Remix albums have been around for donkey’s years, beginning in Jamaica when popular albums were often issued in a largely vocal free dub version. Post-disco, things often got ridiculous with discs containing seemingly dozens of rejigged versions of often the same track. Whilst many had their merits (there’s a long list of tracks whose original versions pale into insignificance next to their better known remixes), many were pretty tedious to sit through, and the worst just reeked of cash being squeezed out of gullible fans.
Like the poor, it seems they will always be with us, though. Very few are things you’ll ever sit through more than a couple of times. Often, when an entire album is handed out to a disparate group of artists to work their magic, there is a very uneven quality about the project – from the inspired to the workmanlike. Too often, too, the result is a record that has no sense of flow, but that jumps around from style to style – fine in the download era when you want just a couple of the tracks, but a failure as an album.
Jon DeRosa’s In Sea came out around six months ago. It had its weak links where the music lacked much identity, but there was plenty of strong material. The remix album more or less sticks with the same running order, with only the closing I Am Demon presented in more than one version. What’s remarkable about it is that it hangs together so consistently, despite many of the tracks sounding radically different to the originals.
Sky Burial’s I am (The Ice) is glacially pure ambient with the grit removed from its parent version, but as the album progresses, things get dirtier and darker with fuzzed beats and filthy bass making their presence felt heavily for the first time on Mason Jones’ radical reconstruction of the title track. There is a bright and clean interlude in the centre, with the lush electronic pop ballad Young Light and the Cocteau Twins like Autumnal before the fog and drone return with a vengeance on Corpse Reviver No.2. Danzig’s I Am Demon is transformed into a triptych. The Declining Winter mix is a kind of folk-psyche thing with bagpipe drones as opposed to the horror movie atmospherics of the Pan/Suckers version. The Landing Winter version plays it pretty much straight.
Remora’s remix of Instil is the only track that jars. Not because it’s no good, but simply because it’s just so out of step with the rest of the record. He’s transformed it into a gritty disco/house thing that sounds great, but just feels like it belongs in other company.
So does In Sea Remixes pass the test and stand up as a work in its own right, or just exist as an interesting alternative to the main record? I think it does. In fact I think in a lot of ways it’s the more satisfying collection.
1 I Am (The Ice) (Sky Burial remix by Rameses III)
2 LYMZ (Slicnation remix)
3 Hollow Earth Theory (Summer Cats remix)
4 A Plague of Frost (Al Qaeda remix)
5 In Sea (Mason Jones remix)
6 Onward! (Yellow6 remix)
7 Young Light (Planar remix)
8 Autumnal (Keith Cansius remix)
9 Corpse Reviver No. 2 (This Quiet Army remix)
10 When We’re Ghosts (James Duncan remix)
11 Instil (Remora remix)
12 Am I Demon? (Declining Winter remix)
13 Am I Demon? (Pan/Suckers remix)
14 Am I Demon? (Landing Winter remix)