Tuesday, July 21, 2009

This Week on Audiosurf Radio – 7/21 – Give The Bassist Some Props Edition

No, I've never played bass in my life.  But I do sing bass/baritone voice parts. Can you name your favorite band’s bass player?  If not, shame on you.  Not every bassist can be a Sting, a Geddy Lee, a Paul Chambers, or an Edgar Meyer (PS if you don’t know who these people are, shame on you again).  So go the extra mile and give credit where credit is due. 

Since Huxley Met Soda is an electronica artist from France, I can’t guarantee that the person playing bass isn’t actually a computer.  But there’s enough soul in their playing that I’ll give him/her/it the benefit of the doubt.   I’d also love to tell you who’s playing bass for pianist Joel Holmes on “African Skies,” but his website insists on telling me all about the guy who played sax on the track.  That’s cold.

Stop disrespecting bassists.  Put on your noise-canceling headphones or crank up your subwoofer and show these musical anchormen some love.


audiosurf african skies I’m not an ethnomusicologist, so I can’t really qualify why this song’s titled “African Skies.”  I presume it has something to do with the percussion and perhaps the syncopated repetition of the main phrase.  Don’t be fooled by the opening.  It’s a little Free Jazz-y, but just like “Red Clay” (which has a similarly loose opening) it settles into a great groove.  Despite the Steep tag, the traffic isn’t too heavy, which should give you time to pay attention to the great work being done by the bassist.  It’s athletic, complimentary, and in wonderful sync with the drummer.  You’ll probably get a little tired of the saxophone midway through its solo, so turn your ear to the bass.  Just make sure you then pay attention to the frantic keyboard solo.  Be prepared for the traffic to pick up; the drum fills should be shooting shotgun blasts of red in the direction of your face.  Because of my personal tastes, I always try to push jazz when there’s a worthwhile track on Radio.  This, my friends, is certainly worthwhile.

Do the wave!  Like at a ballpark. The first thing you’ll notice about “The Wave” is the awkward scansion of the vocalist.  Say the word “follow” out loud to yourself.  Then say it again with the emphasis on the second syllable, making the first syllable as short and clipped as possible.  Luckily, he stops saying “follow” pretty early on and decides to just keep repeating “I didn’t know” over and over, even adding a digital static effect to his voice.  You might be wondering why I’m taking the time to rip a song I’m recommending.  Well, “The Wave” is one track where the ride is better than the music.  You’ve got rolling hills, curvy red tunnels taken at breakneck speeds, and uphill quarter note sections.  So what if the music’s only okay, the track’s got more variety than some eight-minute techno pieces.  And the transitions between these sections is organic while still being surprising.  The first big changes in topography occur as the drums open up, allowing the space between drum hits to stretch the track up and down.  It’s a little short, but after you hear “I didn’t know” for the eightieth time, you’ll be ready for the finish line.

What am I stalking?  I dunno. “Stalkers” calls to mind, among other group, Radiohead with its intelligent use of rhythm and ambience.  There is a guitar playing over the other instruments, but it doesn’t dominate the soundscape.  The bongos and other auxiliary percussion do a wonderful job of propelling the song forward without making it feel urgent.  The downhill section builds without becoming so intense that it needs to culminate in a Tool-like freakout (re: the screaming at 6:59).  Listen carefully in the downhill and you’ll hear the evolution of the bass part from a simple thumping accompaniment to something more melodious.  My right hand on the mouse, I pushed my earbud in a little with my left index finger to make sure I could hear all of it. “Stalkers” pirouettes on that thin line between relaxing and engaging; it pulls you in while it calms you down.  Not quite sure what I’m talking about?  Then play this song.

Other selections
Huxley Met Soda’s other tracks just don’t capitalize on the band’s apparent talent.  “Ulan Bataar Motel” (named after a motel in Mongolia?) might be fine if I just wanted to smoke a bowl relax and stare at a visualizer.  But it was too short and airy to really draw me in.  I had similar issues with “Runner,” which never develops past the opening.  The bass work is still mildly impressive, but the rest of the composition fails to go anywhere.  Occasionally, songs end up in Other Selections limbo because they’re merely more what I’ve already recommendation.  These tracks, however, are damn boring rides.  You need not waste your time.

Author’s Note
All songs were played on the Pro difficulty at least twice using the Eraser and Vegas characters.  “African Skies” was rough going the second time through, mostly because I just wanted to skip the saxophone and get to the keyboard solo.  My apologies to any sax players out there.