Tuesday, February 1, 2011

This Week on Audiosurf Radio – Trancing Around Brazil Edition

brazilI’m having déjà vu. I feel like I’ve been here before, writing about South American – specifically Brazilian – techno music.

I couldn’t track them down in the Audiosurf Radio archives, but I have a feeling I’ve reviewed Psy Brazil in the past. To complicate matters, their Jamendo page appears to be that of a collection rather than an individual artist.

In short, I have no idea whose creations I’m riding this week. But I’ve got opinions on them nonetheless. Find them after the jump.

The Songs

audiosurf back to psicodelia“Back to Psicodelia” opens with a string instrument I can’t name over a bongo drum beat so beautifully simple it sounds like it came out of a Casio keyboard. This continues pleasantly for longer than expected (the strings are given a few phrases to jitter across the melody) until a big fat bass beat comes in. Picture the Kool-Aid Man busting into a room – a t-shirt stretched across his curvaceous glass belly that reads “PHAT BASS” below a picture of a fish wearing stunner shades – and laying down a beat like every stereotypical heavyset beat boxer ever. Unfortunately, it then succumbs to the gigantic beat and spends roughly two minutes in commonplace trance. The bongos and strings are gone. I’ve heard this throbbing bass beat before. The synth line is okay, but it’s not inspiring me to send home postcards from my trip to Psicodelia. I will, however, write home about the prolonged downhill section in the middle. The thumping rhythm cuts out, and the song takes on more of a chiptuneish sound. I’m drawn further into the song rather than being pummeled by its larger elements. What takes up the melody is a sound whose essence I can only describe as warped – in that it sounds like each sound wave is passing by a singularity or other distortion, causing it to bend. The last downhill ride’s quite different from the rest of the track: traffic coming swiftly and intensely, scratchy sounds of an entirely new aural vocabulary, and a refreshing kinetic drive. A strong way to close out a long ride. Still could’ve used more bongos, though.

audiosurf out of cellYou can feel the capital-F Future in “Out of Cell.” Melodies buzz and accompaniments beep, then they switch and melodies breedle while accompaniments whirr. The palpitating bass line propels the track forward, like the chugging machinery that carries a rollercoaster uphill. Chords straight out of the ‘80s Future land every view beats, trying to lend gravitas to the journey. The title “Out of Cell” implies not so much a state but a journey, in fact. A journey I wasn’t wholly on board with until the third act. The middle downhill recapitulates the opening statement, adding in a new melody for good measure. It’s fun, but I could see it coming. It was also preceded by a rather drawn out uphill section with very little going on. I was actually surprised by the final downhill because, like in “Back to Psicodelia,” it sounded different from the previous five minutes of song. The tones pinging around the drum beat share source code with those of the earlier phrases, but they’re unique enough to feel like distance has been covered. The long road has led somewhere. After eight minutes, I like being in a place different from where I started.

audiosurf caffeineLongtime readers will know I’m not the biggest fan of reverberating voice overs in my techno. If you’re not actually going to sing a song, I don’t want to hear it. You don’t need words (“Zombie Nation” does just fine), but if you’ve got them, I could use some variation (e.g. “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger”). Simply having a disembodied male voice sedately utter “Caffeine” ain’t gonna cut it. Most likely, this is simply a trope of trance music I will never truly embrace. I imagine it’s part of the artist’s attempt to hypnotize me, to drop me down into a less aware state of consciousness so that I can better grind on honeys while also perhaps munching on E. (That is how you take E, right? Oh, it’s not?) Musically, “Caffeine” is the most trance-by-numbers of this week’s offerings. I could cut and paste things I’ve written about other songs here and they would accurately describe the song I rode, but I won’t because that would be lazy. What stands out the most is the second uphill segment. Its hollow percussion and thin arrangement pops out of the pulsating din. Another minute of that might’ve been hell, but I relished it for what it was. Note to techno producers: when isolating loops for softer sections, don’t always default to boilerplate drum and bass. You have better tools at your disposal. Use them.

Author’s Note

All songs were played on the Pro difficulty using the Eraser character. No comments from the peanut gallery this week because the Audiosurf servers were down for maintenance at the time of my riding. I’m still amazed by the support this indie game receives nearly three full years after its release – from its developers and its community.