Tuesday, January 18, 2011

This Week on Audiosurf Radio – Nineties Ladies Edition

lilithI’m warning you: I will reference other bands if I have to.

If I feel describing your music requires tracing its lineage, I will not hesitate to do so. I can’t hear a guitar and tell exactly what model it is or what amp it’s running through. But I might be able to name a band that’s used a similar setup. Q.E.D. If you sound like the Nineties, I will say so.

Zamza sounds like the Nineties. Unfortunately, I can’t tell from their completely unhelpful website (head to the Jamendo, it at least has the music) whether this is one woman’s band or what. Two of the three songs do feature strong female vocals, but the last is more of an electronic instrumental. I will be making an effort to use ‘Zamza’ when referring to the vocalist, thereby giving her credit for everything else in the process.

I warned you.

The Songs

audiosurf out in spaceI can’t quite place the influences on this one. “Out in Space” sounds like the late Nineties/turn of the millennium alt rock pop – the poppy mishmash that existed in parallel with the boy band phenomenon before we all turned ourselves over to Timbaland-inspired R&B and Dame Gaga. Guitar genres collide as Zamza’s catchy melodies give way to raucous guitar solos. Something about the way the opening chords ring reminds me of the New Radicals, but then her Melissa Etheridge-y voice (jeez, could I drop any more Nineties references?) kicks in over some space-age pedal effects, ruining the comparison. Her constant vocal scooping (particularly on the phrase “I’m flying there with you”) wears on the ear by the third or fourth time, but I can’t deny the infectious nature of the hook “Take me out in space.”  I can’t even begrudge her the odd spoken-word megaphone voice that occasionally pipes up – well, I could, but I won’t. It works somehow. The ride’s pretty standard pop fare: downhill, a few twists, some occasionally lucky traffic. Nothing too surprising for vets, though if you’re looking for music you haven’t heard in a while, this isn’t a bad place to start.

audiosurf broken windshieldLet me just get my reference points out of the way before I dive into “Brokenhearted.” The Cranberries. Bjork. Red Hot Chili Peppers. Phew, okay. Here we go. The opening guitar lick of “Brokenhearted” has some Chili Peppers flair, the way the chords glide from one to the other. This subsides, however, as a gloomy air sets in beneath Zamza’s powerful vocal drive (think Bjork or The Cranberries’ Dolores O’Riordan). English isn’t her first language, and it shows in how she attacks particular vowels and consonants. It’s also particularly distracting on the underwhelming lyrics “You are lost/You are mad/Feeling sad/You’re crazy broken dreams are never coming back.” Their bluntness doesn’t match the carefully crafted mood of the song: melancholy guitar, theremin (I think), and otherworldly flutes. Maybe it’s a translation issue? I’d love to hear to this song sung in a foreign language. If you can, play this song and pretend it’s in Russian.

audiosurf between the ocean and the sky“Between the Ocean and the Sky” contains none of the female vocals we’ve thus far discussed. This track’s basically instrumental (I don’t think a few mutterec vocal samples should disqualify it from that distinction), which is a nice surprise to round out the week. An energizing bass line keeps the song grounded yet moving. The bass dances within a specific register, never darting too high or low so that you lose track of it. A tremolo guitar solo sketches out a melody, sounding vaguely like a harmonica while doing so. Audiosurf regulars will probably find a lot to like about this one. It isn’t too demanding of your attention. It has enough repetition to get you into a groove. The track’s challenging without inducing carpal tunnel. I’m happy it’s not much longer than four minutes though. An extra two minutes of the main loop might’ve soured the whole thing for me.

Author’s Note

All songs were played on the Pro difficulty using the Eraser character. People seemed to be having luck with Vegas on “Brokenhearted,” if you’re into that sort of thing.

Much of the Comments dealt with high score boasting/complaining, which is pointless to read out of context. Instead, allow me to recommend a ride real quick. Go buy the song “Entrance” from the Pac-Man Championship Edition DX soundtrack. It’s the song from the title screen. Not only is the ride fun, but the bass is incredible. Find some banging headphones or a hefty subwoofer and crank this one.