Reviews

EA Sports Active 2

Eric Kravcik

EA Sports Active 2 has some working out to do.


EA Sports Active 2

Publisher: EA Sports
Players: 1-2
Price: $39.99
Platform: Playstation 3 (reviewed), Xbox 360, Wii
ESRB: Everyone
Developer: EA Canada
Release Date: 2010-11-16
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I can still remember making fun of Nintendo at their press conference years ago, when they detailed Wii Fit and their Wii balance board. It seemed like a misstep to reserve so much time to a “game” that didn’t look like a game at all. Well, we all know how that turned out, and as a result, we have a new emerging “gaming” genre: fitness. EA Sports Active 2, as the title suggests, is the follow up to the surprising hit that originated on the Wii.

What set the original EA Sports Active apart from the multitude of failed fitness attempts of the past couple of years was the way that you interacted with the exercises. Using the Wii remote, EA was able to effectively guide you through workouts with a relative knowledge that you were in fact doing the exercise in the manner that was expected. While this was a step in the right direction, I found it very annoying to carry a remote around whenever I exercised. As with most games that used the motion capabilities of the Wii remote, I found that there were frequent hiccups with the overall performance, leading to an increase of failed attempts that were clearly executed correctly. Of course, EA gets somewhat of a pass because they were navigating uncharted territory, but with the sequel and a new platform, I was excited to see where this franchise was headed.

With the addition of new platforms comes the expected hardware hurdles, and since EA Sports Active was originally intended for use with the Wiimote, EA had to find a new way to pull gamers into their fitness game. While the Playstation 3 has recently added motion controllers, EA either missed the boat or invested too heavily in their wireless sensors before a change could be made in time. Whatever the reason, I was happy to see an attempt to create a hands free interactive workout experience, but the results weren’t what I had hoped for.

Creating an entertaining or engaging experience is hard enough for developers with the current hardware on the market, but creating a game along with a mandated peripheral has proven to be too much for EA. While my experience certainly does not define every sensor that EA has bundled with their game, it certainly is enough to caution others about possible frustrations that may occur.

EA Sports Active 2 (for the Playstation 3) comes bundled with three sensors, one for the right leg and the other two for each arm. Also included in the bundle is a USB that needs to be plugged into the system that will pick up the wireless signal from the other devices. Before engaging in any workout, you have to sync each device, and this is where the frustration begins. Almost every time that I worked out, one of the sensors wouldn’t sync. When I didn’t have problems with the initial syncing, there were multiple times during a workout that the signal on one of the devices would just stop working. Since EA has mandated that these sensors be synced in order to play, if you ever experience these problems, the workout is halted and you can't continue until the problem is rectified. Eventually I just started expecting issues to come up, which resulted in me altering my experience because I wouldn’t try as hard as I usually would because I would expect an abrupt end. Not having functional hardware to go along with the software is a real letdown because the software surrounding the sensors has some real potential in the fitness arena.

Hardware aside, the sheer variety of programs that EA Sports Active 2 includes should be commended. You can start a nine week program that can keep track of calories burned, exercise time, average heart beat, etc. These stats can then be transferred onto their website, allowing you to keep constant track of your goals while also sharing them with others. Of course, there are the normal workout routines like lunges and squats, but there are also other choices such as mountain biking, boxing, soccer, and basketball, as well as a multitude of others that each target specific parts of the body. If you don’t think that the nine week program is enough, you can even customize your own workouts or have the trainer build you a workout based on the specific locations that you want targeted on your body. Ultimately, however, what you get out of EA Sports Active 2’s software won’t matter if you don’t have the functioning hardware to utilize it.

EA Sports Active 2 took some great steps forward, allowing for a completely tailored and customized experience, but that experience may not be there for everyone. It will be interesting to see if EA will be going forward with their own hardware devices once the inevitable sequel arrives, since there are now other options available on each platform. As it stands, from the initial high price point and suspect packed-in hardware, EA Sports Active 2 has some working out to do.

3

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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