Tuesday, May 26, 2009

This Week on Audiosurf Radio – 5/26 – The Beat Goes On Edition

This is far less related to the article than you might think. Given a choice between German electronica and Belgian-born Celtic jig music, which would you pick?  If you’re not sure, it’s okay.  I’m not, either.  Good thing both are on tap this week on Radio.  I’ll get a chance to decide.

Sebastian Kretzschmar, DJing under the name Chill Carrier, hails from Germany and specializes in Breakbeat, an electronica sub-genre characterized by the inclusion of syncopated and polyrhythmic drum beats.  On the flipside, the Belgian group Ceili Moss uses very little in the way of electronics, instead employing plenty of wind and string instruments to create some Celtic-sounding “acoustic folk-rock.”

Genres and nationalities aside, this week is all about the beats.  Whose are catchy enough to keep you riding?  Whose are obscured by fancy jig dance music?  Hit the jump to find out.


Ah, the old Elephant-looking graph.  Let's name him Boo Radley. Excluding one floaty uphill section two-thirds in, “Boo” is driven by one lick, spun out through various electronic/percussive voices.  Your enjoyment of this track may very well hinge on your feelings about the main riff.  Like most techno, the traffic spawns mostly from the drum beat, putting you in a love-it-or-hate-it relationship with the ride.  I happen to love it.  It feels like something out of a Boondock Saints imitator.  With this music, I should be walking down the sidewalk with a briefcase of guns, about to kick in some teeth and collect on some debts.  The rest of the ambient noise remains supportive of this main theme while also being active enough to generate plenty of visual stimuli in the track.  I could zero in on the main loop’s traffic, while the rest of the music took care of tunnels, twists, and bumps.  This hypnotizing verse structure got upended in the final downhill, when the percussion levels off into less syncopation.  Instead, you simply slide down through the traffic, nabbing blocks as best you can.  Play this song if you enjoy feeling like a badass.

While similar in structure to "Boo," this one is more unabashedly downhill. Again, Chill Carrier’s beat-writing proves their greatest strength.  At first listen, I can’t say I’d think much more highly of this song than any other random electronica thrown my way.  It’s got some ambient noise (again, pretty reminiscent of “Flat Beat,” which I’ve referenced before).  And it’s got an uphill section where the song catches its breath before hurling you into the downhill recapitulation of the verse, sans bumpiness.   Pretty standard fare, no?  Well, I’m not sure if it’s a live drummer writing this or some guy mashing the keys on his laptop, but the drum beat sells “Galactic Valley.”  It’s got that give and take that helps break up the flow of the ride.  Each phrase alternates between a standard 2-4 gesture and a little bit of a fill to bring us into the next bar, which means a constant mix in traffic volume.  You’ve no choice but get comfortable with the fact that this traffic abides no comfort zone.

I wish the track somehow resembled a hug.  Maybe in ALS? There are a handful of reasons why you might ride “Hug.”  You might be eager to toss a Steep tag on anything, so why not a completely uphill electronica track?  You might like to use Audiosurf to zone out (not in a badass zen vigilante way [re: “Boo”]).  Or you may enjoy the layering of chill techno over creatively used Latin percussion.  Don’t go into this one expecting “Boo” or “Galactic Valley.”  But you needn’t go in expecting to be bored.  It actually develops quite nicely, with some surprising traffic volume in the latter parts of the ride.

Other Selections
Take a trip to the Renaissance Faire, ladies and gentleman.  That’s where you’ll find music like Ceili Moss’s “The Bee.”  Sure, there’s a truckload of traffic, and it moves at a substantial clip.  But unless you really enjoy Celtic(ish) music, you may want to pass on this one.  Because of the style – jiglike, heavy on wind instruments – it lacks a real visceral connection between the beats and blocks.  “Dancing Lonesome Men,” however, sports a mean link between its beat and its traffic.  While I still enjoyed “Hug” a bit more (thus knocking “D.L.M” out of Recommendations contention), “D.L.M.” features two strong, stop/start breakdowns with some furious flouting to top it off.  If you’re looking for some real hard-driving Celtic percussion, I’d give Albannach a listen and a ride (though I’d probably skip any of the songs with vocals).

Author’s Note
All songs were given their due on the Pro difficulty using Eraser and Vegas.  I must admit to not actually having ridden any of Albannach’s stuff, though I have seen them live.  Yes, my family is so proud to be Scottish we’ve gone to festivals.