Tuesday, April 27, 2010

This Week on Audiosurf Radio – Crossing the Road

DO IT. A common theme of Chris’s long-running Thoughts of An Aspiring Music Snob is his appreciation/acceptance of at least some slice of the artist-in-question’s oeuvre.  Be it their best live album, their ambitious sophomore effort, whatever.  He rarely spends an entry just absolutely panning the music.  On the other hand, he generally avoids being too effusive.

I sometimes feel similarly about each week’s Audiosurf  offerings.  I can enjoy a ride while not caring for the music.  I can enjoy the vocals on a song whose ride left me quite bored.  It isn’t hard to ride in the middle of the road, which makes the occasion all the more special when I find a song I really love and decide to the actually choose a side and cross the damn road. 

This intro’s not just nonsense.  Allow me to tease what follows the jump: I’m crossing over to Rig’s side of the road.  This young Canadian mixes elements of the 8-bit craze with more traditional techno to great effect.  I’m more sold on one of his songs than the other featured this week, but that’s no reason for me not to back the guy (nor is his Canadian citizenship).

Shoring up the week’s playlist is a cut from Quantum Jazz, whose work can be streamed over on Jamendo.  They’re a piano/bass/drums trio.  That’s all I know, so that’s all I can tell you.

The Songs

Have you heard of Leonard Bernstein’s Young People Concerts?  After he became conductor the New York Philharmonic in 1958, Bernstein took over the role of ambassador to young musicians, leading the series of concerts-slash-lectures.  If there were an equivalent series for indie techno music, “Moar” would definitely be part of the program.  It opens with some hilarious Text-to-Speech about how to build tension with hi-hats and the importance of cowbell.  Of course, the cymbals and cowbell then come in right on cue.  The overall effect is one of humor, a trait sorely lacking in the techno genre.  Speaking of Text-to-Speech, has there ever been a more perfect tool for prank-calling best friends’ moms and pizza delivery men?  Or was that just me?  But back to the subject, “Moar” has a mood of upbeat silliness.  I’m picturing a montage of candid camera footage.  And the track mirrors this, remaining buoyant throughout the ride.  I can’t not bounce to this music, no matter how long it repeats.  In the middle a new melody stumbles in like an excited toddler on the dance floor at a wedding.  The word adorable comes to mind.  Play this song, even if it does need a few moar goofy lyrics.

audiosurf am i cool yet “Am I Cool Yet?” opens with a Mega Man-like ditty laid over a house beat.  A voice dares to ask, “Am I cool yet?”  I expect the song to off on a nerdy path of self-deprecation.  Instead, I get the fuzziest demon’s growl of a bass line.  It means business, too.  When “Am I cool yet?” echoes once more, I begin to wonder if Rig’s no longer poking fun at nerds but techno fiends.  Thing is, it’s just a hair too close to sounding sincere.  You may have a friend who thinks James Taylor wrote “Steamroller Blues” in earnest.  He or she would not think “Am I Cool Yet?” is a parody of anything.  And it may not be, I’m not quite sure.  The drums are certainly serious; the bass bears no ironic smile; and there’s the blatant absence of hilarious Text-To-Speech.  If there’s a joke here, it’s buried beneath the subwoofer.

audiosurf casa noir For a Latin jazz song with a moderately upbeat tempo, “Casa Noir” is surprisingly relaxing.  So much so that I had difficulty focusing on the task at hand – namely, the collection and organization of colored blocks.  The drums keep thing loose and moving, generating most of the traffic along the way.  The piano glides competently; I did appreciate hearing the occasional Debussy-like chord punctuate a longer melodic run.  The electric bass, however, did stick out a bit.  Most of the song it blended fine, but I occasionally found myself longing for a proper string bass to fill the basement beneath the piano improvisation.  And the ending bass solo, cheapened by its electronic sound, only served to further validate my point.  Check out the crisp rumble of Paul Chambers if you need convincing.  Look out for the power-ups on this one (multipliers, paints, etc.), as they’ll be necessary to keep the ride interesting.

Author’s Note

All songs were played on the Pro difficulty at least twice using the Eraser and Vegas characters.  The neat thing about Rig being an avid Audiosurfer is that he took the time to be present in the comment sections of his tracks.  Unfortunately, he had to read people like FTK_PI say of “Am I Cool Yet?”:  “It was like a bed getting pushed into a woodcutter.”  I think dude means wood chipper, but I’m with him.  That bass is damn near out of control.