Saturday, April 08, 2006

Jukebox Juicebox #13 - Remixology

"Remix engineers? I shit 'em"
Julian Cope, "Beautiful Love" single sleevenotes, 1991

Mari Boine "Remixed"
I confess to a habitual acceptance of remixes and a borderline obsessive desire to track down reworks by artists as much as a band's original material. The result is a vast collection of obscure remixes by the likes of Andrew Weatherall, Slam, Fluke and Orbital, which makes the proverbial silk purse from a sow's ear. However, often it will lead me to discover more artists and remixers, or just simply appreciate the record in it's own right. Such is the case with Norwegian artist Mari Boine's "Remixed". I picked up this promo CD for a couple of quid, simply because it featured Jah Wobble, Bill Laswell and Biosphere, and thought that any other listening pleasure would be a bonus. What can I say? Ten tracks and just over an hour later and I've been playing it frequently ever since. A quick look on the
Discogs website reveals a rather unflattering picture of Boine that makes her look more like a trucker than the sensual chanteuse suggested by her voice, as well as a leaning towards a jazz/rock/(Norwegian) folk hybrid. "Remixed" is perhaps not one for her fans then, as it charts a markedly different route, taking in breakbeat, dub and house. Chilluminati provide an atmospheric opener in "Gula Gula", neatly leading into Jah Wobble's distinctive bass on "Cuovgi Liekkas", which roughly translates as 'Radiant Warmth', appropriately enough. The tempo then picks up with Those Norwegians' funky take on "Gulkan Du", before taking it back down for the spine-tingling "Alddagasat Ipmilat" by Biosphere. Regardless of my familiarity with the artists, each of the remixes complement each other and use Boine's vocals to great effect, wisely tending to leave them intact. The notable exception is album closer, "Ahccai" by Phono, which weaves a single note vocal into a pulsating beat that ensnares the listener. I'm not sure that I'm curious enough to seek out Mari Boine's other releases, but "Remixed" will be troubling my CD player for some time.

Tracklisting: 1. Gula Gula (illumination mix by chilluminati) / 2. Cuovgi Liekkas (jah wobble remix II) / 3. Gulkan Du (those norwegians mix) / 4. Alddagasat Ipmilat (biosphere's hanging valley mix) / 5. Ale Ale Don (melodious mood mix by mark de clive-lowe) / 6. Maid Aiggot Muinna Eallin (bill laswell mix) / 7. Gulan Du (nils petter molvær & jan bang remix) / 8. Mun Da Han Lean Oaivamus (richard thomas mix) / 9. Vuolgge Mu Mielde Bassivarrai (roger ludvigsen, fred ellingsen & thomas sonnenberg remix) / 10. Ahccai (phono remix)

Note: this promo verison features a different tracklisting from the official release
. I've also removed the correct characters from the song titles as some visitors may have trouble viewing the tracklisting. Apologies to any Scandanavian visitors!

Her Space Holiday "Ambidextrous"
One of the best things about free music downloads is that it enables you to broaden your muscial tastes at best and, at the very least, to sample an artist's material before committing to a full album. Okay, so it removes the interaction between buyer and seller resulting from going into a record shop and asking to listen to a record that you're interested in. Then again, I got pretty tired of staff's dismissive response when I presented them with a record that was clearly well outside of their listening zone... And so to
Wichita recordings, who seem to me to be a sorely underrated label, having released some great music by the likes of Bright Eyes, Ruby, bravecaptain and Mark Bianchi, aka Her Space Holiday. My introduction to HSH was through the Wichita website and a free download from this compilation of his remixes, dating from 2000-2001. As previously mentioned, I'm favourably biased towards remixes and particularly welcome the current trend of compilations focussing on the remixer, as opposed to the original recording artist. The danger of course is that the reworks won't match the original song and/or sound increasingly repetitive over the course of an album. Her Space Holiday's trademark appears to be marrying predominantly downtempo beats with string and wind instruments, but "Ambidextrous" manages to be varied and not outstay it's welcome, totalling just over 40 minutes' running time. An ambient take on new-punk band Elastica's "My Sex" opens the album, Bianchi washing Justine Frischmann's vocals in swirling loops of sound. Unfamiliarity with most of the original songs and artists is an advantage, with Aspera Ad Astra's "Godspeed" sounding like the definitive version. Not that this always works: Bright Eyes' "Contrast & Compare" and Micromars' "Why Didn't My Parents Buy Me A Casio?" draw undue attention to thin vocals and (in the latter) throwaway lyrics. However, Bianchi more often than not hits the mark, adding a spaciousness to tracks by Ruby and Duster. The highlight remains the track that I originally downloaded, "American Household", with Logic's rap about a dysfunctional upbringing set to a disarmingly cheerful woodwind and epic-sounding string section. Perhaps even more disconcerting is bravecaptain's "Tell Her You Want Her". Ex-Boo Radleys songsmith Martin Carr's trademark narrative about crushing indecision and unrequited love takes on a far more sinister undertone here. The song soundtracks the mundane daily routine of showering and brushing teeth, punctuating this with the narrator's frustrated attempts to telephone the object of his desire. The track climaxes with a sudden, unexpected gunshot... just as an incoming phone call sounds, to remain unanswered. "Ambidextrous" validates the concept of the remix album by making the sound unmistakably Her Space Holiday, without losing the spirit of the original song. If you're not convinced, why not do what I did and sample before you buy?

