>> Friday, March 9, 2007
Robert Pepperell founded Hex in 1990 along with Miles Visman and Coldcut members Matt Black and Jon More. They wanted to exploit the creative possibilities of personal computers especially exploring the convergence of distinct media such as music, video, animation and visuals. A number of ground-breaking products were released on various formats including CD-i with Escape, Antistatic and Headcrash. Hex went throught many transformations and was finally wound up in 1999 after internal tensions came to a head. However, the name and spirit of Hex continues through its bastard off-spring Hexstatic and the legacy of its audio-visual experiments can be seen in the work of a number of digital artists and performers.
The three titles Hex released on CD-i (also available in a triple pack released in 1995) are based on the same engine but the latter two are improved clearly over the original Escape title. Basically it's about dance tracks with a graphics editor so you can create your own visuals to play during the tracks. I remember Escape was also audio CD compatible but I don't know about the other two (Do you know?). You can choose between loads of different animations which pop up everywhere on the screen, blurring and spawning as big and colourful as it gets. The package offers a nice visual blend for you to play with. Antistatic follows more ambient tracks and automatically appeals more to me personally, both Escape and Headcrash are about retro dance tracks.
In April 93, Hex released "eSCAPE" on the CD-i platform. eSCAPE combines trance, ambient and techno trax from artists such as Irrisistable Force, Eon, B12, Mind over Rhythm, Coldcut, Warez D00dz and Psycore with state of the art cybergraphix. The idea is to listen to the music through your hifi whilst viewing the graphics on your TV. A complete cyberclub in your living room! Interaction is a key feature of eSCAPE as you can play with the visuals eg by making a dancing figure animation move in time by using the CD-i joystick. Playing with eSCAPE is a compulsive experience, a bit like a cross between playing a computer game, listening to an album, and making your own pop video.
Released in February 94 AntiStatic was one of the most powerful and original CD-i titles to be released by Hex. A mixture of danceable trance and dreamy-ambient audio tracks, specially composed by Hex, provide the background to a world of 3D organic landscapes that were created using custom fractal mathematics and random image generation techniques (coded by Miles Visman). Beautiful 2D animations melt and merge into this world of diversity and surprise. Use of the Remote Control allows interaction with the visuals by selecting animations, sequences, patterns and colours. The music from antiStatic was released simultaneously by N-Tone on CD and vinyl.
HeadCrash was the third and most impressive in the series of interactive CDi's produced by Hex. It throws in the face of the user full-on graphics pulsating to screaming hardcore techno tracks including music from Digital Poodle, Protozoa and Hex. Multiple layered routines made up of randomly loading animations, trippy backgrounds and sampled foregrounds mean a new sequence each time a track is played. Interactivity with the remote control allows the user to edit routines by selecting elements individually or in combination - with the option of changing colour, direction and pace. Raw and powerful, headCrash was a 21st century toy for the headstrong.
Personally, I find the music in Hex' CD-i titles a little dated. As music is the main theme of the discs, it's important that you enjoy it! However, the way how you can create your own visuals following the dance tracks is fun to do, and the graphics look awesome on CD-i, especially when you realize no digital video cartridge is needed. Antistatic is the best one in my opinion as I feel they went a tad too far with the music of Headcrash. So, if you don't like the music, you're done with the titles pretty quick ;). The technique however was a large inspiration for Microsoft's own Windows Media Player, offering the same kind of visuals.