Tuesday, August 31, 2010

This Week on Audiosurf Radio – The BS Strikes Back

star-wars-episode-v-the-empire-strikes-back I’m out of intros for BS at this point. 

This is his third appearance on Audiosurf just this year.  His first appearance, back in February, contributed heavily to my previously-nonexistent appreciation for trance music.  A month ago, he resurfaced with another trio of tracks, and I gushed.

What’s else could he possibly have in store for us?  I suppose if I were really interested I could tab over to his MySpace page.  Sidenote: the cover image for “Artificial Dream” looks like it should’ve been an Inception poster.

Am I still beholden to my music-crush on BS or is the honeymoon over?  Find out after the jump.

The Songs

“Aurora Project” features some truly exemplary transitions.  Most pieces of music can be easily divided into sections.  Larger works, like opera, have individual songs.  The sonata allegro form consists of various movements.  Pop songs generally follow some variation on the verse-chorus-bridge-chorus schema.  Hell, even 4’33” is divided into “movements.”  And what helps delineate these slices of music are the transitions, the shifts in tone or tempo that herald something new.  For “Aurora Project,” BS melted down the transition points, allowing the thing to run together like a dreamy postmodern oil painting.  The beginning’s quite intense, demandingly so.  Percussion sounds like a racing heartbeat, clamoring for your pulse to do the same.  Gradually it softens.  Then it brightens, as gliding background tones sound over the still-chugging drums.  While the volume abates toward the end, the pace continues, making for one of the best uphill endings I’ve ever ridden.  I often find myself thankful for techno without lyrics.  Songs with such a strong arc like this one remind me why.  Play this song.

If you were to believe the music, “The Twilight Zone” is populated by a giant baritone robot who loves humming.  The intro buzzes with a bass warbling that spices up an otherwise boilerplate background of echoing synth.  (Seriously, it sounds like a singing robot – anyone remember Gato?)As the song pushes forward, BS plays with the pitch of the warbling, letting it dance upward in its register as he raises the intensity.  The benefit of placing your melody in the bass range is that, when it finally comes time to resort to a standard oompah-oompah bass beat, the listener’s ear is trained not to notice.  Despite possessing callbacks to the opening motif and the aforementioned oompahs, the latter downhill stretch sounds like a completely different song.  Spritely piano licks help create this illusion, but I’m convinced it had something to do with the earlier use of bass.  BS wants you to consider that range a place for melody, not just for support, so you end up tuning out all of the support and focusing on the interesting bits.  That’s some jedi shit. 

I’m not entirely sure why I’m not crazy about “Elastique.”  It’s bubbly.  I like that.  It prominently features rolling arpeggios.  I can get behind that.  The first half just felt like it was idling, revving the motor while the car sits in neutral.  Before the arpeggios really get going, much of the defining aural elements are darting.  Chords disappear seconds after they appear out of nothing.  I picture a man at his keyboard, listening intently to the drum loop he’s set up, slamming the keys every other bar, relying solely on spiritual intuition to tell him when to play.  It’s vaguely rhythmic, but not enough to bring the ride along.  Halfway through it starts to pick up, but by then I’ve sort of checked out.  “Elastique” does its job as background music.  As a ride, it’s – how do you say…“meh”?

Whereas “Aurora Project” showcased BS’s ability to mask transitions, “Sciences” grabs you by the jaw and wheels your head around, demanding you bear witness to each killer seg.  Percussion and synthesizers collide, yielding buckshot blasts of yellow and red traffic at each major shift.  Again, I’m impressed by his range.  While some of the uphill sections sag a bit, I can’t accurately say that any of them sound similar to anything else in the song.  BS’s prolific output has enough songs of outstanding quality that you needn’t return to this one anytime soon.  But if came up on shuffle somehow, let it play out.

Author’s Note

All songs were played at least twice on the Pro difficulty using the Eraser character.  Some connection issues on the Audiosurf boards caused minor scoreboard issues and prevented me from reading all of the comment threads.  Despite these troubles, I did see this wonderfully polite and formal account of “Elastique” from Beeth:

“A pleasant track, with a wide and varied series of bops and combinations opportunities along the way.  A moderately challenging track that provided a more than satisfactory level of enjoyment.”

A small part of me wonders if this person is just mocking me, but my more rational side sincerely doubts that anyone would take the time for that.