Tuesday, April 28, 2009

This Week on Audiosurf Radio – 4/28 – Boss Battle Edition

Garland, the first boss of the original Final Fantasy, hurts us with his words. Ever heard a song and thought, “Man, that’d be a perfect song for [fill in the blank]”?  Well that was my reaction to this week’s first song (I filled in the blank with “Boss Battle).  And it was such a strong reaction that I decided to adopt it as this week’s theme. 

It’s no surprise then that one of this week’s artist is sound designer/composer Luca Capozzi.  His work consists of articles on sound design, sounds for various synthesizers, and collections of songs traditionally referred to as albums.  His love of sound for sound’s sake translates into some music which is just perfect for scoring scenes.  (On the more random side of things, he created a file useful for sequencing DNA into midi files.)  The other two songs come from a German remixer named Plastic VisionListen to them here; I’ll be shocked if you aren’t immediately transported to the 80s. 

For another week, I’ve dropped the traditional “Recommendations vs. Everything Else” structure, as again each song managed to speak to me in some way.  It’s also hard to just completely pass one or two over when there are only four tracks.  Enough about my boring writing process.  Read on for some rides!

Love it love it love it. Are you currently programming your own Steampunk RPG?  Stuck in the search for good boss music?  Well look no further.  From top to bottom, front to back, this song’s perfect.  Maybe it’s just my love for “epic” sounding music.  Or perhaps it’s the trumpets that sound in the first half (I played trumpet all through grade school).  It could just be that matching actual instruments with an electronica beat is just what the doctor ordered.  The first half of the song features a riff without an intense drum beat, which makes for some great (if slightly laid-back) traffic-matching with the strings and horns.  Toward the top of the hill (see left), a flurry of reds speeds by as the kick drum joins the party.  At the very pinnacle, a weird robot noise signals sends another burst of red and yellow before your car begins rocketing downward, a solo worthy of a bad-ass ninja wailing all the way.  The main riff (while simple enough) reappears, albeit over a much more aggressive track. From a track standpoint then, it’s almost like two different songs.  You have the pulsing, uphill opening that feels like an upbeat instrumental (and I mean real instruments) song, but then you fall back to earth rapidly while electronica overwhelms the tune.   It just cries Boss Battle, folks.  There’s even an alarm buzzer toward the end.  I mean, c’mon!  I may be shooting my wad prematurely here, but you should definitely play this song.

What is ZO-ology?  Some kind of robot zoology? What the eff does this title mean?  I have no idea.  Clearly something other than zoology, but what I have no idea.  Anyway, while this song looks somewhat similar to “The Prophecy” on its graph, it is anything but.  Trade all of the cool instrumentation from “The Prophecy” and replace it with noises that sound like robots having sex and voila, “ZO-ology.”  I’m not sure what this kind of boss this would be good for aesthetically, perhaps a miniboss in some yet-to-be-created Fast and Furious game?  It’s sounds very busy sonically, but lacks a certain forward drive possessed by other, busier techno.  The traffic’s okay, though it’s hard to get a feel for how it matches when most of the song is bleeps and blips laid over drums and bass.  In the latter half of the track (when it rockets downhill but the tempo doesn’t much change), the patterns start to change as the snare drum becomes more prevalent.  Sounding like gunfire, it shoots off strings of like-colored blocks – always a challenge when the going gets a little tough.  Aside from that compliment, I’ve been unduly hard on this song.  It’s not bad.  And if you’ve liked the majority of recent techno picks, you might find this one to your liking.  I, for one, hear too many snippets of other techno songs I’ve heard, so I can’t seem to like this one on its own terms.

I STILL CAN"T FIGURE OUT WHAT THIS MEANS.  Also, it should be noted that Plastic Vision remixed MacFearson's (great name) track. I spent the first half of “The trend is to stay focused all the time” (another bizarre title) suffering from techno tedium, but then the breakdown happened.  Streams of traffic swept toward me lane by lane, color by color.  The bulk of the music dropped away, leaving a simple beat and a synchronized synth that was far more engaging than the rest of the piece.  While the drums (playing a relaxed house beat) set the tone for the first section, here it felt driven by the more melodious voices.  And by voices I mean registers of electronic noise.  I recognize the inconsistency in criticizing one piece for being too electronic while praising another for its own software-generated tones, but this one just feels more musical.  The ride’s more engaging.  Having gone through the thrilling middle passage, the refrain felt more urgent than in its opening statement.  Maybe it’s not the best boss music (only your fight takes place in a discotheque), but I’ll take it.

This title is pretty appropo; it calls to mind sentimental 80s soundtracks. The last three having moved me to write quite a bit, I find myself with an ironic lack of things to say about “Feel like a Bird.”  As Lebeth advertised in the pre-game screen, it definitely has an 80s vibe to it  From the particular sound of the drum machine, to the not-too-low bass, to the soaring “This would fit in a montage” melody.  Aside from the frantic drum fills spawning absurd volumes of red traffic, little about the ride struck me.  Was it fun?  I guess.  I paid attention.  But I also write a weekly article about the songs I ride.  And in this case, the song didn’t cause me to forget that.  My point being: if I’m wondering what I’ll write about while riding a song, it’s generally not a good sign.  As for this song’s boss battle, it’d have to be for some kind of The Breakfast Club game, which would probably have to be a quirky RPG three parts dating sim and seven parts dialogue tree.  Maybe you square off against the principal at the end. 

Author’s Note
All songs were ridden at least twice on Pro difficulty using Vegas and Eraser characters.  Highlight moment: finally nabbing the 30000 points per minute achievement.  Thanks “The trend is to stay focused all the time”!