Head on over to the site for his particular way of describing his music, but one term that stands out is “hypno groove.” It’s quite apt and may explain why his music’s been used in a number of movie trailers, including Lucky Number Sleven, Hustle and Flow, and Grindhouse. His tracks agitate. Not in the bad way, but in the literal sense. They spur movement of some fashion. It’s no surprise that people looking to highlight action montages seek out his stuff.
On the home page notes, Dylan says he found Asma on Pandora, so I gave a quick glance to see what other artists pop up when you make a Spunkshine channel. After a few degrees of separation, Aphex Twin appears, as does Depeche Mode. Personally, I hear some similarities to Moby’s more intense songs, as well.
Some of these hypno grooves definitely got a hold on me. Find out which ones after the jump.
In general, I’m put off by excessive amp feedback. I think I overdosed on it when I used to listen to Rage Against the Machine. Fortunately, the feedback in the opening of “With Deliberate Speed” is short, and the track revs up as the electronic squealing climbs in pitch. It then spits you into a loose groove, which tugs you along like a cute girl at a party might pull you over to introduce you to her friends. You feign nonchalance but inside you couldn’t be happier to follow. The instrumentation thins out for a moment and the track calms. It’s a treat to actually experience the bass thumps as they summon individual red blocks for you to collect. All of a sudden: the groove. She’s pulling you again – this time with greater fervor – out onto the dance floor. Here the Steep tag works its magic, making the ride itself twist and contort while keeping the traffic manageable. The blended instrumentation – a mix of guitar, keyboard, and assorted electronic paraphernalia – goes along way toward making the song engaging aurally. She pulls once more. No shame, no subtlety. The drums no longer groove. They barrel forward to the end, generating an obscene amount of traffic. Somehow…I managed a Clean Finish.
At first, “Preemptive Grooving” resembles “With Deliberate Speed” a lot. It’s three piece rhythm section of guitar, bass, and drums is just awesome. The guitar rocks a 70s funk lick, and the bass reminds me of the “We’re Cool People Planning a Heist” music from the Clooney-Pitt Ocean’s Eleven. Spunkshine seems to be following a template: introduce a baller groove, layer some neat sounds on it, ease out of it, reintroduced the groove minimally, kick it up a notch, repeat. What’s amazing is the variety he’s able to get out of it. Like classical composers experimenting within the sonata allegro form. “Preemptive Grooving” also possesses some Eastern flavor, in that its samples vaguely resemble sitars (though it occasionally sounds more like a mouth harp, which just makes me think of Snoopy). Halfway through all of the live instruments switch to digital. Assuming it were an actual band, it’s as if they all got TRONed. What a slick way to play with voicing without actually writing new music. And then, of course, he moves effortlessly back to the real instruments only to then add in a digital accompaniment. The traffic’s sort of heavy, but never suffocating. Play this song. You’ll make it through, trust me.
“An Ability To Compartmentalize” stirred up a sense memory of me attending a dance concert at college. A really engrossing movement of one piece was set to similarly engrossing music. But then the track ran out before the dancers had finished. Awkwardness hung in the air as they continued, fully committed to their motions with their aural backdrop. I wanted “A.A.T.C.” to be longer. I wanted it to evolve and grow. Unfortunately it just ran out. “Deviant Career” is a joy to listen to, not so much to ride to. It does manage to mutate and shift, but the changes never impact the ride in a meaningful way. The melody in the opening of “May Day” sounds like it’s composed of little notes and flourishes played backwards. Imagine the time-rewinding mechanic from Braid and how it affected the background music. The technique’s not overused, thankfully, but it grabbed me right off the bat. That said, “May Day” is another one for which I’d choose another listen not another ride. It’s mostly a straight shot uphill or on level terrain.
Each song was played at least twice on the Pro difficulty using the Eraser character. I can see why Spunkshine’s stuff has made it into movie trailers. The better songs have great forward momentum, with just enough melody to satiate the ear without distracting from the moving pictures. Good on him. I’m on my way to the mp3 store.