The third in the Back in Time series sets its eclectic mix of tracks against the backdrop of a science fiction theme and is intended to be the soundtrack to a film that never was. Vignettes of bubbly Jarre-like melody link each track, and the album as a whole hangs together pretty well, proving to be a quantum leap over its predecessors.

As you might imagine, the emphasis is placed squarely on electronic music and mostly in a style that suits the original source material. Therefore we occasionally have to put up with melodies that sound like they came from the minds of composers who’ve been at the happy pills tin. Agent X 2 and Shadowfire both fall into this category and neither are particularly memorable unless you’re a real C64 advocate.

Luckily, Abbott’s production skills cater for more discerning listeners, too, and several epic arrangements exist within this CD. The best of them is the trippy, Pink-Floyd-inspired Delta: the voyage home, which manages to be chilling, engaging, emotive and sensational throughout its 12-minute journey. Almost as impressive is the wonderfully filmic Trap (split into three parts, one suspects, in order to afford Jeff Wayne a credit for the clip from War of the Worlds). Trap lacks the hypnotic elegance of Delta, but makes up for it with a sombre, powerful approach that attempts to marry a number of militaristic styles and succeeds with flair.

Elsewhere, things fall between the throwaway and epic, but mostly veer towards the latter. We’re treated to the ethereal and truly beautiful Parallax Stroll and a similarly dreamlike, ambient version of Larry Fast’s Ancestors (reworked by Rob Hubbard for the C64 Zoids soundtrack). Rob Hubbard’s War takes on an orchestral flavour, while Armalyte combines Martin Walker’s glittering SID sounds and white noise explosions with a grinding guitar, providing the album with its one chance to rock out.

Some tracks approach pop, albeit cautiously and in a rather eighties manner. Phantoms of the Asteroids sounds like a hyperactive Jarre track, while the busy and frantic One Man and His Droid ups the tempo even further.

Back in Time 3 isn’t without its problems, but it stands head and shoulders above every other C64 remix CD out there. A few of the tracks are truly epic and the likes of Delta should appeal to anyone with a penchant for hypnotic and engaging electronic music. And if you’re a fan of the original SID tunes, this CD is nothing less than essential.

Various Artists
Back in Time 3 (2001)

Genre: Electronic
Record Label: C64audio.com

Pixelsurgeon Verdict

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