Tuesday, February 9, 2010

This Week on Audiosurf Radio – Pop/Rock Piano Edition

pop rocks A recent running topic on Charge Shot!!! lately has been the outdated catalogue of music genres.  As Jordan wrote a few weeks ago, many of the terms are obsolete, especially the ones less concerned with the music itself, like “indie” or “alternative.” 

This week we’ve got Sunspot, who straddle variations on mainstream rock, calling themselves the “Cheap Trick of geek-rock and Van Halen for nerds.”  Pretty ballsy comparisons there, guys.  They hail from Madison, Wisconsin, a beautiful town that doesn’t get nearly enough attention.  So good on you, Sunspot, for striving to raise Madison’s profile even just a tick. 

Providing a nice counterpoint to Sunspot’s alternative rock is the piano music of Italy’s Livio Amato.  I can’t read Italian at all, but if you do, you might enjoy his website.

Enough stalling, let’s get to some rides.

You know that section of your now-shuttered record store labeled “Pop/Rock”?  It was chock full of albums filled with tracks that sounded like “Neanderthal.”  The bass line switches between a bouncy mainstream punk feel and a rumbling, monster-in-the-basement sound.  Sunspot has some metal aspirations – crunchy riffs abound – but they refuse to fully commit.  I imagine a band meeting where someone points to a framed Foo Fighters poster on the wall and tells the guitarist to ease up a bit.  To be honest, I didn’t have much time to consider the music, as I was incredibly distracted by the lyrics.  The opening lines, “Virtual murder, pixelated death/We can kill each other, with no regrets,” sound like a comment on violence in the Internet age.  The words don’t get much more sophisticated than that, however, and the prechorus line “Now I’m fucking my PC” just grates on me.  The ride is rather perfunctory, an afterthought to an afterthought of a song.

The first couple bars of melody in “No Place Like Home” call to mind traces of The Beatles’ “I’ve Just Seen A Face.”  It’s not one-to-one, but the notes he’s using as touchstones between phrases remind me so much of that chord progression.  I suppose invoking the Fab Four is rarely a bad idea, especially since here it’s preceded by a thumping bass that only would’ve made it on a Beatles record in a Ringo song.  The song’s about shedding your hometown like so many molted skins – a sentiment many can identify with as they start post-collegiate life.  The music and lyrics don’t quite live up to their promise, however, leveling out to become four minutes of completely inoffensive rock.  Toward the end, a few sweeping red curves spice up the ride.  Just don’t expect any epileptic fits on this one.  Those aiming for places on the leaderboard should definitely aim to nab the Butter Ninja bonus for collecting nearly all of the yellow blocks.  I didn’t see too many along the way, which should make that an easy addition to your score.

“Crepuscolo” is surprisingly vibrant for a piano-only track.  There’s plenty of traffic to slough through, even if it doesn’t always match up with Amato’s dexterous fingers.  Upon hearing the alternation of dense chords and spritely melody, I was instantly reminded of several titles from the indie game scene.  Specifically, I’m thinking of the opening music for Today I Die, a touching little game by Daniel Benmergui.  The rising arpeggios connote an emotional buoyancy, someone’s rising feeling that they can surpass the obstacle before them.  Not a bad message for someone playing Audiosurf, trying to make it to the end of the track unscathed.  The traffic activity did confuse a few players, however.  Ko Tao points out, “Almost all of my other piano tracks are 2-digit traffic and straight uphill, no matter how intense the actual music is.”  The challenge here is a surprise, but a pleasant one.

Just like “Crepuscolo,” “Sogno Agitato” generates a high volume of traffic for a piano track.  The only other instruments are some light strings in the background, but they do little more than support the movement of the piano.  Shocked may not be the right word, but I did find it curious that there’s another piano piece out there called “Sogno Agitato,” by someone named Suzanne Ciani.  I couldn’t find anything linking the two, so it must simply be coincidence.  Babelfish informs me, rather circuitously, that the title means something like “agitated dream.”  I definitely hear Amato invoking the journey of a dream: starting sweetly, adding turbulence, and then building hopeful suspense.  Surfinonbeatzzz believes it “sounds like a movie score.  In the first part somebody died and in the second part that somebody was born.”  Conversely, hellfaucet describes it as “sexy, suspenseful bathtime  music (in winter).”  I wonder what sexy, suspenseful bathtime music sounds like in spring.

Author’s Note

All songs were played on the Pro difficulty at least twice using the Eraser and Vegas characters.  Nothing witty to say this time around, sorry.