Tuesday, June 29, 2010

This Week on Audiosurf Radio – DJ Whatsyourname Edition

hello my name is Where do DJ names come from?  (Probably not here.)

Sure, DJ Jazzy Jeff was a dude named Jeff, and Mix Master Mike is a guy named Mike.  But Kid Koala is not a koala.  I’m not sure I know what Kool DJ Herc means.  And DJ Qbert and DJ Starscream are awesome nerd references but I have no idea why they fit into the club universe.

Flying under the odd DJ name banner is this week’s artist DJ Fire BlackAudiosurf featured some of his material months ago – on his birthday, no less – and I came away pretty impressed.  But that doesn’t explain his name.  All of my years with Final Fantasy games has conditioned me to think he’s referencing tried-and-true spell names.  I know that’s not the case, but it’s the story I’m telling myself.  So there.

Also, take this moment to remind yourself that DJ Fire Black is sixteen years old. 

The Songs 

I don’t know if I should be breaking up Parts One and Two of “Nightfire,” but since they’re organized so for your surfing pleasure, I’ll do the same.  Part One kicks off with an easy quarter note beat.  Get used to it.  Grow to like it.  Learn to love it.  You’ll be hanging out with it for a while.  In case you get a tad bored with the ceaseless bass, Monsieur Fire Black includes some high-pitched, syncopated synth.  It won’t wake your dog from a heroic nap, but it will keep you from nodding off during the song, which – I’m sorry – is more than a little likely.  I’ll admit I often deride electronica with extraneous haunting vocal lines (or whatever other bizarre melody the creator’s dreamed up), but “Nightfire” needs one in the worst way.  The ride picks up briefly in the middle downhill section.  The tempo increases.  Traffic spikes in a challenging way.  Unfortunately, the rest of the song relies on the aforementioned whining synth strobe and some panning tricks to get by. 

Part Two of “Nightfire” picks off right where the first left off and, thankfully, goes a little bit farther.  There’s more sonic variety here.  I can discern a melody.  In the beginning, there’s even some variation to the percussion.  The kick drum, while incredibly present for much of the song, does take some much-appreciated rest now and then.  You’ll notice a little less in the way of strobing synth, which is for the best, I think.  Once the tempo shot up a few ticks, I really eased into this one (as ironic as that sounds).  It’s easier to focus on playing the game when the sound in your ears isn’t so gratingly monotonous.  It does end rather abruptly, amidst a cavalcade of bright tunnels and heavy traffic.  I wonder if we’re to expect a third movement, or if – like some stories – we’d be better off with just the two.  Were this a movie and you needed to take a pee break (or you wanted to mouse over to Twitter for some World Cup or Miley Cyrus news), I’d wait for the loping uphill section in the middle.  It’s almost completely devoid of traffic.

If “Injection” is actually a remix of a BS song, it totally shows.  One of my favorite things about BS is mercilessly he iterates on his own material, refusing to linger in one mode for two long.  The song goes nearly two minutes without a bass line.  A rhythm is established early on and then the melody and mid-range instruments take over.  Heavy downbeats in the beginning cause such severe bumps it feels like the track itself is head banging.  The first third of the song continues to impress even after a workmanlike quarter note kick drum shores up the percussion sound.  Complexity is the key here.  Sure, many of the various musical ideas present would be hellacious to listen to on their own.  (But with their powers combined…)  The song’s simply greater than the sum of its parts.  Except the middle.  That part needs a good trimming.  If I took every substance mentioned in Infinite Jest, then followed it up by treating Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas like a recipe book, maybe I’d be high enough to sit through all eight minutes of this song.  As it stands, I’m not.  So I’d prefer to skip from one kickass slope to the next without all the yawning in between.  Don’t think I’m in anyway trying to dissuade you from trying “Injection,” you need to play this song so you can experience the final downhill curve.  Imagineers wish they could build a track so stunning. 

Author’s Note

All songs were played twice on the Pro difficulty using the Eraser and Vegas characters.  Feedback from the comments section seemed vaguely positive with a few outliers, such as skiddlywibble.  Skiddly found “Nightfire” extremely difficult to ride: “The pitch is horrible. I can't listen to this for thirty seconds without my ears ringing. Literally. I had to turn my sound off to do the track. Audiosurf shouldn't be an endurance test.”  While I didn’t feel like my ears were bleeding or anything, I am glad someone else found the upper register a little taxing on the old hearing holes.

Anyone who’s reading this without having played Audiosurf (including non-gamers!) should really check it out.