Tuesday, April 14, 2009

This Week on Audiosurf Radio – 4/14 – Old College Try Edition

college For lack of originality, I turn to Lebeth’s weekly notes for title inspiration this week.  She mentioned that reviewers have given indie rockers Circa Vitae an “alternative college rock” label.  I must say, it’s pretty spot on.  They take turns channeling a number influences: Radiohead one minute, The Pixies the next.  If I were throwing a frat party at a small liberal arts school in say, Ohio, I might hire these guys.  They don’t shy away from heavy guitar work, but there’s enough of an indie, emotional vibe to make that girl from your psych class swoon.

Oh yeah, and there are some techno tracks, too.  Check out StrangeZero if you feel so inclined.  Hit the jump for whether or not I feel so inclined.


I'm not sure exactly what Circa Vitae means...

While it doesn’t relate directly to the experience of riding this song, I’d feel remiss in not mentioning the preposterous high score set by Audiosurf user Lethargy.  If you haven’t been looking at Radio high scores recently, he frequents the top of the ladder and with good reason.  For “Pterodactyl,” his score of 730k is more than twice that of the number two rider.  Kudos, sir.  I sincerely pray that you spend at least part of your day putting your X-Men-like hand-eye coordination to good use in a profession like medicine or the armed forces.

To actually discuss the ride, “Pterodactyl” is pretty awesome.  It’s not as straightforward of a song as you’d think given band’s general vibe, which means good things for the track.  It just doesn’t feel too repetitive.  The synchronicity of the band means you’re not just playing Drum Hero with the snare and kick; there are cool moments where the drums line up with the vocals, often triggering a tunnel at the same time. Oh yeah, and did I mention that the track did what I’m fairly certain was a double-corkscrew?  I didn’t?  Well the track double-corkscrewed.  I missed more than a few high-scoring matches in those crazy five seconds.

Curriculum Vitae is an account of someone's life, specifically used to mean a Resume.The stand out feature of “Shine” as a ride are the sweeping curves that accompany the held vocal notes.  When the chorus picks up and the singers repeat the word “Shine,” the track doesn’t just provide you with traffic for the instruments.  It bends with the note, mimicking the voice in a way colored blocks can’t.  Plenty of other songs bend and twist, but rarely do they do so dramatically and with such timing.  While their other songs feel more deserving of the overused “edgy” moniker, I would describe “Shine” as the song most befitting The Renaissance Bro.  It’s got feelings with a driving beat.  Having a male and a female vocalist helps to compartmentalize it a bit, making it accessible without it being too sentimental.  Zach Braff might want to give this song a listen.

Maybe the Circa means a rough account of life.  By no means comprehensive.  Who the hell knows.  I sure don't.

This is by far Circa Vitae’s most Radiohead-like track.  The verses roll forward in a bizarre-feeling 5/8 that is unsettling and quite cerebral.  I also hear Radiohead in the timbre of the male singer’s voice on this one.  Not that this is a bad thing, but its glaring enough that it’d be silly to ignore it.  They sound most unique when he and the woman sing together, their union lending a subtle strength to the melody.  This plays out nicely in the track sometimes, i.e. a yellow paint coinciding precisely with the start of a vocal phrase.   The first half of the song rides in a blue/green atmosphere before it really opens up and the band dives headlong into a breakdown.  For what felt like forever (but may have only timed out at fifteen seconds), the track careened to the right while reds and yellows bashed into my windshield.  Were Audiosurf to correct for centrifugal force (a new idea for an update?), I’m pretty sure my car would have been plastered to the left shoulder for the bulk of this section.  Play this song and see what I’m talking about.

Other selections
There’s not too much to say about Circa Vitae’s fourth track “Stranger.”  Had I Circa Vitae’s whole EP, I would only listen to this one when I selected the whole album on my iPod.  I wouldn’t skip it, but I wouldn’t seek it out.  I feel similarly about the ride. The atmospheric qualities of the song that give it a kind of soaring feeling don’t seem to translate too well to the ride itself.  Traffic and hill-wise it’s pretty bland.  Like “Shine,” it has some fun curves, but nothing that helps it hold up after multiple rides.  Well, I guess I found more than “not much” to say about this one, but there you go.

And I think I casually alluded earlier to some boring techno.  StrangeZero’s first track “Twin Eyes” has a cool drum beat, but the ride is just boring.  It travels lazily uphill, with few variations.  “I Dreamt” also possesses a mildly interesting backbone of a beat, but the rest of the package just doesn’t grab me.  If you like repetitive hills and valleys, give this one a ride.  But count me out.

Author’s Note
All songs were played on Pro difficulty using the Eraser and Vegas characters.  No high scores this week.  But I’m generally pleased with the selection of Circa Vitae.  Haven’t heard much like them on Radio.