Tuesday, July 13, 2010

This Week On Audiosurf Radio – Robots Can Dance Edition

This is not Trickst3r. Who is Trickst3r?  An Italian electronica artist or robot from the future sent back on a mission to get us grooving?

The former might seem more likely, but that’s only because of your narrow-minded view that robots don’t care about music.  What about that robot they taught to play Guitar Hero?  Or that terrifying first chair robo-violinist?

And what about KeeponWhat about Keepon?

Hit the jump for some robotunes that are bound to get you moving and surfing alongside the best synthetics Big Technology has to offer.

The Songs

In ninety-nine percent of my write-ups of techno tracks, I discuss the bass line in some way. “Frustration” is no exception.  Well, sort of, since it’s really the lack of a driving bass that defines the song.  I once saw a “concert” performed by two men with sheet metal, power tools, empty oil drums, metal extension ladders and drum sticks.  This sounds like them sans the grinding of saw blades on steel.  The rhythm’s infectious, designed to infiltrate your muscles and not-so-gently coerce them into motion. I picture robots stomping out their frustrations in some underground club of the near-future, their complaints about their human overlords drowned out by the sounds of metal simulacra of feet clomping to the beat. Had some android deejaying at Club 0101001001001111010000100100111101010100* composed the tune, he’d have instantly been recognized as a huge Audiosurf fan, as the track’s an excellent challenge for the seasoned surfer. I managed to chain my combo through most of the ride until an unfortunate overload derailed my success.  I never have time to worry about my combo chain.  The traffic in “Frustration” comes steadily but not too swiftly, giving you time to think, strategize, and ultimately enjoy.  What I’m saying is play this song.

audiosurf cosmogonia I once read that should robots become sentient and assume the mantle of Dominant Race on Earth, they will specialize, not create multitalented facsimiles of humans.  Their logical “brains” would deem this the most efficient use of their time and energy.  If that’s the case, the first half of “Cosmogonia” would be played by a robot designed solely for drumming (kind of like Neil Peart).  The percussion at the top of this ride is just preposterous.  Imagine the sound of tires running over those little highway reflector bumps.  Now imagine 1000 tires doing it at 75 mph.  Now imagine them doing it in rhythm.  (I took great pains to make sure the absurdity of that analogy matched the absurdity of the song’s percussion).  Unfortunately, it doesn’t last forever.  Halfway through, we’re left with a more conventional quarter-note drone.  Still, the opening’s insane.  No one can take that away from Percuss-o-bot.

audiosurf follicle The opening of “Follicles” epitomizes Trickst3r’s minimalist style.  He picks no more than two or three weird, bafflingly congruous noises at a time and asks you to deal with them for 30-60 second bursts.  It’s novel, refreshing, and occasionally unsettling, like when one of his noises sounds like robot crickets*** crawling around inside your cochlea.  Surprisingly, a walking bass materializes halfway through, sending shockwaves through the song with its rich, organic tone.  I immediately thought of the robot jazz club in Penny Arcade’s excellent Automata miniseries.  Well, until the haunting sound of vuvuzelas swarmed my ears.  I barely survived the epic downhill slide due to the horrific buzzing.  If you make it through, you’ll be greeted by a soft piano part, which swiftly becomes a nightmare as it switches from the left speaker to the right speaker at such a high frequency as to nearly give anyone wearing headphones vertigo (I was wearing headphones).  Sure, “Follicles” may have tried to kill me, but I enjoyed it.

audiosurf real frustration “Real Frustration” is not a mere remix of “Frustration,” but it may as well be.  It too sounds like Timbaland’s future great-grandson (also a hip-hop producer) travelled back in time to lay down some beats for Justin Timberlake’s new album**, then proceeded to turn the bass way down.  “Real Frustration” satisfactorily executes much what made “Frustration” a fun ride, but the abundant similarities to its predecessor limited my enjoyment.  ProTip: Ride “Real Frustration” only as a coda to its predecessor.

Author’s Note

All songs were played on the Pro difficulty at least twice using the Eraser and Vegas characters.

I hope Audiosurf user JaguarFiend reads these, as I’ve quoted him numerous times over the past few months.  Of “Cosmogonia,” Jaguar said, “The beginning of that kicked my ass like a propeller that has boots instead of fan-blades on it.”  Great, his apt description now has me picturing a WWI plane with comically large boots spinning on the front.  I’ll also point out that he, too, was nearly nauseated by the frantic panning of the piano in “Follicles.”

Anyone who has yet to try Audiosurf should really think about it – if even just to ride your Burt Bacharach collection (or that song Vin Diesel lip-synched to).

* – That super long string of numbers is a rough translation of ROBOT into binary.  If you’d like to play around with the alphabet in binary, go here.
** – I have no idea if Timbaland’s future great-grandson has any plans to do this.  But wouldn’t that be awesome?
*** – I really have no plans to drop the robot thing****.
**** – Thanks for bearing with me.