Tuesday, November 3, 2009

This Week on Audiosurf Radio – 11/03 – Ghost in the Machine Edition

Do people think that's a ghost? Every few weeks I have a techno renaissance.  Tracks catch my ear with lean, hungry beats or challenge my mouse hand with furious twists and turns overloaded with traffic.  Sometimes, however, the techno stands out when the other songs just don’t make the cut.

There are two Speedsound mixes this week, both from their album Sex Party – Volume 1That album’s title is simply amazing.  Also, I couldn’t find a Volume 2.  I hope there isn’t one, actually.  I think it’s better that way.  There are also two Halloween-themed (and by themed I mean they contain the word “Ghost”) songs by Oxford’s KJBO off their album To Love a Ghost

So we’ve got some ghosts, and we’ve got some techno.  Sounds like the perfect recipe for a ghost in the machine (which should totally be a mixed drink).  Jump time!


Can we take a trip to a Chemical Plant? Let me preface this one by saying that I didn’t initially plan to recommend “Chemical Trip.”  But my second playthrough of the set revealed that Speedsound clearly trumped anything the dismal BJKO could muster.  “Chemical Trip” grows evenly.  It starts spare, introduces quarter notes on the Two and Four, slides them into every beat, then finally breaks out the big streams of traffic.  I enjoyed the noises in the upper register; I could’ve cared less about the repetitive low-pitched drumming supporting everything.  If you can lift your ear above the din, you should hear some interesting attempts to assemble a melody out of disparate sounds.  Lock on to the weird droid voice panning from left to right.  It’s the one responsible for the traffic thickets.  Switching between lanes became like a dire game of Frogger as I tried to weave through the phalanx of brightly colored rectangles.  Toward the end of the track, a voice speaks, “Nobody had a bad trip.”  I disagree.  I’m pretty sure if I dropped acid and rode this song I’d have a terrible trip.

Is Paz a TRON spinoff? If there were a modern version of TRON – oh wait, there is.  Never mind.  If there were an updated version of ReBoot – dammit.  Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that if we could look into a computer, see the binary homunculi inside, we might find it listening to “Love in Paz” while running, say, disk defragmenter or something.  Whatever would be a computer’s equivalent to High Intensity Interval Training.  Aurally, there’s lots of whizzing and whirring, clicking and beeping.  But also deliberately tinny yet elaborate drum loops that sound like someone artfully rapping a pen on a sheet of plywood.  The beats are rarely dull, and often so complex I wonder what harm they might cause a sentient machine.  The atmospheric sound kept me interested when the drums leveled out – at one point I heard high-pitched echoes, like water dripping from a stalactite or someone gently striking an aluminum pipe.  In the middle there’s a section in what feels like 6/8 time.  The dragged triplet feel helped alleviate techno tedium, plus it generated a whole host of white blocks.  My only complaint is that it’s a tad long.  The challenge never really lets up.  You should play this song just so you can check out the Comments section and listen to all the newcomers express their awe whilst dabbing the blood from their eyes.

Other Selections

In honor of the Halloween weekend, Lebeth chose two songs by the band KJBO.  Why?  Because they happen to have to songs with the word “Ghost” in the title.  I don’t know where she found these guys.  When I search “Ghost” in my iTunes, I get the Minibosses “ghosts n’ goblins” cover, “Ghost of Corporate Future” by Regina Spektor, and “Ghost of Stephen Foster” by the Squirrel Nut Zippers.  I would’ve gladly ridden any of those over these tracks by KJBO.  I’ve voiced this complaint about prior Internet indie bands, but the mixing is just awful.  Not only does the vocalist sound whiney and pitchy, he sounds like he’s singing from under a rug in the next room.  This is frustrating, given that the barriers to entry into music recording seem pretty low even if you’re musical standards are pretty high.  “Future Ghosts,” if you can get past the song, is a fine ride, mostly because you get to ride the guitar part (which is due in par to the lackluster drumming).  I can barely even comment on “It’s Hard to Love a Ghost.”  It was that boring.  I had to pretend I was playing a videogame adaptation of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind wherein every time I cleared a set of blocks I was deleting my memories of this song.

Author’s Note

Each song was played twice (yeesh, KJBO) on the Pro difficulty using the Eraser and Vegas characters.  I’m happy I found these Speedsound tracks entertaining.  My patience for their dense remixes was beginning to wane, but “Chemical Trip” and “Love in Paz” have reeled me back in.