Top Five: Remixes of 2012

Playing with other people’s stuff is often more rewarding than making all of it by oneself. It is a form of communication of styles, and if you know the original track, you can listen in to the conversation led by means of sound. Although, come to think of it – it is more like a comment really, with the remixer saying something about the source material and in this process revealing what was already hidden in the original. And as with every kind of communication, there is also a social aspect involved, a statement about the relationship between the speakers. Given all that, remixes are a fascinating medium and so we decided to give them a Top Five post of their own. Here they are.

Summary

Henje

Shlohmo – Rained the Whole Time (Nicolas Jaar Remix)
Korallreven – Sa Sa Samoa (Elite Gymnastics Remix)
Chromatics – Birds Of Paradise (Amtrac Remix)
LOL Boys – Changes (CFCF Remix)
Lianne La Havas – Forget (Shlohmo Remix)

Dave

Tame Impala – Elephant (Todd Rundgren Remix)
Wild Belle – It’s Too Late (Snakehips Remix)
Matthew Dear – Her Fantasy (Poolside Remix)
ultraísta – Smalltalk (Four Tet Remix)
Kimbra – Two Way Street (Aeroplane Remix)

Jeffrey

Tame Impala – Elephant (Todd Rundgren Remix)
Papa – I Am The Lion King (St. Lucia Remix)
Little Boots – Headphones (Dimitri From Paris Remix)
Shlomo – Rained The Whole Time (Nicolas Jaar Remix)
Summer Camp – Losing My Mind (St. Etienne Remix)

Henje’s Top 5

My most beloved remixers this year are a bit incestuous. They keep remixing each others’ tracks, which is awesome, as most of them are exceptional stand-alone musicians. They have to be, of course, as a good track is what makes a great remix possible in the first place. Being on the same music label helps of course, but it is a tight scene where the sum is bigger than the parts. Someday someone has to make a remix map displaying all the crossroads. But till that time, let me remind you of the most awesome roads built this year.

Shlohmo – Rained the Whole Time (Nicolas Jaar Remix)

A good remix is nearly unrecognizable from the original, and this one is great in that respect. While both are very chill, Jaar did a number on Shlohmo’s track by letting it evolve all throughout its five minute playtime. It rarely stands in one place for long and takes you on a journey through – spaces. Jaar is superb at giving his sounds a texture, playing with dry, direct sounds and just the right amount of reverb to make you feel as it you are attending a small private chamber performance.

Korallreven – Sa Sa Samoa (Elite Gymnastics Remix)

My favorite remix of this year. The way this track brought rave back into my life was a revelation, and although the break is a bit harsh, it just adds to the flavour of it. There is some Whitney Houston on acid thrown into the mix too, pushing it into full retro mode. Korallreven’s original is so very different from it’s array of remixes out there, each of them pulling it into a completely different direction, but this takes the cake.

Chromatics – Birds Of Paradise (Amtrac Remix)

With his remix, Amtrac turned Chromatics’ slow crooner into a full blown daytime house track. Many have remixed Chromatics, but none have so masterfully and smoothly transformed one of their songs. Chopping up the beautiful vocals takes guts, and making it work takes skill, and Amtrac obviously has both. This track is special to me because it is the sound of IBB and typical of my taste in music this year, as Jeffrey stated once.

LOL Boys – Changes (CFCF Remix)

LOL Boys are no more. They broke up this year, but posthumously released a remix EP of their Changes EP on Friends of Friends. There are some fantastic takes on the song on the EP, but CFCF’s smooth mashup with Bruce Horsby’s classic “The Way It Is” stands out. His remix work is very careful and gentle, just like his original tracks. And while his remix of Elite Gymnastics “Here, In Heaven” was epic, this one is way more fun.

Lianne La Havas – Forget (Shlohmo Remix)

Shlohmo remixed everything this year. From Tomas Barfod via LOL Boys to Ryan Hemsworth, he implemeted his drowned out sound and pitched vocals to a lot of the best artists out there at the moment. His style got a bit predictable over time, but he manages to constently find something of his own to add to the different musical styles he takes on. His Jeremih remix was the most popular, but I liked his chill dance version of upstart soul singer Lianne La Havas’ “Forget” the most.

Dave’s Top 5

To be perfectly honest, I was never the biggest fan of remixes prior to this year.  I would steer clear of them all together because I was simply never satisfied with what the remix artist would incorporate to the original track that I had come to adore as a listener.  I was not as active in seeking the out either.  That being said, this blog has exposed me to so much music and so many artists that I was able to discover some really fantastic tracks and these 5 were on heavy rotation for me.

