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This is, in some ways, the precursor to the wonderful Source:Remix album by Yellow6 that i loved last year. It came out a bit earlier, but i just got it.

One weird thing i discovered is that, according to both Jon of Yellow6 and Scott of Portal, remix albums are poorly received. No one seems to know why, but both were shocked to see me favorably review Source:Remix. So be forewarned: this is another lovely remix disc that i am giving a favorable review to, despite current trends.

But i wonder: why do people seem to not like these types of albums? Much of the music on both of the remix albums in question would, if it were released on a small IDM label out of a smallish city in Germany, be hailed as amazing. I think. At least, i listen to a fair amount of obscure electronica, and i find the remixes here to be quiet noteworthy.

Maybe it's a context thing. Maybe the problem is that these albums cross genres. How many other guitar drone fans like IDM? How many IDM fans would even think to look at a remix album by a guitar drone act when they see it in the store? I'm not really sure how to answer either question. My experience chatting with fellow fans on the Internet is that there is a fair amount of crossover here. So, i dunno.

At any rate, this is a pretty good selection of remixes of the work of Portal. Portal is mostly Scott Sinfield, although occasionally Rachel Hughes joins in and helps him out. Here, 9 artists remix a variety of Portal tracks. The remixers are a pretty eclectic bunch, ranging from fellow guitar drone act (and label mate) Yellow6, to slowcore act Some of the Quiet, to, well, all sorts of folk.

The first track starts most auspiciously with deep bass and reverbed guitar over lonely hi-hats. This song is called Selene and this remix is by Portraits of Diego. Overall this reminds me of a dance remix from an early 80's goth band. The song proceeds like that for a while, then the beat gets cut up and the reverb is turned up into the realm of total fractured sound, and the song becomes IDM -- the guitar is fuzzed out, and the beat is a spastic little drum machine, flailing under the weight of drone. Very nice.

This is followed a remix of the tune Second Thought by Innerise. Attentive readers will note that i really liked the remix this act turned in for that Yellow6 disc -- a low-key almost trip-hop meets drone affair, and this is another stunning mid-tempo piece. Which leads me to ask: who the heck is/are Innerise? Do they/he/she/it have anything else out? These are two fine remixes.... Anyway, this is a Portal track with vocals, and Rachel Hughes is singing in a languid, almost bored sort of way. This vocal style, combined with the mid tempo echoed thumps of the beat remind me of Slowdive's In Mind remixes, or the work of Project Skyward. Very nice. I must remember to find out more about this "Innerise" thing....

The third track is Falling, remixed here by Yellow6. This remix is very minimal: the first half of it consisting almost entirely of Hughes' vocals some weird clattering percussion (which actually sounds like Mr. Attwood mic-ed somebody slinging around a bag of silverware!), and a very subtle guitar drone. I find that i am so focused on Ms. Hughes clear voice that i don't notice the drone until is swells up to momentarily overpower the song. This is a very nice piece that reminds me of Ultravox. I think it is the very subtle drone that references Ultravox. Whatever.

The next remix, After Tomorrow by Schengen is pretty normal early IDM, and is probably the least noticeable song on the disk. This is followed by a sci-fi/horror movie ambient track called Naming Stars, here remixed by Toverdroom. Neither of these tunes are particularly long, or noteworthy.

They are followed by Before The Storm remixed by July Skies. Maybe. When i first listened to this tune, i just assumed that it was a Landing "remix" like the one they did for Yellow6. I was honestly surprised to look at the liner notes and see that it was NOT by Landing. It has slow tremoloey guitar arpeggios, weird spacey keyboard hits, and builds very slowly, as if the song were in no real hurry. Exactly like a Landing tune. Really. Perhaps July Skies is a pseudonym for Landing or some combination of it's membership? I don't know, but if you like that sort of mellow, spacey indie pop, then you will enjoy this song.

There follows another remix of the Portal song Falling (apparently one of their more popular numbers), here remixed by Some of the Quiet. I have heard some tunes by this band. I think they are from the Midwest, and that they are a slowcore act when left to their own devices. And any rate, their remix is quite different than Yellow6's version, but again here the song is stripped down to mostly vocal and percussion. However, rather than using a sackful of silverware, Some of the Quiet use gamelan, which gives it a vaguely asian feel. And no matter that Macha built their own damned gamelan and carried it on their backs across the mountains of Bali, i will always associate the sound with These Waves by Young American Primitive. And believe me, that is a good association to make. Overall, this is a decent tune, all light and happy.

V/VM is an aggressive electronic remixer, and here he turns in an oddly industrial noisescape drone. It is a remix of the song Shifting, and he has turned Portal's lovely drone into a creepy thing. I am not so into this type of ambience, but it is well-done.

And then the album ends in the same sort of way that it started, with a remix of Selene. This time around the remix is by Epic 45, and they have crafted a spacey drone that is combined with guitar feedback. It's a nice ambient tune, but seems somewhat odd. That is, it seems to flow in a random way. Well, i can't really think of words to describe it, but let me just say that it reminds me of the feel i got from the early work of Aphex Twin. You know, around the time of Ventolin, back before Richard James decided that his music was supposed to annoy you. Remember how that was good stuff, but had some sort of "off center" feel to it? This tune does the same thing.

Overall, i enjoy this disc. I think it starts out really strong and then sort of wanders aimlessly in the middle for a bit, but it does pick up right at the end. Overall, i would recommend this to the people who like Source:Remix by Yellow6, or maybe to those who enjoyed Blue Skied an' Clear from Morr Records. If electronica and/or drone isn't your thing, then this probably isn't for you.

Related Links:

Source:Remix by Yellow6, which is sort of the follow-up to this record.
Split by Portal and Yellow6.


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