Tuesday, May 19, 2009

This Week on Audiosurf Radio – 5/19 – You say Rumba, I Say Roomba Edition

Which is sexier?  Crazy costumes or a robot eating cereal? Step right up! We’ve got some Rumba tunes! We’ve got some Robot tunes! We’ve even got something guaranteed to make your eyes bleed! All this and more (okay maybe not much more) in this week’s Radio recap.

Your Rumba (not Roomba) comes courtesy of El Perez, a Spanish Flamenco guitarist who also enjoys techno. Heet Seas provides the industrial Robot Tunes. These Frenchman don’t mind calling themselves “Post Punk” – whatever that means. And KraftiM, a DJ from the Netherlands, is the one planning to give your eyes a workout.

I know my lead was a little crazy, but I’m pretty sure KraftiM knocked me a bit off-kilter. Let’s just get to the rides.


Typo is so not my fault. Once again, an intimate instrumental benefits greatly from the Steep tag. Orchestration is light in “Rumba Francesca”, but I guarantee it doesn’t detract from the ride. With the tag on, the track, bull-like, bucks with the rhythmic strumming of the guitar, attempting to dislodge you from your course. The bass adds welcome depth to the music but refrains from generating too much of its own traffic (save for a bitching lick in the heart of the bridge). The final phrase of the bridge builds suspense well, winding the track in an uphill corkscrew before the last descent – down a bumpy hill covered in tunnels – begins. The star here, however, is El Perez’s frantic finger- and fretwork. I’ve been a fan of the Gipsy Kings for a long time (I’ve even seen them live), so I’m already inclined toward this style of music. If you’ve never listened to classical or Flamenco guitar but you happen to be a fan of the instrument, play this song. The upbeat songs (like this one) generally have great grooves that are often physically infectious to the point where I become That Weirdo On The Subway when it pops up on my iPod. Look at it this way, if you play it on Audiosurf, you won’t have to suffer stares on the train. Or at least you can decide if the music is worth the sideways glances of uneasy strangers – which it (in my opinion) most certainly is.

Does Alemana mean "German"? There’s more of a traditional rhythm section on “Rumba Alemana”; castanets and/or clapping punctuate the beat in the verse sections. It’s a nice, driving background to a gentler, more melodic rumba than its “Francesca” counterpart. But the real highlight is how the strums following each phrase seem pull your car forward. Buckshot rounds of traffic fire and quickly recede as you lurch over the hill. It’s a real challenge not to overload a column just because an extra block shoots over the horizon in a lane you hadn’t expected. In the bridge, the percussion drops out, leaving you with introspective guitar work. The track crests and then you’re back travelling downhill, the percussion returning joyously. Good luck getting a Clean Finish on this one, as the traffic’s pretty light after the last slalom ends. On my second run, I was lucky enough to find a yellow paint lurking in the shoulder. All rides should be so kind.

In further efforts to cull the wheat from the chaff, I’m introducing a new section called…

The Maybe Pile
I just can’t make up my mind on this Heet Seas stuff. “Kink Drop” takes you on a ride through traffic hell at relativistic speeds. If you’ve got yourself an adequate graphics card, take advantage of it on this one. I’m pretty sure over 80% of the track is under neon red tunnels. Musically, it’s a tune of ugly, fuzzy industrial noises, but it presents one of the most difficult rides I’ve ever seen.

As for “POAWL”… Why are the choruses so full of noise yet so devoid of traffic? Why must another techno/industrial/trance/something-robots-would-bone-to song subject me to children (or in this case what sounds like the singer imitating children) singing ceaselessly some looped creepy lyric I can’t understand? At many points in the song, I sympathized with Steam user SteleGrey, who commented, “What a bunch of racket.” But I can’t ignore what JaguarFiend, king of comments, pointed out: “These guys don’t mess around. The ending was like driving 90mph into a big fat tree.” He’s right. The song’s super intense, and the ending’s super abrupt. A big fat tree, indeed.

Other selections
Um. I don’t know what I can say about “Divan,” the eight-minute trance track. By trance, I mean that this song wants to hypnotize you. The particulars of the ride remain foggy, but I do have a strange urge to blow off work and listen to “Damn It Feels Good To Be A Gangsta.” The music is all warbly sounds and sitar (which is apparently the most Intense instrument, as it constantly generated red blocks on its own). And there are weird voices that I’m sure implanted code words in my brain to turn me into a fashion model slash killing machine. Another Steam user, Telessys, put it best: “Do that without blinking and your eyes start talking to you…seriously.” Thus, I will never ride this song again. But if you like to chill out while playing (and by chill out I mean take drugs and lose your mind), you might want to give it a shot. Otherwise, would you kindly pass over this one?

Author’s Note
Each song was played on the Pro difficulty using Eraser and Vegas characters, except for “Divan,” which I was afraid to ever ride again. I didn’t have time to pull a particular song for Recommended Riding, but any fans of El Perez’s stuff should definitely give the Gipsy Kings a try, especially their Roots album. Also, in the future, I’d love to do a round-up of reader suggestions. If you’ve got any favorite rides, email them to me at craig@charge-shot.com and maybe they’ll make it in. I, of course, reserve the right to refuse any songs as bad as or worse than “Oh Mickey You’re So Fine.”