Tuesday, March 23, 2010

This Week on Audiosurf Radio – As Long As Possible Edition

That's a LONG wiener. Audiosurf is out to claim your entire afternoon/evening this week.  There are no short and sweet songs.  All of the selected tracks are at least six minutes long – one’s a whopping seventeen minutes.  If you taking a liking to any of them, or plan on going back to nab that Clean Finish bonus, expect to spend some quality time surfing.

Trance artist BS on Audiosurf Radio a few weeks ago.  My initial exposure to his material left me more appreciative of the techno subgenre than I’d been before, thanks to his willingness to stray from convention.  He’s a little easier to predict this time around, but there’s definitely stuff to enjoy.

Then there’s Doc, an electronica artist from Finland.  I had no idea they knew about techno up in Scandinavia; I’d also considered it more of a Central European thing.  He’s cut a few collaborative records with fellow Musictrade artist Lena Selyanina, but he comes into this week solo.

Three songs, almost thirty minutes of music.  That’s a long time to be in a trance.

The Songs

“Energy” features a bass effect I hear time and again in techno, an almost Doppler-like treatment of the bass that sounds like it’s either constantly rolling off the table or spinning around on a carousel while the listener remains stationary.  I don’t dislike the sound; I’ve just grown so accustomed to it that it doesn’t strike me as particularly unique anymore.  A flourish I’ve yet to tire of, however, is unnecessary bouts of djembe.  Actually, I could’ve used more of it here, as it only occasionally shows up to accent the end of a phrase.  Returning to the Doppler idea, the rising pitch of the watery tone in “Energy” resembles a stereotypical sonar detector.  Perhaps a better example is the motion tracker from Aliens, except instead of a horde of monsters crawling through the walls it’s  mob of glowstick-wielding, whistle-blowing ravers.  To speak on the ride, the first half of the track is unbelievably jerky.  I’m reminded of a time in high school when my friend borrowed his girlfriend’s car to give me a lift, but he’d never driven stick before.  We stalled at all ten of the stoplights on the way my house.  I’m hyperbolizing a bit with this example, as the “Energy” track never quite stalls out, but the track’s early hiccupping is definitely a distraction.  Thankfully, the ride successfully switches gears midway through: the bass line shimmies a bit more, a melody finally graces the higher register, and the track becomes a nearly flawless chain of deeply banking red tunnels.  If I thought it were possible, I’d tell you to skip the first half and just play the second.  I don’t think that is, so I’ll just say that you should play this song.

User SurfinOnBeatzzz said about “Air” that “the [as-steep] tag wouldn’t have been bad here.”  He’s absolutely right.  (For first-time readers, the Steep tag can be applied to songs to help them generate more traffic, liven up the track, and otherwise pump up less intense music).  The best moments of “Air” come during the downhills, when BS unleashes his full sonic-sculpting potential.  Strings, sounding incredibly lush for being entirely synthesized, sustain the entire latter half of the song while elements present earlier in the piece – a faint, alarm-like wailing among other things – finally coalesced in a sum greater than its parts.  Unfortunately, each of the uphill sections outstay their welcome.  The music sounds a little too busy at times for such paltry traffic offerings, leaving me a bit unsatisfied when all’s said and done.  Furthermore, the final cooldown feels superfluous.  It feels like the song wants to just go out on a bang, granting the listener/rider a stronger sense of tension and release.  Instead it drags on for another low-traffic, uphill relaxfest.  Download this one separately and slap a Steep tag on it for the intended amount of fun.

“Plateau” is seventeen minutes long.  I’m not sure what else to say.  It’s accompanied by an Everybody Mono tag, which means that every vehicle abides by the Mono mode’s rules of scoring, traffic, etc.  Had I realized this, I wouldn’t have played with Eraser, which retained its now useless erasing powers instead of possessing Mono’s jump and grab abilities (which are perfectly suited for Mono Mode.)  “Plateau” might as well be the soundtrack to the nonexistent yoga class I never attend.  Its notes change at a glacial pace, which strikes me as something that is only possible in the age of electronic music.  No musician would hold notes these long.  There’s a reason John Cage’s centuries-long “As Slow As Possible” only requires human input every year or so.  The long drawn out notes lend the ride a New Age solemnity that feels at odds with the Steep tag and its high-intensity traffic and track.  “Plateau” would sound perfect in the context of a hookah bar, but if I’m going to ride a seventeen-minute song, I’d rather it be “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida.”

Author’s Note

“Energy” and “Air” were played on the Pro difficulty twice using the Eraser and Vegas characters.  I could only get through “Plateau” once.  And I should’ve played it on Mono.  Fun observation from the comments: Russians loved “Energy.”  Three of the four or five Russian comments (as in, written in the Cyrillic alphabet) ended with exclamation points.  Come to think of it, they could’ve been expressing extreme dislike…but somehow I doubt that.