THE BEGINNING

There’s something to be said for remixes, and Reef ‘ones & twos’ Younis is saying

There’s something to be said for remixes, and Reef ‘ones & twos’ Younis is saying

Whichever remix album you listen to, or the reworks, dubs, jigs, tweaks and tighteners, it always sounds like something painful. Like violent games played in sports changing rooms or terms more at home in botched plastic surgery. It also insinuates that the original wasn’t all that in the first place; that it needed an extra, removed pair of ears, hands, and the kind of electro glitchery Kieran Hebdon carries in his travel bag for that all important, generally unnecessary, second opinion. It’s interesting though, that as the last few years have seen DJs bridge the gap and increasingly cross over into indie/rock production, bands themselves are actively courting long player makeovers. Bloc Party’s ‘A Silent Alarm: Remixed’ stands out as a triumph, roping in heavyweights like M83, Erol Alkan, Mogwai and Phones to turn out a hugely successful alternative that is sighed with all the heavy emotion of the original but re-packaged with fresh voltage. Not that it’s always been a success, because for every warped slant of genius lies a mire of four-to-the-floor riddled monstrosities that are fair game for anyone with a laptop and open source mixing software.

Depending on your school of thought, ‘remix’ can be the dirtiest of words; the chewing gum stuck on the sole of your Converse evoking nightmares if sweating, gurning faces and whistle symphonies. Wrapped in the belief that art is as much the story of the artist as it is the work; that the remix taints the purity and sincerity of the original, undermining the superlative ideal of wanting to believe that you’re doing it the best, first time round.

Take Franz Ferdinand’s last album, ‘Tonight: Franz Ferdinand’ and its recent dubbed little brother ‘Blood’, for instance. Remixed by ‘Tonight…’ producer Dan Carey, ‘Blood’ was a victory for empathy and consideration. Obviously producing the original would make the process a little easier but more than just dropping a jacked BPM backing, Carey went the whole hog, giving each track a new moniker and twinning his own twisted creations with samples, splices and crucially, the character of the original tracks. Critically, it made ‘Blood’ a very different beast; an energised, amplified cut copy of one man’s unorthodox take on a perfectly acceptable guitar album. Was it an improvement on the original? Probably not. But that’s not always the point.

Equally though, isn’t the premise of a remix just a direct appropriation of influences or the remoulding of someone else’s creative impulse in your own image? A good remix should never strictly be about improvement, it should merely provide an intriguing alternative. Few of us managed to escape La Roux’s ‘In For The Kill’ as it straddled daytime playlists but had it not been for Skream’s colossal remix doing all the legwork, it’s arguable whether her mainstream star would have risen quite so rapidly.

There’ll always be the sentiment that demands ‘just leave it alone’ but when bands have DJs, producers and contemporaries who understand the intricate sensibilities of guitar tracks, it would be criminal to not take advantage. Bloc Party dug themselves into a cataclysmic M83 hole; Fake Blood got Josh Homme and UNKLE increasingly ‘Restless’ and Erol Alkan got Late of the Pier all excited before bedtime. Factor in Soulwax, in all their Radio and 2ManyDJs guises, Mystery Jets island tinkerings and Paul Epworth’s various production turns for The Futureheads and Interpol, he even turned The Others into dancefloor Dynamite. Even if you sway from the deckside, TV on the Radio honcho, David Sitek’s midas touch is tentatively moving from sonic production values to equally seismic remixes and that’s always a win/win.

And with the new wave of DJs like Herve, Fake Blood, The Count and Sinden, Frankmusik and Drop the Lime (to name a few) clashing breaks, electro and drum and bass with indie dance and nu disco, remixes are often the familiar spark that fan the clubnight flames, bridging the gap between dance exclusivity and fandom singalongs. So the next time you hear anyone complain that a remix wasn’t as good as the original, remember: it was never trying to be.

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