Tuesday, February 2, 2010

This Week on Audiosurf Radio – When I Snap My Fingers, You’ll Be French Edition

You love baguettes!! If you listened to our most recent podcast, you know that I’ve no use for genre labels in electronic music.  I’m overwhelmed by the in-depth lexicon that accompanies such a relatively young field of music.  Trip-hop.  House music.  Psychadelica.  Dark house.  Was it made electronically and doesn’t sound like chiptunes?  Then it’s techno.  I need no other descriptors.

France’s BS may have weakened my stance on this front, however.  Despite making music that (in my opinion) generally exceeds expectations for the trance subgenre, he does rely on the trademark ka-thumping bass beat that underpins every melody ever heard on a techno dance floor.  Prolonged exposure to this repetitive beat can cause a sort of hypnosis, a sort of – dare I say it – trance. 

All that said, I’m usually not the biggest fan of trance music.  BS piqued my interest with his willingness to stray from the beaten path.  I am worried, however, that I only like his music because he’s subliminally conditioned me to with hidden messages embedded in his songs.  Next thing you know I’ll have dropped off the grid only to reappear in six months on the streets of Paris walking invisible dogs for change.

But that’s a problem for another day.  Hit the jump, mon ami!

The Songs

Halfway through my first ride of “Galaxie,” I could tell this was going to be a hard week to write about.  The main issue is that it’s hard to discern unique elements of the music, as it’s almost purposefully designed to be played in the background while you take drugs and dance or something (I don’t know what the kids do these days).  I don’t know if in my previous forays into trance music I’d actually experienced the titular state, but I most certainly drifted off once or twice during “Galaxie.”  I didn’t get bored or sleepy.  Just…went somewhere else.  Maybe it was that damn thumping bass, pounding my cerebellum into submission.  Or the odd cacophony of noises playing over it that transported me to another world.  Midway through the ride, a series of fantastic waves in the track woke me from my dozing.  One second I was completely out of focus, the next I was in one of those amusement park wave pools.  Following an excellent final downhill (which felt more like a quick progression of small, exciting drops), I ground out the final forty-five seconds of track attempting to get a Clean Finish.  The track’s even keel at the end just dragged out the (ultimately unsuccessful) process.  I strongly prefer tracks that run to the finish line instead of dilly-dallying.  Gives me less time to contemplate all of the traffic I’m missing.

The opening of “The Dark Side of the Light” calls to my mind’s eye images of Japanese people driving fuel-efficient hybrid cars.  Don’t ask me why.  I can’t begin to explain.  Lebeth’s correct in the news preview: there’s a distinct lightness to this one that frees the music from stereotypical sweaty dancehalls.  I also exclaimed audibly (to no one in particular) my pleasure when the drums first kicked in, supplementing an already catchy digitized loop.  I’d been so lulled by what preceded it that I’d been caught off guard by the conventional beat that song had so far been lacking.  Speaking of overwrought techno conventions, the large uphill climb features a piano.  But hold on a second, it’s used fairly well.  Most piano breaks in electronic music ruin the mood completely and come off as the artist’s cheap attempt to sound “musical.”  Here, it complements the digital music perfectly and creates another opportunity for BS to obscure the inevitable thumping drum entrance.  Several Audiosurf users confessed to the song distracting them from playing, booking them tickets on express trains of thought leading far away from the present moment.  User osta lavesta flat out claimed, “best song ever heared [sic] in my life.”  For me, the track is by no means life-changing, but it is drastically more than the sum of its parts.  Play this song and see if you agree.

audiosurf the game Nothing about “The Game” grabbed me.  From the moment the disjointed Cortana voice started singing, I unconsciously decided to keep this one at arm’s length.  It doesn’t help that she’s not really singing about anything in particular (assuming actual words are involved at all).  Her vocals are only a half-measure.  Their presence irks what part of me is at peace with instrumental music yet only teases the part of me that enjoys elegant lyric writing.  Still, the music possesses a certain levity for trance music.  Perhaps its how he’s mixed down the bass to avoid punishing subwoofers.  It doesn’t dominate the soundscape, allowing more ephemeral noises to bubble up and dissipate in a genre known for persistence.  Easily the weakest of the three, “The Game” illustrates BS’s strengths while acknowledging his faults.

Author’s Note

All songs were played on the Pro difficulty at least twice using the Eraser and Vegas characters.  I may end up tracking down “The Dark Side of Light” for my iTunes library, despite its generically dichotomous title.  I could see myself running to it or popping it on in the car during a long drive – you know, that moment three-quarters of the way through when you need a pick me up and a distraction rolled into one.  I usually just use Journey for that, but I’m willing to make exceptions.