I enjoy remix albums. I have quite a few of them, and i tend to look for them when i know they are supposed to be released (i.e., approximately 4 months after Nine Inch Nails release an album, there will be a remix album, almost like clockwork). However, i have been told that, in general, these albums sell poorly and are not well received. I believe it was Scott Sinfeld who said that i gave the Portal remix record the only good review that it received. Huh.
I wonder why these records are so reviled? To me, they are the chance to study technique removed from style. That is, i know the songs, and seeing what happens in a remix is the chance to study the technique of the remixer. The output (the remix) reveals a lot about the methodology of the remixer and it is indicative of what the remixer brings to music. (Please note that, although i do enjoy some dance remixes, i am speaking more generally of the types of remixes that i review here on EvilSponge. In these cases, neither the original nor the remix are designed solely for "booty shaking". Instead, the type of remix i refer to is more ... intellectualized. Perhaps that is why i think i can discern a little of a remixer's true mind-set in their output.)
Alternatively, i could be completely full of shit on this. (We have an expression in the South, "So full of shit your hair is brown". My hair is rapidly graying -- does that mean i am becoming less full of shit as time wears on?)
Let me provide a concrete example, gleaned from Flared Up. This record includes Karola Bloch remixed by Manual. He (Manual is the project of Jonas Munk) is the remixer that i am most familiar with here. In fact, the first time i listened to the disc, i had done so before even looking at the packaging. (This is a sort of superstition of mine. I want that first listen to be uncontaminated by all of the extraneous factors. I also will not read a review of a record i plan to review myself....) As track four started, i thought, "This sounds remarkably like Manual," and glancing at the sleeve i found that i was right. Manual's work, either original or in remix form, is best described by the terms "shimmering" and "cascading". There is a lightly downward motion portrayed in his work, as if you are showering in it. Hearing his take on Karola Bloch only confirms that this is an inherent part of the Manual operation plan.
So, as you can see, in listening to a remix of a song with which you are familiar, by an artist with whom you are familiar, you can learn a lot about the remixer. It is almost like a double-blind test: you remove the variable of the song by providing a familiar tune. Since you know where things are starting from, the journey of how you got to where you are (i.e., the remix) is easy to see...
Okay, i have no idea if i am making any sense here. There might not even be any sense to be made. The fact is that i like ambient remix albums (for lack of a better term). And i find such records to be more interesting from the perspective outlined above, rather than from seeing what they reveal about the songs themselves.
That point is as made as i can make it, so moving right along…
As far as remix records go, Flared Up is another winner. (Please note that i only review the good ones.) This record features remixes of Port-Royal's excellent Flares LP. Except for the first song, F.S. Blumm's Mohn fur port-royal, which is a short, mellow ambient piece of guitar, done as a sort of tribute for Port-Royal. It is nicely done.
And then we get into the remixes. There are 10 mixes here, of five different songs. Yes, there are a lot of repeats, and one sort of fusion remix. That is, Flares on the Water by Minamo is a kind of metamix of the three parts of the Flares song.
The source music, i.e., Flares by Port-Royal, is a mellow album. Guitars meander under a haze of distortion, and subtle electronic beats and synth tones meander about. The pace is unhurried and slowly growing.
The first thing you notice is that the bulk of remixers here increase the energy levels of the tunes. Beats are more prominent, and drive the songs along faster than the originals. This is an interesting trend. I wonder if the musicians who made these remixes thought the original record was too slow.
I think that all of the songs on this record work. Of course, some work a little better than others. Stafrćnn Hákon's take on Spetsnaz adds some crunchy rhythm to move the song along nicely. Death Row Radio add nice drumming and some echoing reverb to Flares pt 2, while Televise does something similar to Flares pt 3. I also really enjoy Dialect's skittering beat take on Karola Block.
In general, there is so much here to enjoy. A wonderful album, given a really lovely reworking by several talented artists. There is much here for a Port-Royal fan to enjoy, and Flared Up has been a nice mellow part of my summer.