Tuesday, October 13, 2009

This Week on Audiosurf Radio – 10/13 – It’s All Katamari To Me Edition

Wired magazine I don't know where you got this or if you made it.  Please don't make me take it down! It’s amazing what a week away from Audiosurf can do.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s still one of my favorite games.  And I’ve a soft spot in my heart for this column, but critiquing underground punkpoptrancefunkchiprap bands had gotten to be a bit of a grind.  So I hope you’ll forgive me taking last week off and welcome me back to the music-puzzler beat.

First thing’s first, Audiosurf’s received a slight facelift.  Slide on over to the “Online Stats” page and you’ll find an easy-to-navigate personal game profile, replete with achievements, recent songs played, and top songs of the week.  You’ll also see similar content on the game’s new home page.  It’s the first major step in updates that Dylan outlined oh so many months ago. 

As for music this week, we’ve got four tracks from zddn.  It’s Japanese dance electronica, with some offbeat punk and indie influences. 

Has absence made the heart grow fonder?  Hit the jump to see how I enjoyed my return to Audiosurf.


The entire uphill isn't too fun. “Here We Are” kicks things off wonderfully.  The first half sounds like something out of Katamari Damacy (I mean that in the good way).  It’s even got a Japanese female vocalist.  She sounds mildly auto-tuned.  I can’t help imagining a miniscule, feminine robot is doing the crooning.  The opening’s got some great stinger chords that generate patches of red and yellow, a perfect challenge to combo fanatics.  It’s also nice and bumpy.  Then some sustained vocals come in over the chorus, smoothing out the track while still providing the same traffic volume.  Unfortunately, the song can’t sustain it’s own charm.  Midway through it mellows out.  I felt like I was coming down from a sugar high.  Too much Pocky too quickly, I imagine.

Again, the first half is immensely better.  That's what s/he said? Japanese robot girl vocals are at play again in “gienb.”  Can you title a song “gienb?”  Something must be lost in translation.  Maybe I can call Scarlet Joha—allow me to stop myself from making bad jokes about a six-year-old Oscar nominee/winner.  I’m better than that (theoretically).  As for the vocals-slash-song-title confusion, I have no idea what she’s saying – it’s all Katamari to me.  And perhaps that’s for the best.  The music’s super intense in the first half (best described as 16-bit Rammstein) but is somewhat softened by the cutesy vocals.  Distracted by the traffic, I grab purple paints by mistake and lose all my good blocks.  Then I find myself grabbing purple paints on purpose just to keep from overloading.  There’s irony there, I’m sure.  However, this song also succumbs to a second-half slump.  Dreamy piano fades in.  It gets spacier from there.  I was dying for a recapitulation of the main theme, but the song refused.  Play the first half of this song, then you can stop if you want.

Other Selections
“Kumo kage tristesse” is a fun, short ride.  I’m not as big a fan of the vocals on this one, which is why it doesn’t earn one of the coveted (I’m sure) spots in the Recommendations section.  The distorted bass sounds cool though.  And the track succeeds where the others fail: the length department.  It’s about the length of the sections I want from my recommended songs.  Trim the fat, zddn, trim the fat.  Those looking for a challenge shouldn’t miss “byacco.”  The music’s a bit repetitive, but the traffic’s insane.   I do appreciate the drumming, however, as it’s acid jazz/house feel makes it unique among it’s brethren.

Extracurricular Listening
If you’ve spent the bulk of this piece wondering, “What the hell does Craig mean with all this Katamari stuff?,”  you should listen to a few tracks from the offbeat videogame’s soundtrack.  Personal favorites include “Lonely Rolling Star” from the original Katamari Damacy and “Everlasting Love” from We Love Katamari.

Author’s Note
All tracks were played on the Pro difficulty using the Eraser and Vegas characters.  For the record, I’m a huge fan of the new “Online Stats” page.  It’s still missing character-specific leaderboards (as far as I can tell), but it does include a Top Scores of the Day tab that doesn’t discriminate by song.  Some dude got on there by completely devastating “Track 6” – no doubt some girly alternative pop/rock from a mix CD his girlfriend gave him.