Tuesday, March 31, 2009

This Week on Audiosurf Radio – 3/31 – Variety Pack Edition

I just like the idea that Santa would bring a box of various meats for Christmas. You know the Sam Adam’s Summer Pack?  Or Woodchuck’s Variety Pack?  This week’s lineup is kind of like one of those.  Are you an indie pop fan?  We’ve got you covered.  A jazz fan?  We’ve still got you covered.  Do you regularly take E and grind against strangers in dimly lit clubs?  We’ve got two songs for you!

This week’s indie pop comes from the Texas duo Julandrew.  Yes, it’s a husband and wife name Julie and Andrew.  Quirky, right?  JP Mounier, a 70-some-year-old Frenchman, provides the jazz with a piano/bass/drum trio.  His blog begins rather existentially: “Je suis pianiste de jazz en fin de carrière” – I am a jazz pianist at the end of my career.  Show the man some love.  And then there’s Pretonika, a Hungarian techno artist who may or may not have a ginormous chin.

Read on to see which of this variety pack’s flavors you’ll be finishing first and which you’ll leave in the fridge ‘til your friends drink them.

Recommendations

No, the title is not stuttering. I don’t particularly know why I enjoyed this ride so much.  The Steep tag helps, as I’m pretty sure the simple instrumentation would not generate much of a track without it.  There’s a buoyancy to Julandrew’s stuff.  It’s similar to what you might find on a Zack Braff compilation CD.  Warm vocal harmonies sound over a matter-of-fact melody, lending profundity to the sense of detachment.  When she sings “Maybe I’m just crazy,” it’s not a worry or an expression of craziness - it’s an acceptance.  A fact.  This vibe is all over today’s indie-pop scene, and Julandrew’s done a decent job drawing from that well.  As for the ride, the bounce in the lulling strum of the guitar ripples the track like a rug being shaken out.  It doesn’t stray too much from this rhythm, but again: simplicity.  Two weeks ago, Andrew commented that he prefers to use Audiosurf as a means by which to chill out.  “Crazy As” should help you do just that.

White Blue.  What does that mean? If you’re a regular reader, you know I think jazz definitely has its place on Audiosurf. One thing to note for “Blanc Bleu,” I’m not sold on this one musically.  It’s a little too modern, a little too easy-listening.  However, the advent of the Steep tag (and its increasing ubiquity on Radio) has made a famously intimate genre into a ride-worthy one.  Especially in small ensembles like this song’s trio, the musicians are extremely attuned to one another.  With a heavy traffic flow, the effect is something like playing parts of each instrument at all times.  Three notes from the rising bass line, accents from the drum kit, followed by a run of sixteenths from the piano.  If this song isn’t your cup of tea musically, use the ride as a gateway drug to further jazz enjoyment.  I beg of you.  Just look at this song’s banging bass solo opening.  Underneath the fretwork, the drummer keeps a steady quarter-note pulse on the hi-hat, occasionally tossing in an extra hit or flourish to mix it up.  While the opening mainly consists of blue traffic, the flourishes spawn red blocks.  Sometimes it’s the little things Audiosurf does that make me smile.  And pay attention about two-thirds of the way through. I encountered a flurry of red specials – two lightning bolts and a paint – all in a row.  I’m not sure what caused it, but it vanished like a pleasant dream: by the time I realized it was happening it was gone.

This one's just as popular as it is craggy. This song is over eleven minutes long.  Don’t ignore that going in.  Be prepared to sink over ten minutes into a techno song practically written for Audiosurf.  It’s got slow uphill sections that challenge you to make meaningful chains out of low-point blocks.  It has mild downhill sections.  It’s got downhill sections that’ll break the speedometer.  If you tried “Crazy As” and said, “I don’t want to relax, goddammit. I want to ride,” then you’ve come to the right song.  But don’t expect Mortal Kombat-style techno.  None of that high-testosterone, oily-muscled fight music here.  This is smoother.  Pulsing, of course, but low on the aggression.  Toss in a mid-ride bank in the track that feels like an X-Games event and you’re set.  There’s just no way I can tell you not to play this song.

Other selections
Second songs from both Julandrew and Petronika were included this week.  Both share qualities with my recommendations, but fail to deliver as fully as their counterparts.  In Julandrew’s “Without You,” I hear shades of The Flaming Lips and Sufjan Stevens (complete with a horn section toward the end).  It lacks the Steep tag given to “Crazy As,” so if you’re into this type of music and want a more low-key ride, give it a shot.  Petronika’s “Afterlife” is also a long techno track.  But at 6:35, it’s only just over half the length of “Fly Away.”  It’s a fun ride, and I particularly enjoyed the latter half.  Still, I’m sure you’ll be technoed out after giving “Fly Away” a ride.  I know I was.

Author’s Note
All songs were played on the Pro difficulty using the Eraser and Vegas characters.  I was a little crunched for time this week and didn’t get to do the Expert experimenting I planned on.  I did, however, give “Blanc Bleu” a brief try on Expert Eraser.  But that song is so damn bumpy and busy that I couldn’t go long without constantly overloading my columns or just erasing everything so I could stay alive.  Neither of those are conducive to points…