Tuesday, July 14, 2009

This Week on Audiosurf Radio – 7/14 – The Good Kind of Ulcer Edition

ugh. On July 14, 1789, a group of revolutionaries stormed a Parisian fortress, liberating some prisoners and sending off Louis XVI with a bang.  But none of this week’s songs have anything to do with that (though you should go get the Rush song “Bastille Day” and ride it in Audiosurf). 

Yes, we have France represented by the darkmoon project, but the song is in the Spanish flamenco guitar style.  Nothing Parisian or Revolutionary about that.  Acid Reflux hails from the United States, though nothing in his music speaks to the sans-culottes in me.  It does, however, speak to the Audiosurf fan in me, hence this week’s title. 

Read on to find out what’s so appealing about Acid Reflux.


I'm starting to notice that if a track looks like an elephant, it's a decent ride.In “Big Bounce,” Acid Reflux takes one rhythmic phrase and returns to it regularly.  This one alternates between a few even eighth notes and some syncopated ones.  What’s nice about how he layers his music is that this perfectly enjoyable loop slowly becomes the backbeat.  It’s refreshing when compared to the conventional boom-chik-boom-chik that dominates techno.  Still, he does tap in to some techno tropes.  There’s a vocal loop of some guy saying “Take Us Out.”  Who’s Us and where are We going?  Then there’s the weird synth noises that you hear everywhere.  I have a hard time describing these, other than some kind of underwater electronic horn section.  As for the track, I’m a big fan of a section in the middle that’s primarily blue traffic with occasional splashes of yellow or red.  I was able to look four or five moves ahead while the blues took care of clearing themselves – think Neo seeing the Matrix code. 

This one looks like a woolly mammoth.

Whereas “Big Bounce” eschews the conventional boom-chik beat entirely, “Acclimate” starts there and evolves.  It grows from that simple beat to snare rolls that pull the track forward.  Also, plenty of aural snaps and pops spur the visceral twists and turns.  Midway through, there’s an uphill breather with piano sans drums.  It’s a welcome respite given the intense downhill to come.  The snare and piano join forces, and the bass warbling picks up.  And if you wear headphones for Audiosurf (as I do), be prepared for the warbling to pan left-to-right more often than Robert Plant.  The downhill isn’t a sheer drop, but it’s challenging all the same.  Be sure to stack paints as often as possible.  I saved myself (and scored lots of points) numerous times by snagging a blue paint and then immediately grabbing a red one before the columns cleared.  If you have a couple minutes to spend with Audiosurf this week, I behoove you to play this song.

This is...um...an ant eater?You know that epilepsy warning you click through every time Audiosurf boots up?  It’s warning you about songs like “Strobe Flash.”  Some passages feel like you’re doing 200 mph in a rainbow meteor shower.  It’s not all like that, however.  The opening uphill climb is all purples and blues, with tunnels occurring every other beat or so.  It’s like the beginning of some kind of space rollercoaster (not Space Mountain, whose opening has lots of red – maybe more like this).  But once you get over the first big hill, hold on to your mouse.  Literally.  I had to hold on tight to my poor little Logitech, lest it fly out of my grip as I attempt to navigate the dense traffic.  And boy is it dense.  If your computer can handle it (and mine most certainly can’t), you should crank up the graphical settings and take advantage of the constant stream of tunnels.  While this may be the most musically conventional of the Acid Reflux tracks, it’s certainly one of the best rides.

Other selections
On the surface, darkmoon project’s “Una Roza Azul” seems like a song I’d be recommending wholeheartedly.  A Spanish guitar track with a Steep tag?  But this one just doesn’t make the cut as worthwhile ride.  It takes a long time getting to what actually makes this genre interesting: virtuosic guitar playing.  Most of the ride is a looped rhythm lick with some tweedling saxophones.  When you finally get to the solo, you can’t hear it.  And because it’s mixed so poorly (as in it sounds like its your neighbor two floors up playing), it fails to impact the traffic.  If this one had seen better post-production and not been packaged with three entertaining techno tracks, it’d probably be worth a mention.

Author’s Note
All songs were played at least twice on the Pro difficulty using the Eraser and Pro characters.  I immediately rode “Una Roza Azul” a second time, hoping the audio was the fault of my computer or headphones.  No dice.  It’s an awful mixing job.