Tuesday, August 24, 2010

This Week on Audiosurf Radio – Third Time’s The Charm Edition

newman burning With the entire Internet at one’s disposal, it’s hard to imagine you’d have to revisit one particular well to find good music for Audiosurf.  But just because you don’t have to doesn’t mean you shouldn’t.

Some artists compose music tailor-made for being broken down by algorithms and reassembled as neon racetracks, pulsing with technicolor traffic.  Others never get replayed because their softer stylings don’t translate well to the challenge most surfers seek. 

DJ Fire-Black knows what’s up.  This is now his third appearance on Audiosurf Radio in one calendar year.  He first cropped up this January – on his sixteenth birthday, no less.  Then he resurfaced just this June with more solid tracks. 

Hit the jump to see if Fire-Black’s still fulfilling his potential or if he and Audiosurf need to start seeing other people.

The Songs

“Hydra” is a perfect track on which to apply such game-changing tags as Caterpillar and Sidewinder.  Without the modifications, I might’ve had time to pick apart the music, deride it for not being as imaginative as I know Fire-Black can be.  The hook is a sound effect I’ll liken to someone constantly playing with volume knob on your stereo.  Each bass groan fades in and out rhythmically, while bursts of light synth fire off in the background.  He also plays with fidelity – a common trick – by receding into a tinny percussive sound only to bring the rich bass roaring back in later.  Removed from the track, it’s not unlike a number of techno tracks I’ve liked well enough in the past.  But the two mind-bending tags raise the crazy bar so high I’m happy the music wasn’t that complex.  I’ve written before about both of these track mods: Sidewinder turns the thing on its side, turning hills into dizzying turns; and Caterpillar creates smooth streams of traffic.  Both complicate the ride so much I had trouble keeping track of my grid.  Plus, the rising temp makes everything buzz like old movie footage.  You know how everything moves just a hair faster than what feels normal?  The music may not make you play this song twice, but the track sure will.

“Frozen Sun” is dying to be set to something.  Not an interpretative dance or anything like that.  Maybe a documentary, something along the lines of 2 Players Productions’ work over at Penny Arcade.  The repetitive sense of drive seems like it could lend weight to footage of a man toiling over a keyboard.  Bass dominates much of the song, taking only a brief vacation during the middle uphill climb.  I get the impression of someone taking a breath here.  Or perhaps someone picking themselves up, dusting themselves off, and diving headlong back into the fray as the bass returns.  What melody is there is sparse but well-developed.  Fire-Black teases it early and slowly spins it out into a phrase that carries the song forward above the bass cycles.  Nothing too out of the ordinary crops up on the track itself, though I did find myself in a great, almost-hypnotized groove toward the end.  With how long this one is (and it is a bit on the long side), be careful the humming bass loop doesn’t completely pull you in.

The word “Apodis” has something to do with Apus, the bird-of-paradise constellation in the southern hemisphere, but I’m fairly certain as a title it’s completely unrelated.  I had the exact opposite experience with “Apodis” than the one I had with “Hydra.”  This time I was so engaged musically I could barely focus on the traffic in front of me.  Not that I crashed at every turn or anything (I actually placed on the global leaderboard for Pro), but I spent most of my rides just pondering the bizarre sounds flitting from my earphones.  The percussion is a step away from the norm.  It’s thinner and sounds a bit more organic.  There’s a wooden quality to it, like a busker or a child of precocious musical ability rapping on crates and old chairs with drumsticks.  The strobing “melody” really steals the show, however.  I’m amazed by the range of expression Fire-Black coaxed out of whatever the hell this “instrument” is.  It sounds like a technomancer (yes, that’s a thing…kind of) cursed a busted Moog with sentience and commanded it to sing about its feelings.  (This wouldn’t sound so far-fetched if you knew that robots have feelings now.)  Whatever it is, it impressed me.  Ride this one to see if you can figure out what the old Moog is saying.

Author’s Note

All songs were played at least twice on the Pro difficulty using the Eraser character.  Again, “Hydra” employs some crazy tags, so be aware that it isn’t your average ride.

The best comment of the week by far actually came from Lebeth, wife of Audiosurf dev Dylan Fitterer and main curator of Audiosurf Radio.  In response to the crazy scores being posted for “Hydra,” she said, “I feel like we should send out some complimentary steak knives or something to all you in the 2 million point club.”  Excellent Glengarry reference.  And yeah, the insane traffic density made for some unreal scores.  Good luck besting those.

Do steak knives, talking robots, or techno appeal to you?  Then try Audiosurf here.