Tuesday, May 4, 2010

This Week On Audiosurf Radio – Techno Justice Edition

judge_dredd_poster It’s the year 2107. All of our Supreme Court Justices are now impartial AIs, named sequentially by letter. A was the first. Justice Z is the last.

Okay, maybe that’s a little hokey. But it’s no worse of an opening title crawl than Judge Dredd. And doesn’t Justice Z sound like some kind of robotic ombudsman? How about a creation of Calvin’s imagination?

He’s actually neither. He’s a 19-year-old kid from Indianapolis who loves stylish shades. I love that he admits in his bio to playing the piccolo. What an innocent beginning for such an intensely-named artist. And good on him for putting an album together at his age. Let’s see, when I was 19, I was probably either acting in a college play or watching 24 in my apartment. I certainly didn’t have an album on iTunes.

Great, now I depressed myself. Good thing Justice Z is here to lift my spirits!

The Songs

“Polaris” may just be the happiest techno song I’ve ever heard. And probably the happiest dance song I’ve heard since the “Cha-Cha Slide.” The strobing synth ascends and descends on major chords, buoying the rest of the track. A pleasant (but not annoyingly-so) melody drifts in and out, often on what sounds like a guitar. Forgive me another protracted visual metaphor, but I picture some sort of montage of happy characters flying in space or maybe underwater. Alternating sections of syncopation and winding tunnels break up any monotony you might feel beneath the waves. While I can’t envision myself taking E and going buck wild on the dance floor to it, “Polaris” does make me smile. I’ll play this song and take it.

With “This Is My Jurisdiction,” Justice Z again cultivates a positivity in his music. The opening bass beat had me convinced I’d have to recant my earlier statement about “Polaris” being the happiest techno track I’d ever heard. Bouncing, jovial – I just couldn’t ignore it. However, I took less kindly to the main melody, which felt too upbeat, too peppy. It’s like that cute girl at the party who’s had just a few too many cosmos (of course she drinks cosmos) and starts embarrassing herself by getting really pushy about everyone else needing to HAVE A GOOD TIME! Thankfully, while the girl’s off attempting to boot-and-rally, her level-headed friend (played here by an excellent little guitar riff) distracts everyone with this great long joke she heard once. Unfortunately, the cosmo chick bounds back into room, consuming attention like a black hole consumes light. You leave the party having had a decent time; you just wish you could have spent more time with that chick’s friend.

“Retribution” opens with a soft piano riding a plethora of thumping beats – some syncopated, some not. I appreciate techno that’s willing to go off the downbeat now and then. Just because your target audience is high (on life!), it doesn’t mean they wouldn’t enjoy some good old fashioned syncopation. The piano theme plays nicely into what constitutes the rest of the song: arpeggiated chords. There’s a hint of Justice Z taking a device from the well-tempered realm of the clavier and instilling it in his electronic composition. That said, the song’s structure’s extremely simple; it’s built to be played on loop over an ear-busting sound system. While I found the music a little paint-by-numbers overall, I really enjoyed the shape of the ride. Despite there not being a lot of traffic, the track whipped by, curving toward and away from the ominous red goal line. More so than a lot of recent rides, this one truly feels like a rollercoaster.

Other Selections

There’s not too much to say about “Cosmic Dust,” so I won’t belabor it. It’s standard electronic fare with a few variants to the melody to keep things interesting. You might yawn during the uphill drags if you’re not too worried about matches, but you should wake up the two or three times it really gets going. The track starts jumping up and down, mimicking the ever-useful image of someone shaking out a carpet. Maybe those sections wouldn’t be as enjoyable without context, but if I could excise them from the song for separate riding, i would.

Author’s Note

All songs were played at least twice on the Pro difficulty using the Eraser and Vegas characters. Issues with Steam (thanks guys, don’t you know I do this every week?!) prevented me from being able to pull track graphs for you. Expect those to go up Tuesday evening if you want to come back and give them a look-see.

If you were kind enough to read this without knowing squat about Audiosurf, you may want to give it a try.