Tuesday, November 24, 2009

This Week on Audiosurf Radio – 11/24 – Around the World Edition

Around the world a round the wo orld My interest in World music fluctuates.  There’s something so painfully narrow-minded about the term (really?  There’s America/Western Europe and then there’s The World?).  So I’m sometimes turned off simply by the exploitative vibe in it all.  And do I enjoy some World music simply because it’s different (did people like Slumdog Millionaire because it featured India)?  I think the answer to that question is yes.  Is that wrong?   I’m not sure.  I just know that I love Gustavo Santaolalla.

Phillipe Caerou loves World music, too.  It’s one of the many genres he lists on his Jamendo page.  All five of this week’s songs come from his debut album, which can be listened to in its entirety over at his rather out-of-date blog.  I hope he’s still going strong, but seriously – dude’s website could use a facelift. 

The nice thing about Caerou’s music is that it doesn’t always brandish the World music influences willy-nilly.  You’ll hear some non-Western instruments.  You’ll hear some Eastern scales.  But the ambient electronica mode kind of smoothes out the rough edges where the more disparate influences meet. 


As I was riding Caerou’s “Anthem,” I had to squash the part of my brain that just kept playing Rush.  Meanwhile, Caerou was busy squeezing every possible instrument into this song.  Perhaps he was trying to create some kind of World anthem.  He threw in a harp, an electric guitar, piano, trumpet, something in between a sitar and a mouth harp.  Oh yeah, and there’s an electronic voice chanting that sounds eerily like it’s saying “Ohh yeaahhhh!”  (Think Kool-Aid man dressed up as Siddhartha Gautama for Halloween).   I particularly enjoyed how the trumpets burst out of the ambient texture. The first time it happens, the whole color scheme of the ride changes from muted blues and greens to bright oranges and yellows. Imagine the sun coming over the horizon on an otherwise hazy morning. Unfortunately, the second time this happens, the song is in such full swing that yellows and reds are bountiful – it lessens the trumpets’ impact.  You should definitely play this song, though be prepared for a ten- or fifteen-second silence at the end of the audio file that really puts a damper on the end of the ride. If you’ve messed up a Clean Finish, you now have too much time to sit and stew about it. A few Audiosurf commenters said it deterred them from repeated playthroughs of the track, which is a shame as it’s a good one.

“Eden” makes me feel like I’m being seduced. Which, I suppose, is a rather appropriate vibe depending on what angle you’re taking.  We needn’t always harp on the I Don’t Know You’re Naked You Don’t Know I’m Naked Garden Paradise part.  It can be about the Snake. About the sexiness of that kind of knowledge.  To be fair, I only feel like this song’s trying to seduce me in certain parts.  The chorus? Not so much. The chorus is a lot fuller, with bells ringing and a woman moaning (my sexy metaphor is gaining traction).  The track realizes this well with lots of quickly sloping hills and broad curves.  Musically, however, I’m not in love with the woman’s singing.   It’s a bad mix of Western vocal masturbation and a bad imitation of an Eastern chant mode.  A shame it’s been laid over an otherwise engaging ride.

Other Selections

“Wires” starts with an Organum, which sold me right away.  Then the drums kicked in and for a second I was expecting a chant remix à la Tropic Thunder’s fake Robert Downey Jr. trailer. Instead, it spirals off into a more traditional electronica place, relying heavily on 80s style keyboard samples. Fans of intense rides should know there’s a sick, thirty-second bend toward the end of the song that had me leaning in my chair. Ultimately, the 80s sound kind of turned me off, and some ashamed part of me really wanted to hear that chanting supported by a killer beat.  “Jhada” opens with some promising percussion (though I can’t identify the particular type of drum).  Unfortunately, a proper drum set then kicks in and the song doesn’t really change after that. Some Asian men sing. A flute rocks out. It repeats. It’s a relaxing song despite the moderately challenging ride. Perhaps better for lulling you into a state prime for acupuncture than music-puzzling.  “Moonsoon” (not Monsoon, which caused much confusion on the post-show board) is another song with Pan-Asian influences.  You’ve got your Chinese flute.  Your Indian woman who singings and then starts talking, speaking her “English Words of Truth” (her words, no lie).  Prep your ear drums for sudden spikes in volume – the flute occasionally breaks onto the scene suddenly, summoning a quick crop of traffic in the process.  I’ve only done formal yoga twice in my life, but I could totally see using this (and most of this week’s tracks) as background music for a yoga or movement class.  I know I’d be simultaneously relaxed and energized.

Author’s Note

All songs were played at least twice on the Pro difficulty using the Eraser and Vegas characters.  More than one of the tracks besides “Anthem” also had that annoying ten seconds of silence tacked onto the end.  I don’t believe it’s anything artistic; it’s simply the result of how it was recorded/converted into an audio file.  It’s frustrating, but perhaps less so now that you’ve been warned?