Tuesday, January 26, 2010

This Week on Audiosurf Radio – When Ride Trumps Song Edition

57463716JM002_Donald_Trump It’s not unusual for a song to pale in comparison to the Audiosurf ride it generates.  I regularly encounter techno tracks that challenge my puzzle abilities while leaving my ears crying out for cotton balls.  Meanwhile, jazz masterpieces languish because only Coltrane plays enough notes to rough up the ride.

France’s Marina Tihvinskaya falls on the former of those two extremes.  Her musical style, an amalgamation of fin de millennium dance-pop (she cites Madonna and Michael Bolton as influences), does little to excite me.  I can’t deny that the rhythm section coerced all ten of my toes into tapping, but I felt no more moved than that.  And yet, I had no problem riding these tracks multiple times for the incredible challenges their rides presented.

Three songs on the docket this week, which makes my job super easy.  For better or worse, I get to write about each track equally.

The Songs

“When You See Me Again” is a classic self-affirming dance number.  “When you see me again/You won’t pass me by,” Marina sings.  I picture a group of girlfriends on the club floor, ignoring even the idea of men, drinking fruity cocktails and dancing their cares away.  Not exactly my scene, but different strokes for different folks and all that.  The music feels distinctly not of this millennium.  It’s not hard to hear the influence of late-90s dance music, particular where it was taken by folks like Cher.  The “dance mix” aspect means a lot of extra synth and an upbeat tempo, but this is not a “club mix” of the 50 Cent/Kanye era.  There simply isn’t enough bass to justify your car bouncing off the ground.  The mix does, however, generate a lot of traffic.  Given the rather tame vocals, you’d expect the ride to be smoother.  But where would the fun be in that?  I had columns overflowing as I dove in and out of the shoulders trying to claim paints and lightning drops.  And a disorienting corkscrew toward the end drives home that this ride means business.

What exactly is Celtic about “Celtic Song?”  Very little, in fact.  The opening features what sounds like a pan flute, but – thanks to anime and Zamfir – I also associate that with Eastern music.  There’s also a man ululating in the background.  Again, that makes me think Eastern, perhaps specifically Indian.  Where are the bagpipes?  The war drums?  Further widening the gap between this track and anything remotely Celtic is the intense auto-tuning going on.  Marina’s voice, though perfectly serviceable on its own, has been mangled beyond recognition by appropriated oil excavation technology.  Combine 1998 Cher with a lycanthropic Shakira and you’ve got the vocal Frankenstein on display here.  I feel a little bad being so down on this track, as the ride is one of the more stressful (in a good way) in recent memory.  Commenters were quick to point out the challenge awaiting Pointman users, who’ll require some Neo skills to maximize their score.  Come for the surf, don’t stay for the tune.

If you haven’t unlocked some of your score-based Steam achievements for Audiosurf, play this song.  Clocking in just under the four minute mark, “My Favourite Dependence” contains more than enough traffic to earn some of points-per-minute achievements, if not satisfy a few matching ones as well.  I was so mesmerized by the unending traffic stream I could barely pay attention to the music.  As in the other two songs, Marina’s singing about a man.  This time she dubs him her “favourite dependence.”  I’m fairly certain that by “dependence” she means “addiction.”  Maybe not.  Maybe it’s not unbridled transliteration creeping into song lyrics and she actually means dependence.  There’s something poetic about that, isn’t there?  No?  Never mind.  It’s still her most hummable track (a quality I’m using more and more to discuss genres for which I’ve no particular affection).  I found the hook still looping through my ears even as I went back to the ride the other songs a second time.  The ride doesn’t offer much in the way of hills or curves except the constant downhill slalom.  It’s not unlike an extremely difficult arcade surfing game or something.  You needn’t worry about sharp turns or steep uphill climbs.  Just deal with the immense obstacles directly in front of you. 

Author’s Note

All songs were played at least twice on the Pro difficulty using the Eraser and Vegas characters.  I attempted “Celtic Song” on Pointman, but I’m so bad at that particular play style that I had to quit halfway through.  Hopefully I haven’t disappointed all you Pointman fans.