Tuesday, October 12, 2010

This Week on Audiosurf Radio – Submitted For Your Approval Edition

midnight societyI don’t know how the details on where each week’s songs come from.  Sometimes, it seems like a small record label is pushing their newest indie sensation, hoping it gains ground in some niche market.  Other times it is clearly just the result of one dude emailing in his music until it gets picked.

There’s nothing wrong with that.  In fact, this week’s tracks all came via the open call on the Audiosurf website. 

First up is SGX.  According to his website, this humble songsmith from Baltimore traffics in “killer beats and biting synth riffs.”  Sounds like good Audiosurf material to me.  Fun fact: tracks by SGX appeared in the full-scale MMO abortion that was APB.  Well, I suppose it’s not a fun fact.  Funny perhaps.  But I don’t want to laugh at SGX’s expense.  I’m sure his music tried to make the best of a terrible situation.

There’s also Kriegless, a devoted Audiosurf player and proud owner of a page on Newgrounds.  I’d forgotten Newgrounds existed until a week ago when someone emailed me this goddamn thing.  Also, is it just me or does Kriegless sound really close to Craigslist?

No matter.  Find out more on each track after the jump.

The Songs

audiosurf die anywayThe first half of “Die Anyway” is standard electronica fare.  Bass tones whoosh by underneath a cadre of other digital voices organized to move your feet or bob your head.  It’s not frenetic though; it requires no strobe light accompaniment.  The song’s vibe is relaxed, but not sleepy or lethargic.  Relaxed in the way a man wearing a perfectly tailored suit can breathe easy despite being out on the town, bouncing through clubs and popping in bars.  Halfway through, the tempo slows.  It’s concentrating.  Sour notes creep into the melody, upending expectation.  What once sounded familiar starts to sound strange.  The track lurches forward.  Again, you’re headed downhill.  The blue notes tinge everything, even as the song picks up speed.  This is the track you wanted to hear.  Something new, exciting.  I’d advise cutting up the mp3 and just riding the second half, but I wonder if the anticipation helped sell the tail end more.

audiosurf spanAt first glance, “Span” appears to be operating under the influence of the Caterpillar tag – the track modifier that generates long strings of blocks based on individual notes.  I don’t think that’s the case, however.  The traffic’s most likely the result of the intense cymbal-riding going on.  Seriously, the buzzsaw of activity on the cymbals is the song’s dominant element.  To SGX’s credit, it’s not mixed too high.  Then again, nothing on the track is mixed all that high.  “Span” is cool, calm, and collected.  The way the piano lingers over a subdued, syncopated bass whomping (you have to come with me on the onomatopoeia, folks) feels almost acid jazzy.  What would be silence in analog jazz is full of noise in the digital age.  The ear never rests, but it also never tires.  “Span” simmers by, whispering nonchalantly, “Enjoy or don’t.  Doesn’t matter to me.”

audiosurf right back upBefore we even discuss the track, I must first address the unfortunate name the featured rapper on “Right Back Up” has chosen.  Navi?  Is he a whiny little sprite?  Is he a blue cat person?  Come on, man.  Rebrand.  He really should because he’s not half bad.  I will admit I’m not a very discerning rap fan (I know I like Outkast…), but I’m not turned off by it.  By the time I hear rappers, they’ve usually been vetted by the media machine.  It’s refreshing to like someone I’ve never heard of before.  In case you forgot, this is a SGX track, which means it’s definitely electronica supporting the vocal line.  And holy crap is it aggro.  I’m not even sure what the dude’s rapping about, but he sounds compelled to keep up with the frantic beats pulsing underneath him.  I was on edge the whole time.  Also, the drumming occasionally slips into a real loose house music sound that always gets me.  Note to all DJs: include more drums like this.  As long as they can stay away from the Limp Bizkit/Linkin Park trap, more trance musicians should experiment with hip-hop.  They could even play this song for inspiration.

audiosurf stalemate“Stalemate” surprised me multiple times.  It opens with a riff as distorted as any classic punk lick, if not more so.  I prepare myself for dark cave of techno craziness.  Instead, faux strings enter, major chords lighting the way.  The song dons a J-Pop mantle – a glorious technicolor dreamcoat of giant robots and preposterously proportioned schoolgirls.  I begin to care less about where this is going.  The synth dies away, and we’re back in Distortion Land, which is actually quite nice.  A bit grimy, a tad run down – but nice.  Here the music swings and sways in a way that’s simply more alive than all the synth work.  Maybe it is an actual guitar.  “Stalemate” doesn’t end there, however.  A final section barrels to the end, led by a keyboard melody that’s somewhere in between the song’s other two aesthetics.  I left the whole thing a little confused and – thanks to the whole J-Pop thing – feeling a little dirty.

Author’s Note

All songs were played on the Pro difficulty using the Eraser character.  I’d like to give a brief shout-out to Audiosurf user Noon, who pointed out in the comments the similarity between the traffic in “Span” and the traffic generated by the Caterpillar tag.  A useful observation, which I thought bore repeating.

Again, all of this week’s songs were user submitted.  Head over to the game’s website for info on submitting your own trance/hip-hop hybrids.