Tuesday, February 22, 2011

This Week on Audiosurf Radio – One Song, Three Times Edition

123Having music from BS, DJ Fire-Black, and Jonathan Araldi all in one week is essentially creating an Audiosurf All-Star Game. It’s asking Alec Baldwin, Steve Martin, and John Goodman to host Saturday Night Live simultaneously. It’s bringing on the Black Eyed Peas to sing their hits, then realizing their hits are too old so you have them sing someone else’s hits with said someone’s ex-guitarist, then realizing that you still need the help of an airlifted dancer/club crooner to get the job done.

Actually, it’s much much better than that third one.

I’ve written about BS and DJ Fire-Black a combined six times, and Andrew covered Araldi when he pinch hit for me last November. So yeah, these guys have Audiosurf down.

But what happens when they all tackle the same song? BS recently released “Vision of Life,” and messieurs Fire-Black and Araldi each tried their hands at a remix. Not only is this an All-Star Game, it’s some kind of trance music version of Horse.

Hit the jump to find out who gets H-O first.

audiosurf vision of life original“Vision of Life” starts with a sloth-like burn. I wouldn’t call it boring per se, but the anticipatory build does feel stretched. Like it should’ve kicked into gear by now. As if you were stuck on the tarmac, taxiing until the plane could take off. Maybe there’s a cute girl across the aisle. You’re itching to get up in the air. Hit some turbulence. She’ll drop her SkyMall, you’ll pick it up for her: kismet. There’s time for all this to play out in your head while zipping through the first third of “Vision of Life.” The Once in proper motion, however, it possesses a distinct pull. Tones in the upper register drag on the rhythm, making it easy to lose your place despite the pounding bass. This weightlessness preserves the song’s potential kinetic energy. BS plays with this floating feeling throughout. During one brief downhill passage toward the end, the percussion cuts out almost entirely, creating a smooth yet steep curve that the track takes at breakneck speed. The cinematic equivalent would be when the soundtrack drops out of an action sequence so that you can better hear the empty space as a character falls. All of the build-up, all of the ants-in-the-pants-“Get on with it already” pays off in the final downhill slide. Packed with every element of the preceding journey – ethereal swoops of sound, a driving beat, oscillating electronic noise – it’s a satisfactory end to one expansive trip of a ride.

audiosurf vision of life araldiAraldi’s “Vision of Life” grumbles. I’m not sure if he simply pitch-shifted samples from BS or not, but the effect of the opening is that of a baritone singer transposing a solo meant for a lead soprano. It’s not incorrect or anything. It just emanates from a different place tonally. Overall, the song feels heavier. Instrumentation has changed. The sprawling backdrop that BS painted with long, Enya-like sounds is reinterpreted with an electric guitar. What once felt relegated to the sonic periphery steps into the melodic spotlight with a simple timbre shift. Araldi’s long uphill climb in the middle employs the same string lines from the original, though his feels more like a linear progression to an inevitable climax than BS’s even-tempered phrases. Just before the steep incline tilts into action, the rustling percussion causes a quake in the track. The rhythmic bumps herald the coming rush, like the warm-up swings a golfer takes before driving the ball hundreds of yards. Overall, Araldi defragments the original and arranges it into three distinct sections. Play this song for Araldi’s skillful balance of reinterpretation and adherence.

audiosurf vision of life dj fireblackDespite all three versions being the product of men manipulating machines, Fire-Black’s sounds the most electronic. The percussion hisses. I can almost hear preemptive speaker buzz in nearly every register. Even the shamisen-like instrument dancing around the melody in the opening statement walks a fine line between processed and sampled. Rhythmically, the middle section inverts the original, placing the BS’s syncopated drag rhythm in the rumbling bass line while computer noises chirp away in much more organized fashion. Fire-Black also honors the song’s spacious middle passage. Speaking of chirping, he even went so far as to reinforce the section’s pleasant dreaminess with some birdsong. The recapitulated downhill recalls the opening slope nicely with plenty of traffic and a driving beat. Fire-Black’s version takes BS’s original vision the farthest – though you’d think making synthesized music sound even more synthesized would create some kind of black hole or something. Ride this one if you’re looking for something quite different from the rest.

Author’s Note

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

It seems the Audiosurf community largely agrees with my finding Araldi’s mix to be the superior ride. Strickland Propane wrote, “Played all 3 versions, out of the three, this one is the best, it's kinda emotional.” Kinda emotional, indeed.