After the past few weeks, I was beginning to wonder if I had anything left to say about techno. Audiosurf Radio seemed hell-bent on making it the soundtrack to my life (my puzzle-racing gaming life, at least). Imagine my surprise when I opened Audiosurf on Sunday to find a selection of Italian ska and Bulgarian acid jazzy “trip-hop”. Why Italians like ska or Bulgarians drop acid and listen to Bill Evans is a mystery to me.
The three Italian ska tracks come courtesy of Talco, a band whose work has been featured on AR before. The songs are off their freshman album “Tutti Assolti” – which means “all [carry out or perform].” I don’t speak Italian, so I used Google to translate that. It could also mean “all absolve,” but since they’re pretty political, I assume it’s more of a call to action than a call to absolution. Providing contrast is Bulgarian actor/musican Antony Raijekov, who specializes in downtempo lounge, nu-jazz, and trip-hop (I’m not sure what the latter two actually mean, it’s all Bulgarian to me). Almost all of his music is under a pretty liberal Creative Commons license, check it out.
There’s a whopping six tracks this week. Which ones are worth your time? Hit the jump to find out.
I’m going to make an educated guess and say this one means “The Smell of Death.” Or Stench. Or Odor. Regardless, it’s ska. There’s a certain element of “You either like it or hate it” at play here. I grew up a trumpet player and enjoyed my share of share of ska in middle school, but I can’t say I’m still a big fan. This is “ska-core” – more Dropkick Murphys than Bosstones. Furious horns. Driving power chords that alternate with typical ska guitar in the verses. This ride goes downhill with a brief respite in the bridge – a lone saxophone honking melodically before the vocalist yells “Ska!” A guitar solo that I can only describe as “quite 90s” finishes the section before the last chorus. It’s a nice little ride, and the short travel time keeps the unbridled steepness from wearing out its welcome.
Don’t let the graph (or oddly translated title) to the left fool you – this ride rocks. The music may be kind of relaxing, but the traffic is quite engaging. Despite the house music drum track keeping a regular tempo, there’s a real nice stretching and contracting effect to the track itself. While I’m sure it’s a result of the drums, it often feels like its coming from the piano solo, which is a great feeling. Instrumentally, there’s a keyboard vamp, the drums, and the piano solo (there’s some light ambient noise, but its not too noticeable). It’s got a real nice laidback acid jazz feel that just works for Audiosurf. Like the better uphill rides I’ve found, it gives you space to really play the puzzle, instead of just zooming through the song grabbing blocks left and right.
This one crudely translates to “The Crusade of the White Dictator.” I wonder if they’re singing about Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi (seen here being a total bro) or Carlo Azeglio Ciampi who was Italy’s president when the record came out. Or maybe good old Mussolini. Regardless, this song is a angrier than the last Talco track. You can tell cause they turned up the distortion on their guitars. Mocking aside, I enjoyed this ride a lot. There’s more variation then the other Talco tracks. The main horn lick is pretty catchy and they got some decent mileage out of it. What made this ride for me was the matchup of traffic and vocals. In punk fashion, he’s barely singing, but the percussive quality of his yelling may be what makes them the primary generator of traffic. Play this song for the rare opportunity to really ride some vocals.
Talco’s third track “Partigiano” (translated as “Partisan” – are these guys civic-minded or what?) is quite similar to “L’Odore Della Morte.” So similar that if I had to choose I’d…well, you already read about my choice, so there. This, too, features a 90s guitar solo, and flows downhill without incident. The other two Raijekov tracks just aren’t as interesting as “When Waves…” “Lightin” is three minutes of chill out. Three minutes of good chill out, but the ride’s nothing to write home about. “Be Brave” is equally chill, complete with female vocals run through some heavy echo effects. If you play Audiosurf to relax, give these a ride. I don’t, so I won’t.
All songs were played at least twice on Pro using the Eraser character. But I’m slowly breaking out of my shell – I tried all the Talco songs on Vegas as well. It took some getting used to, but I enjoyed it. The random powerups are regularly blessings and curses.