostalgia to channel individuals to the genius of Dark Side.