The Bit-52s are the creation of Toronto’s James Cochrane, who’s programmed an array of mechanical and electronic contraptions to crank out music, sans human musicians.
The “band” features everything from a solonoid-controlled guitar, keyboard and tambourine to a set of old scanners which help give the group its squeaky Kate Pierson-esque backing vocals. The whole rig is is controlled by a pair of PIC16F84A microcontrollers. Here, have a listen…
Sure, the timing is a little rough around the edges, but James points out that it’s nearly impossible to precisely time the solenoids due to their mechanical nature. I always thought Fred Schneider’s voice was a bit monotonous, but once I heard the electronic vocals from the TI99/4 computer singing Rock Lobster, Fred sounds positively operatic to me.