Tuesday, March 9, 2010

This Week on Audiosurf Radio – Brazilian Whacks Edition

Another week, another country surprising me with its impressive repertoire of electronica.  Honestly, this genre is like soccer.  There’s an adequate number of hardcore fans in the States, but its more popular than Santa Claus everywhere else.  And Brazil is no exception.

Psytrance Brazil seems to be a Speedsound analog.  In fact, it may actually be an incarnation of Speedsound, if my Google searches are to be believed.  Their library is an extensive collection of elecronica and trance, which may or may not be remixes of other artist’s songs.  I’m not sure.  I’ve never been sure.  And the Internet’s never felt like helping.

The three tracks this week offer varied perspectives on the one particular style of electronic music.  “Sunrise” integrates thrashy guitar.  “Is All Right” features plenty of looped sound clips.  And “Bullet in the Gun” is nine minutes long. 

Hold on to your butts, indeed.

The Songs

“Sunrise” does a good job invoking its title.  The scattered slower sections expand slowly, mirroring the various ascents.  However, I’ve never seen (or heard) a sunrise so metal.  Once the song gets cooking, some serious riff-slinging begins.  It’s a grinding style of guitar that any metal fan can appreciate.  Think Prodigy or NIN and other turn of the millennium hard rock/techno mashups.  At one point the track comes to a complete halt, nearly rocketing you forward into the screen it throws on the brakes so hard, only to roll on like nothing happened.  The guitar returns, this time in a higher, more melodious register.  Whoever decided to put guitar on this song was a genius.  It’s the unique element needed to distinguish this track from the rest of the week’s offerings.  (Remember how No Doubt was Just Another Ska Band until they hired some metal-head guitarist to spice up their sound?  It’s kind of like that.)  The shredding solo lends the song an epic vibe it would otherwise lack.  While I may not want to dance to it in a club, it might just be the perfect song for a crazy vacation montage: wide angle shots of people grinding up a storm, sped-up sequences of driving adventures, cliff diving – lots of cliff diving.  If I took a balls-to-the-wall trip to Brazil, I would definitely score my home movies with this.  Play this song.

Why is it that the only voices heard in electronica are dull, heartless robots or unintelligible female wailers (Not that kind…or that kind.)?  And if its neither of those, we get Keanu soundbytes from The Matrix, like in “Is All Right.”  I always play with headphones – okay, earbuds – which helps clue me in to the subtler production flourishes my tinny laptop speakers often miss.  Without them, I wouldn’t have noticed how the main loop at the top of the first downhill kind of sloshes around between the left and right speaker.  It’s not a full-on Robert Plant pan back and forth.  It resides somewhere in the space between the  two sides, and there’s a liquidity to its movement that actually feels a little obscene, the more I think about it.  I’m going to stop talking about this now.  I’ll move on to how the music starts fighting itself halfway through, with the new loop butting heads with the underlying beat.  I could feel the two trying to become one, but it never quite clicked, which was distracting to my ear.  The seizure warning that follows Audiosurf’s loading screen prepared me for the possibility of an epileptic fit.  But I don’t think it mentions the potential of being so aurally jostled by techno.  I’m reminded of a scene in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time when the main character, a teenager with severe Asperger’s, puts his ear to a radio and turns the volume all the way up on static.  This music’s better than radio static, but it’s just so—oh crap, I think my nose is bleeding.

As if to answer my earlier question about techno vocals, “Bullet in the Gun” starts with a woman legit singing about putting a bullet in the gun.  Consider my snark snuffed – until, oh wait, a woman begins to wail.  Apparently, any singing whatsoever is an invitation to textbook soaring Oohs and Aahs.  The lyrics of “Bullet in the Gun” do attempt to impart some wisdom, however.  Midway through, the vocalist instructs us to “fight fire with fire” (clearly a Metallica reference) and “fight enemies with love.”  I don’t think the phrases quite make a logical syllogism, but I’ll trust her on this one.  She just sounds so serious.  Much of the uphill sections feature a strobing string sound, a similar sound to that one Usher song I like so much.  Granted, the rest of the song sounds nothing like “Love in this Club,” but just that initial similarity is enough to get me on board the “Bullet in the Gun” train.  And it’s a fun train to ride: bumpy but not vomit-inducing, fast but not dizzying.  Like all of this week’s songs, the build-ups to each downhill section are superb.  They’re just long enough to lull you into thinking the crest isn’t coming, and then Wham! you’re tossed into a steep dive. 

Author’s Note

All songs were played at least twice on the Pro difficulty using the Eraser and Vegas characters.  I know I’ve been singing Eraser’s praises nonstop since it was updated, but I just wanted to remind people aiming for the leaderboards that Eraser’s ability to spit out recently erased blocks is an excellent way to keep combos going.

I also want to return to “Sunrise” for one second.  Audiosurf user LostLights commented, “this song + coffee + cigarette = good morning world!  it’s a great song to start the morning with!”  I wish I had the luxury of (or energy for)  [length] of kickass electronica at the top of my day.  I usually start my mornings by picking a fight with my alarm clock and shuffling all Romero-style to the shower.