Tuesday, November 10, 2009

This Week on Audiosurf Radio – 11/10 – The New Funk Edition

phat beat lion After a weekend of listening to nothing but The Beatles, it’s a bit jarring to listen to music that’s nowhere near as well-known. It’s also incredibly refreshing. I certainly didn’t expect to be jamming to Brazilian funk so soon after encasing myself in Abbey Road. But I welcome the new funk. And you should, too.

Pipo Pegoraro hails from Brazil and enjoys wearing slick suits with skinny ties. His music’s an intriguing mix of electronica and Latin funk. You should definitely watch this music video for “Me Despeço.” It’s a truncated version of the track you’ll be riding, but it helped clue me into what’s going on without having to hunt for a translation of the lyrics. I’m also a huge fan of the big scarves the band members are wearing on the rooftop. They look adorable.

The Sway is a British group, originally from the early 90s, who broke up circa 1995 and just recently found their way back together. Listening to this week’s tracks, it’s easy to hear the influence of late-80s The Cure. The boys in Sway never made the grunge transition. You can read a lengthy bio of the group here, or head on over to their MySpace to check out some songs.

Only four songs this week, so there’s not as much material to cover. But with the chasm between Brazilian electronica/funk and British indie rock being pretty wide, there’s plenty to say.

RecommendationsNon Sense?  Or Nonsense?
I’m obsessed with the minimalist funk groove in “Non Sense.” From the first note, it feels like I’m at a really sweet party in someone’s backyard. Nothing about the music leaps at your ears. It’s content to crawl in slowly and stealthily become the soundtrack to your evening. The vocals are understated. There’s no soaring melodies or sustained screams. I picture the band swaying smoothly onstage, leaning in real close to the mike as they sing. The track is methodical, not too fast, which fits the groove extremely well. A lot of funk can get oversaturated in terms of instrumentation, too many crazy guitar licks and electric organ solos. This is the restrained funk of walking down the street after getting a girl’s number. You’re not advertising it to anyone. But the swagger is inevitable. (P.S. Play this song.)

The track doesn't do this one justice. If “Non Sense” is the strut home after meeting the girl, “Me Despeço” is the ride home after a tearful goodbye (protip: “despeco” means farewell). It lacks the joyous party atmosphere of the former. Instead, it sounds pensive and tinged with melancholy. The drum beat’s kind of an enigma, in that it wavers back and forth between sounding like the product of a drum machine or a real live musician. I actually think it’s both, mostly because the song sneaks in phrases of drag rhythms and syncopation that seem like they’d be a chore to program in a drum loop. There’s great anticipation in seeing these differences crop up in the traffic ahead and wondering how they’ll play out musically. “Me Despeço” climbs uphill the whole way, only to erupt in the bridge. The once dreamy, chord-strumming guitar takes on a life of its own. A muted trumpet flutters hypnotically. This burst of feeling stands in stark relief to the verses. The rest of the song is all buttoned down, as if he’s trying to keep himself together after bidding farewell. The music returns to that soulful brooding after the interlude, but the bridge is so rich in tone it lingers in your ear while the song journeys on.

Other Selections

The Sway sounds like a Cure cover band that started venturing out into original work. It doesn’t suit them. Their vocal harmonies, mostly the higher notes, just sound bad. If you don’t have the range for this kind of stuff, you shouldn’t sing it. Otherwise, you’re just that obnoxious guy convinced he can hit the harmonies in Rock Band. There’s material to like here. The drumming, in general, is solid and contained enough flourishes so as to remain interesting – especially in “Going Blind.” “No One Comes (Close To You)” (awkward parentheses, guys) opens with a few bars of strings that take way too long to reappear. It’s a half-measure that could have easily set this track apart had it been fully implemented. I like the lyric sentiment of “No One Comes…” – finding ways to tell the girl you love that she’s incomparable – but the rough vocals constantly undercut the lyrics. I don’t need to hear the illegitimate vocal child of Rob Halford and Steve Perry when I’m trying to listen to indie rock.

Author’s Note

All songs were played at least twice on the Pro difficulty using the Eraser and Vegas characters. As usual, I had greater success on the Eraser runs, but that’s due mostly to not lucking out on Vegas this time around.