Tuesday, January 27, 2009

This Week in Audiosurf Radio 1/26 – Broadened Horizons Edition

Pretty. Fresh off the heels of last week’s interview with Dylan, “This Week…” dives into another bunch of techno tracks.

If I understand what the Internets seem to be telling me, three of the tracks are remixes by a Brazilian DJ named Speedsound. His Myspace wasn’t too helpful, so I can only assume the artists he remixed included Ecologic, MPA, Magical Killer and Spectral Hades. If you’re a techno fan and I’m getting this wrong, too bad. The fourth song comes from Screw-jay, a Hungarian electronica artist who specializes in downtempo stuff. Some of his stuff is atmospheric without severely lacking in the beat department – check it out on his Jamendo site (his Myspace is a freaking mess.)

I’ve been writing about techno for a while now, so hit the jump and find out just what broadened my horizons.


As Lebeth said, this thing looks like butt cheeks.I played this butt-(or Snuffy- or elephant-)shaped song on Eraser Pro and I was quite unmoved. It’s pretty standard techno fare – it’s even got the stereotyped monotone voice over saying, “Welcome to the Next Generation of Science.” For a while there, it’s pretty damn bumpy, which is the best part of the ride.

On the Audiosurf Welcome screen, Lebeth suggested going after the Stealth bonus on Ninja Mono on Smile and Fun. I’ve never been a huge fan of Mono play, but I figured I had nothing to lose with this ride. Boy, did it make a difference. I didn’t dare start with Ninja, but Mono Pro turned the boring block arrangements into a much more satisfying experience. The steep hill at the end was plain frustrating on Eraser, but the unique stress of Mono play livened it up. I don’t know if this means Mono makes all meh songs better, but consider my horizons broadened.

Maybe Hannibal would ride the last track over these mountains? I’m not sure who wrote this track (given that there are four artist names associated with it), but it’s a great ride. There’s very little in the way of conventional “musical instruments” – it’s mostly beats, bass, and buzz – but it holds up. Just take a look at that track. It’s a freaking mountain range. The ebb and flow of difficulty keeps it interesting, and the music has a recurring quality of rising pitch and crescendo that lends itself to the steep downhill sections. It’s got these long trains of blues and purples – probably the result of rapid-fire pitch repetition. These trains tend to crowd the middle lane, making moving back and forth dicey – a literal jumping in and out of traffic. Give this one a few rides. It holds up, if not improves, over the course of several plays.

If only graphs about the economy were this much fun.I will tell you one thing right away about Anything to Say: play this song. It’s nine minutes long and worth every second. Unlike previous nine-minute ventures on Audiosurf Radio, this one is not a medley but a singular experience, though it is not without its movements. About a third of the way in (right after that first downhill section), there’s a brief vocal interlude. There’s a hint of Zeppelin to this moment, with the tenor vocalist wailing incoherently, his voice processed and distorted. As if the song were reading my mind, an electric guitar bursts onto the scene as the tempo picks back up. You can’t tell from the image but this track is nice and curvy, with a synth tone whose pitch-bending seems to cause the curve. It’s a great effect. Late in the track, while you struggle to survive the traffic onslaught, an alarm-like noise sounds rhythmically. During one playthrough, it felt like the alarm was creating white blocks. Magic.

Other selections
The fourth track, as I mentioned, comes from Screw-jay. Yawn. The traffic’s around the 130s, so it’s not a hopelessly boring track, but it lacks a bit compared with the others. Also, I’m beginning to notice a recurring device in these techno music: electronic crickets. Whatever the sound is, it makes me think of robotic crickets chirping. And in this track, the crickets attack as a swarm of red blocks. Use this ride as a way to relax after all the good stuff.

Author’s Note
Each song was played at least twice on the Eraser Pro difficulty. Smiles and Fun was also played on Mono Pro, and I had a much better time. Give it a shot.