“One for the geeks” is what you initially think when presented with Project Galway. After all, who else would listen to a double CD collection of ‘remastered’ Commodore classics, unchanged from their original C64 incarnations? Yes, you heard right: while various C64 remix CDs carefully tread the line between out-and-out nostalgia and the repackaging and repurposing of retro games tunes for the current market, Project Galway instead comprises nearly three-dozen Galway tracks, recorded directly from his original SID chip.
But wait a minute. Yes, you might argue that this is for hardcore fans only, but listen for any length of time and it becomes apparent that this is more than just an historical document. Putting aside the inherent limitations of the original technology (the monophonic SID chip had just three channels), it’s clear that Galway is an accomplished musician and that many of these pieces are impressive, imaginative and still sound as fresh today as they did nearly two decades ago.
A case in point is the energetic, multi-layered Ocean Loader V2, once famously used in Aphex Twin concerts, and guaranteed to throw ex-C64 owners into a fit of misty-eyed nostalgia. Those less familiar with the original material should still be engaged, because Galway is a master of threading melodies and sounds; rarely does his work suffer from the overt busyness evident in the output of many other SID composers.
Sometimes there’s an effortless beauty about the work: Parallax Stroll’s hypnotic overlaid melodies are both engrossing and enchanting, and the epic Green Beret Loader and Parallax Title both prove thoroughly engaging as the tracks unfold and evolve.
Elsewhere, quite a range is covered—unsurprising when you consider the original tracks were used in every imaginable genre of game. The rousing, anthemic Rambo First Blood Part 2 echoes a Goldsmith score, while Arkanoid’s crunchy rhythm track (which sounds that way due to Galway’s total lack of sampling knowledge at the time) seems to almost foreshadow industrial music, albeit with trademark Galway melodies dancing alongside. Some of the shorter pieces, often used for high scores, feel more like ideas rather than finished tracks, but are still worth a cursory listen.
Rather less impressive, and probably for the hardcore fans only, are the cover versions that litter the CDs. Although Galway’s skills with the SID chip’s limitations worked wonders on his own compositions, the same was rarely true when well-known tracks from elsewhere were reworked. Cases in evidence include dodgy versions of Tangerine Dream’s Le Parc (a.k.a. Street Hawk), the truly bizarre, jaunty, arpeggio-laced Miami Vice theme, and the frankly embarrassing Chariots of Fire. However, Helikopter Jagd, a cover of Giorgio Moroder’s Ivory Tower, removes the cheese factor and actually ends up sounding better than the original.
Overall, then, this CD is perfect for nostalgic ex-C64 owners, wanting to once again hear those classic Galway tunes, free from the confines and inaccuracies of PC-based players and emulators. Whether the material will appeal to those without such desires to relive their youth is perhaps debatable, but there can be no denying that many of the tracks on Project Galway are excellent in their own right, and synth-music fans may well lap them up.
Project Galway (2003)
Record Label: High Technology Publishing Ltd