Pete Tong VS Razorlight, this is not.
It's sometimes a little hard to understand why the release of every four-piece guitar band's latest album is followed by a slew of remixes. More often than not they fail to fully please anyone. They are too tied to melody and song structure for most DJs to drop in sets, while fans of the band themselves just get pissed off that their beloved indie slammer has been mangled out of all recognition. The end result is usually a vaguely pumped up pop song, with a few extra synth stabs, and a bucket-load of reverb over all the vocals.
It's this cynicism that has hardened my heart to the indie band remix. Listen to one Pete Tong remix of Razorlight shame on Pete Tong and Razorlight — then listen to a Justice remix of MGMT, shame on me.
Yet it was with palpable delight yesterday when I put aside these concerns to listen to Soulwax's take on a track from the new Tame Impala album, "Let it Happen". The new Tame Impala album, which is called Currents, is really good. It's pretty hard to get excited about guitar bands these days. Every single one that breaks through carries the burden of having to "save rock n roll", and before you know it they've either disappeared or they've devolved into toothless Brit Award winning mush. Tame Impala on the other hand, seem to be getting better, growing from a semi-nostalgic psychedelic outfit into something smarter, leaner, and more forward thinking.
Soulwax's take on "Let it Happen" is a perfect example of just how effective a good rework of an alternative band can be. The real litmus test of a good remix is whether or not you can remove the identities of both the band, and the remixer, and still enjoy the track on its own merits. This is immensely true of "Let it Happen". It blossoms and bleeps into life with wonder before crunching down into a gloriously crunchy spaced-out romp. It's the sort of track anyone from Greg Wilson to Todd Terje could easily drop in a set. Funky, lithe, sexy, cosmic disco. More to the point, it takes a great record, and takes it somewhere else, replacing the whirling anguish of the original with snappy hand-claps and spirals of reverberating drum-fills.
More than anything, it has restored our faith in the guitar band remix. With that in mind, we've picked out five other examples of producers and alternative artists getting it right.
John Grant VS No Ceremony ///
John Grant is an inimitably remix-able artist, existing as he does somewhere between The National and LCD Soundsystem — only with more weirdo pathos than both of them put together. The original "Pale Green Ghosts" is already a gorgeous serving of anxiety riddled electro-pop, yet in the hands of Manchester trio No Ceremony /// the track is taking into thunderous terrain. It rips and plods with cinematic aplomb, reaching gloriously loaded highs.
Grizzly Bear VS Nicolas Jaar
Nicolas Jaar's take on Grizzly Bear's trippy wild-west ballad is a haunting balearic masterpiece. The initial couple of minutes exist in classic Jaar territory, like the elements of the song have been disassembled and warped in a vacuum. Then the originals morose riff begins to grow into being, before settling into a soft, dubby, churning groove to the end.
Midlake VS Beyond The Wizard's Sleeve
Bloghouse wasn't just about landfill indie acts having thier unwashed dicks pulled about on the dancefloor until they blatted neon all over the denziens of White Heat. Honestly. I'm using the term "bloghouse" very, very, very loosely — which is apt given the hilarious innuendo of the remixer's moniker — here, admittedly, because this near 7 minute psyche odyssey is about as related to house as I am to Pol Pot. I did, however, first hear it via a blog. That blog was the wonderful, sadly gone Allez Allez. Allez Allez hosted incredible mix after incredible mix but the absolute highlight was Ewan Pearson's seminal And So to Bed session. After an hour of slinking between Kate Bush and Vangelis, Carl Craig and Ettienne Jaumet, Pearon sends us off to bed with this stunner. The original Midlake track is fine, in a "hey, remember 2006 and alt country and Uncut magazine and plaid shirts" kinda way, but the Wizard's Sleeve (aka Erol Alkan and Richard Morris) take it to a wholly other, spectral place. It's a perfect record and I every time I go out and leave the club wishing the DJ had ended the night with it. They never do.
Foals VS The Haxan Cloak
We premiered this one on THUMP a while back, and it still stands as a perfect example of the brutal end of remixing. Re-working a track doesn't have to mean making it ready for a dance-floor. It can mean skinning it, chopping it up, yelling at it, chucking it in a blender, swallowing it whole, before regurgitating the bloody and fantastic mess all over Soundcloud. Abrasive but completely compelling.
Wild Beasts VS Steve Moore
Wild Beasts are one of the few bands in the world, let alone the UK, who have pulled off the singular achievement of systematically releasing great record after great record. Last year's Present Tense was no different, seeing the Kendal band make their most unabashedly 'poppy' work to date. The magic they bring is taking the mundanity of modern existence and turning it into poetry. Then in the hands of L.I.E.S. and Kompakt released producer Steve Moore, they are given wings. "Palace" is the album's closer, a paean to intimacy and lamp-lit pillow-talk. With the weight of Moore's soaring re-imagining vocalist Hayden Thorpe's words becomes almost unbearable.