Tracklisting: 1. Elastica: My Sex (the last love letter mix) / Aspera Ad Astra: Godspeed (freedom fighters mix) / 3. Bright Eyes: Contrast & Compare (making words mix) / 4. Ruby: Grace (house warming mix) / 5. Micromars: Why Didn’t My Parents Buy Me A Casio? (analog alien mix) / 6. Logic: American Household (front hug mix)
(play) / 7. bravecaptain: Tell Her You Want Her (uk psycho mix) / 8. Duster: And Things (Are Mostly Ghosts) (version over dose mix) / 9. Her Space Holiday: Famous To Me (hurtful kid mix)

You can also download R.E.M.'s "R.E.M.IX" album, which features 2 remixes by Her Space Holiday here, or read my review in Jukebox Juicebox #5 (November 2005).

Propaganda "Outside World"
As part of Zang Tuum Tumb's bid for music (world?) domination in the first half of the 1980s, alongside Frankie Goes To Hollywood and The Art Of Noise, Propaganda were fully immersed in remix culture from the outset. My first purchase was the "p:Machinery" 12" single that, characteristically for ZTT, segued the instrumental and vocal versions to provide an epic slab of Germanic alt. pop. I subsequently sought out their other releases, including the classic album "A Secret Wish" and it's accompanying remix set - at a time when remix albums were still few and far between - "Wishful Thinking". Like all ZTT acts, the music was just part of Propaganda's appeal, taking into account the striking sleeve art and the ever-photogenic Claudia Brücken and Suzanne Freytag. In an odd sense, Propaganda were my ABBA (Suzanne was my favourite, in case you're wondering), though their story pretty much ended with these few releases. Ignoring the short-lived and largely forgettable Propaganda Mk II at the start of the 1990s, the band and their music seemed consigned to the vaults of history. However, with music's obsessive need to reevaluate and reclaim it's past, Propaganda are back with a collection of their finest moments committed to single. Of course, times have changed: remix albums are now ten-a-penny and, as the flood of recent 1980s 12" compilations demonstrates, much material from this period now sounds horribly dated. Fortunately, the innovative approach of Trevor Horn, Stephen Lipson and Bob Kraushaar, combined with the quality of Propaganda's songs, means that "Outside World" neatly avoids this problem. The versions of signature tune "Dr. Mabuse" build on the original's strengths and never feel repetitive. Likewise, "p:Machinery (beta)", which originally appeared on the rare ZTT sampler album "IQ6", replaces the song's killer synth hooks with the squalling guitar of Magazine/Siouxsie & The Banshees legend John McGeoch (RIP). The 12" mixes of "Duel" and it's aggressive sibling "Jewel" are little more than extended workouts, but lose none of their impact. However, the cassette-only mix of "p:Machinery (connected)" is a less successful segue of the original and 12" versions, seeming heavy handed by comparison. Of the B-sides, "Frozen Faces" - here in two versions - is the standout, whilst the take on The Velvet Underground's "Femme Fatale" retains it's curiosity value. A limited edition bonus DVD compiles the three single promo videos, plus alternate versions and TV commercials, which reinforce Propaganda's inate sense of style and are a treat for those like me who missed them the first time around. Despite original members Michael Mertens and Suzanne Freytag reactivating Propaganda and releasing a 12" single at the end of 2005, the prospect of a full reformation seems unlikely. Still, Germany's arguably greatest 80s pop act have left a formidable legacy that loses none of it's appeal with the passing of time.

Tracklisting: [CD] 1. Das Testament Des Dr. Mabuse (13th life mix) / 2. Lied [remix of The Chase] / 3. p:Machinery (beta) / 4. Duel (bitter sweet) / 5. The Lesson [remix of Dr. Mabuse] / 6. Frozen Faces (12” version) / 7. Jewel (u.s. vocal edited version) / 8. p:Machinery (connected) / 9. Das Testament Des Dr. Mabuse (dj promo version) / 10. Femme Fatale (The Woman With The Orchid) / 11. (Echo Of) Frozen Faces / [DVD] 1. Dr. Mabuse (version 1) / 2. Dr. Mabuse (version 2) / 3. Duel (version 1) / 4. Duel (version 2) / 5. p: Machinery / 6. Dr. Mabuse (tv commercial) / 7. Duel (tv commercial)

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