Move over, Fatboy Slim

A new PlayStation title could shake-up the recording industry.

VIDEO games and dance music have been two of the most frequent causes of moral panic among "concerned" parents - and two of the most popular leisure activities for their gleeful offspring. It was the laser- guided marketing campaigns of the Sony Playstation in 1995 that first brought the two together, placing consoles in clubs and hip dance acts on game soundtracks. As a result, the videogame shot from being a geek's plaything to a mass-market entertainment medium, and became enshrined alongside music and clubbing in the youth culture pantheon.

The innovative British software house Codemasters took the relationship one step further in 1998 with the introduction of the music creation title "Music". However, it is the just-released sequel, Music 2000, which has finally cemented the union between games and dance music by turning the humble Playstation into an ersatz recording studio

Music 2000 is essentially a user-friendly distillation of industry standard computer-based recording software such as Cubase and ProTools. Crammed into the code are thousands of instruments, loops created by the professional DJs (Leftfield and Grooverider) and a 24-track recording capability.

The process of creating a song is as simple as editing a document in a word processor. The component parts - drum loops, bass lines, melody, percussion and vocals - are cut and pasted on to a timeline. They can then be altered at will: effects added; tempos and pitches changed; even the properties of the instrument waveforms can be transformed.

Alternatively, users can assign instruments and samples to up to four control pads, and "jam", recording the results in real time - and after that there is a video creator to get to grips with. Not bad for a mere computer game.

Where Music 2000 stands out, though, is in its inclusion of a sampler. The sampler (which allows fragments of sound to be recorded, edited and reused) has triggered even more of a revolution in popular music than electrifying the guitar, bringing with it a new level of democracy. Suddenly people without any formal musical training could summon a host of disparate sounds, from orchestras to police sirens, and use them for songwriting.Sampling has since fuelled many music genres, from the James Brown and Blue Note loops of hip hop to the stolen disco riffs of chart-toppers Phats and Small.

The Music 2000 sampler allows users to record 14 seconds from any audio CD placed in the Playstation's CD-rom drive. These samples can be cut up and reassembled in just the same way as those built in to the program, giving musicians access to a huge potential palette of sounds. The Playstation's meagre amount of memory limits the sampling ability somewhat, but there is enough there to get started. Budding Fatboy Slims should also arm themselves with the Legendary Deep Funk and Strange Games series of CDs for inspiration.

At pounds 100 for the game and console, this new breed need not be confined to the moneyed middle classes. Neither does it presume an in-depth knowledge of musical theory. The program will ensure that all the samples are in key and in time, though these controls can be overridden by the more musically knowledgeable.

Finished songs can be dumped to tape using the Playstation's audio out sockets. Alternatively, they can be transferred to PC, encoded as an MP3 file, and uploaded to MPreal.com, a website showcasing the work of unsigned artists that regularly attracts record company scouts.

Music 2000 is an example of the kind of enterprise that Sony looks set to encourage for the new PlayStation 2. Consoles are increasingly adopting non-gaming functions (music creation, DVD movies, Internet access), and could yet triumph over the PC in the home entertainment arena.

Whereas the title is undoubtedly pitched at the entertainment market, there also is a strong educational aspect to it, which is sure to prove popular with parents searching for a Christmas alternative to virtual genocide or Lara Croft. No longer will kids be accused of wasting their time when they pick up the pad - the skills that they acquire through Music 2000 are a good foundation for making the music or using the professional recording packages that could one day earn them a living.

Music 2000 (Codemasters, pounds 34).

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