Tuesday, June 30, 2009

This Week on Audiosurf Radio – 6/30 – Negative Nuno Edition

negative nancy I’m less than pleased with this week’s selections.  You’ll have to read on to find how just how Nuno Ferrao’s music affected me, but you can be safe in the knowledge that it wasn’t for the better.  Thankfully, I was able to take solace in Serberis, who infused his eight-minute techno opus with some Eastern modes to shake up the status quo.

Usually, I devote more time to recommendations than passes, but as I’ve taken to writing more about each song right after I play them, I found I had a lot to say about Mr. Ferrao’s work.  So this week I shook up the formula to provide a more comprehensive opinion on the music at hand.  As a wise man once said, hold on to your butts.


Palilalia apparently means the repetition or echoing of one's own words.  Kind of like stuttering. Keep in mind that I rode this song after I rode all of Nuro Ferrao’s music for the first time.  If you’re going to ride any of this week’s songs, make it “Palilalia III.”  The Steep tag makes for a wealth of traffic, which is either a boon or a curse depending on your skill level.  It definitely sounds like industrial music made by a group of Ancient Egyptians.  If Ra were throwing a rave, this would be on his iPod.  The melody makes good use of some Eastern mode I can’t identify, which helps to set this song apart from the months of techno I’ve been riding since this column began.  Serberis mixes up his instrumentation well, keeping everything within the realm of industrial techno without letting it become completely homogenous.  Unfortunately, it’s a little long.  The phrases that feel refreshing each time they appear lose their luster the third time around.  Still, this is better than anything else you’ll ride this week.

Nuno Ferrao

For some, music is something to engage with directly.  It isn’t just in the foreground, it is the foreground.  Chances are if you like going to concerts or relaxing with a glass of scotch and some classic Miles you’re one of these people.  If you’re reading this article because you like playing Audiosurf (and not simply because you like me), you’re one of these people.  However, some music is meant to be in the background – see Nuno Ferrao’s “nunorock3speed110” (great name, by the way).  Its mix of 90s alt rock and electronica never really evolves past the verse/chorus format, which quickly becomes repetitive even in the song’s brief duration.  It sounds odd, but I appreciated the lack of lyrics, as I felt they’d only come off derivative, a channeling of a genre now past its prime.  But without lyrics to move the piece forward, we’re left with a rather stolid oscillation between two modes.  The drums never build.  The traffic never gets much more complex than it is at the start (though it was a bit of a challenge to juggle all the whites it threw at me).  Don’t bother with this one, unless of course you’re looking to score a montage in an indie film.

“nunonewf12” sounds like something straight out of a Top Gun knockoff.  It is nothing if not one man’s attempt to recreate the 80s.  It’s got a really resonant bass line, some lush synthesizers, and a Satriani-style guitar melody. The track doesn’t have much in the way of sweeping curves, corkscrews, or start-and-stops, but it’s pretty damn bumpy at times, which helps to alleviate the occasional “I’m just riding the snare drum” feeling.  And that nagging humdrum-ness pervades the ride.  There seems to be no consideration for dynamics, and it has little in the way of tension or release.  The guitar work is fine but by no means virtuosic.  Then there’s the matter of the bizarre and abrupt key shift and the “Oh shit, G2G guyz bbl” ending.  Not that I think endings are easy.  I complain about them in every genre of music (I’m talking about you Fanny Hensel), but I’ve come to expect something more than just the artist simply peacing at the end.

By the time I first rode “sp1,” I was ready to give Mr. Ferrao a break.  There’s at least a little more variety in this one.  Again, the Garage Band drums make the bulk of the song extremely bumpy.  And it opens with an (perhaps too lengthy) uphill build, which gets somewhat repeated in the second uphill section.  And at least the guitar lick doesn’t sound exactly like the one in “nunonewf12.”  But then I checked the Comments section and couldn’t help laughing.  Steam user hellfaucet subtly digs the mixing with a simple “hint: ProTools,” and Ceb points out ironically that “To Leave a Trace was better.”  I was all set to defend this song, but these guys tore it down before I had a chance.

And is the high-pitched synth droning in “tecnos” supposed to creep me out? Why does the guitar sound like its underwater? Why is the midi kickdrum mixed so damn loud?  Is “tecnos” the name of some miniboss from a long-forgotten SNES RPG?  These were the questions I tried to answer when I gave up paying attention to this boring song.

Author’s Note
All of the songs were ridden twice on the Pro difficulty using the Eraser and Vegas characters.  I apologize for how my thoughts on Mr. Ferrao’s music began as an attempt to justify his mediocrity and then plunged down a rabbit hole of despair and negativity.  If you disagree with me, please feel free to leave your comments below.  I’d love to recant if someone could show me why I should bother.