Tuesday, October 26, 2010

This Week on Audiosurf Radio – Esoteric Song Name Edition

name_that_tuneThere are two ways to go when you name a song you’ve written.  (Well, three if you simply use a numeric classification system like classical composers.)  You can take one of the most recognizable or otherwise emblematic lyrics and slap it on top (“You’ve Got a Friend In Me,” “Take On Me”) or you can pull a Sufjan and name it a goddamn sentence.

While this week’s artist, Somniaferum, doesn’t go so far as our dear Mr. Stevens, he does have a knack for odd song titles.  Upon reading the names, I had no idea what to make of “Come on, Arduous Hummingbird!” or “Days of Fulfilled Hope.”  How bizarre it was to find that they actually matched the moods of the songs in question.  I suppose they’re not so esoteric after all.

Make the jump, read about this week’s selections, ride any that sound great, then head on over to Somniaferum’s website if you care to.  The EP these came from is up and free for download.

The Songs

audiosurf arduous hummingbirdThe moody acoustic opening of “Come on, Arduous Hummingbird!” did not prepare me for the blister-inducing madness to follow.  After cresting the first peak, the song shoves you headlong into fast-paced, starry electric guitar noodling.  It’s not shreddy – no Dragonforce tap solos here – but the bulk of the notes live at the neck of the guitar.  I’m reminded of the terrible (allow me to repeat myself) terrible songs I tried to write on guitar in high school.  I thought if I just strummed real fast and held down the frets it’d sound like a guitar solo.  Somniaferum knows otherwise.  Now matter how fast you strum, the movement of the notes needs direction (which it has here), and the music around the guitar (I had none) must propel the song forward.  Pay attention to the uptempo bass work, easily the most impressive element musically.  The dreamy bridge feels purposefully antithetical to the rest of the track, but its lush chords are refreshing after all the flittering high notes.  I suppose if you handed me a guitar and said, “Imitate an arduous hummingbird,” I might come to this conclusion.

audiosurd days of fulfilled hopeAgain, Somniaferum pulls a fast one on the listener at the top of the song.  “Days of Fulfilled Hope” starts off with a little electronic pop.  I have expected this to be a dance-rock song of some kind.  Instead, the guitar drives us away from the dance party, toward an arena stacked to the rafters with Marshall cabinets.  “Days of Fulfilled Hope” is a loud song.  I didn’t just have my volume turned up; it was recorded loud for a reason.  At times the sound even overwhelms the ear.  What I took for once took for hummingbird mimicry turns out to be Somniaferum’s preferred method of guitar melody: strum as fast as you can on really high notes.  Here, the dreaminess of the notes wafts over big honking major chords splayed out across the rhythm section.  The last half of the song is a thunderous downhill slope with glaring red tunnels flying overhead.  Wistful joy is probably the best way to describe what this song’s aiming to evoke.  It’s not a Good Times party song.  It’s not even really a ballad.  The wide, yawning chords envelop multiple emotions at once, and there’s a monumental sense of peace underpinning it all.  Get past the boring quarter note traffic in the beginning and play this song.  Crank up your graphics settings and enjoy.

audiosurf the highest blissThey say that two times is a coincidence and three’s a trend.  Well, I’m beginning to notice a trend in Somniaferum’s work.  Opening: interesting, uptempo but subdued.  One minute in: toss in all manner of electric guitar.  “The Highest Bliss” kicks off with a neat indie vibe: bells and keyboard tones sound over a raucous marching snare.  I hear this and I’m surprised.  I want to hear more.  However, I’m then greeted by a wall of guitar, replete with soaring lines of frenetic strumming.  After a few minutes, the noise subsides, and a piano plunks out a new phrase.  Chugging power chords aren’t far behind, paving the way for yet another movement of wailing guitar.  It’s not bad, by any means.  But paired with two similar creations, it begins to sound tired.  Somniaferum can lay down a fun little groove.  I’d love to hear what happens when the guitars are taboo for a whole song.

Author’s Note

All songs were played on the Pro difficulty using the Eraser character.

Quote of the week goes to onetrueboo for his laser-accurate assessment of “Come on, Arduous Hummingbird!”: “lol. doctor jekyll and mister hyde contrast between uphill and downhill parts.”  This kind of applies to every track this week, as Somniaferum loves to alternate between his epic guitar lines and softer, gentler bridges. 

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