Tame Impala – Elephant (Todd Rundgren Remix)

I’m not sure what else can be said about Tame Impala’s album Lonerism.  It’s a great album and pretty high on my list for 2012 but…wow…this track has changed my opinion about remixes forever.  Producer Todd Rundgren, does everything perfectly with Elephant.   And why not?  The man is an all star musician and sound engineer having produced for 70’s greats from Grand Funk Railroad to Meat Loaf.   The subtle tweaks and fantastic builds make this track epic.

Wild Belle – It’s Too Late (Snakehips Remix)

The information I have on Snakehips (AKA Ollie Dickinson) is pretty limited but I really love this remix.  The original track, from Chicago duo Wilde Belle, was already a great funky groove but Dickinson adds a hip hop beat and plays with Natalie Bergman’s vocals that’s going to make you bounce.  Be sure to check out the soundcloud page for Snakehips for some other great tracks and funky remix of Willie Hale’s Groove On.

Matthew Dear – Her Fantasy (Poolside Remix)

This is a great example of being surprised by what a remix artist can accomplished with a superb original track.  I didn’t have much experience with Poolside when this track was first released.  I had only just started to fall in love with Pacific Standard Time and I was a big fan of Dear’s 2010 LP Black City.  The old me would have looked at this combination and thought this looks like a recipe for disaster but knowing what I know now this match makes perfect sense.  I really enjoy how Poolside focuses in on Dear’s vocals and apply a much more chilled beat that gives it a more upbeat feel.

ultraísta – Smalltalk (Four Tet Remix)

I know I’ve already blogged about this track but Four Tet’s trademark for creating repetitive rhythms by utilizing key elements from the original track was a real eye opener for me this year. I love how he is able to manipulate and twist Laura Bettinson’s vocals in into becoming a part of the beat.  I also discovered that I’m a sucker for a good build which this on has and while it is subtle it will definitely make you want to groove.

Kimbra – Two Way Street (Aeroplane Remix)

Take Kimbra’s masterful skills at creating terrific pop music and apply Aeroplane’s, AKA Vito De Luca, Italo/Nu-Disco magic and the end result is just marvelous.  Some great synths and beautiful beats create a solid foundation while the Belgian DJ does some fantastic work with the vocals turning this track into a wicked dance floor burner.

Jeffrey’s Top 5

Remixes are a tricky thing.  The challenge of building on a pre-existing piece of art is to make changes that improve the total package rather than making it merely different, or worse, simply more muddled than before. Phasing vocal samples, adding percussion that doesn’t juxtapose too harshly with existing elements, all while keeping and improving upon the best parts of the original artist’s work – none of these are easy. The simple fact of the matter is that there are a million bad remixes posted to Soundcloud every year – and only a few that really are an improvement on the original track.  Here are five that, in my opinion, took a track to the next level.

Tame Impala – Elephant (Todd Rundgren Remix)

Tame Impala sit firmly atop many year-end album lists, so improving upon the original material is a difficult task for any musician.  Todd Rundgren has been in the music business for a long time, however, and recognized a lot of potential in those grungy bass riffs and power chord changes of the original.  Rundgren didn’t tinker much – instead, he amped the energy up to 11 and stretched out the build of the guitars out of a spacy haze in order to reach one of the most energizing – and mesmerizing – climaxes of any track all year.


Papa – I Am The Lion King (St. Lucia Remix)

One of the things I love about St. Lucia is that they throw the whole kitchen sink into their remixes.  Bongos, churning synths, sparkly jabs of piano, saxophones – all are welcome if it takes the track to new heights.  On this funnily named ambling indie pop track, St. Lucia build a wall of synth layers that build and fade with the lyrical highs and lows of the song.  A great guitar hook that appears only at the end of the original becomes the central hook of the remix, supplemented and then replaced by new piano and synth lines.  And that’s how a relatively docile indie track becomes a dance floor titan.


Little Boots – Headphones (Dimitri From Paris Remix)

Dimitri From Paris thrive on retro nostalgia, and on this remix of Little Boots’ earwormy “Headphones”, they’ve outdone themselves.  The intro cavalcade of drums could be torn from a mid-eighties New Order record, and whatever that synth sound is that introduces the chorus probably hasn’t been used since Italo went out of style.  The result is immensely more fun than the original track and will have you breaking a move in your florescent baggy pants.  It’s enough to make you want to break out a 12″ of Shep Pettibone remixes to follow.

Shlomo – Rained The Whole Time (Nicolas Jaar Remix)

I can’t help but feel many of the same things about Nicolas Jaar as I do about Brian Eno, not that they paint from the same aesthetic brush.  But both artists utilize understated depth to evoke emotion and envelope a listener.  And Jaar’s work on this Shlomo track is sublimely paced, casing the entire track into the atmospheric patter of rain on leave, substituting the glitchiness of the original with a smooth guitar line, and creating a beautifully balanced percussion track to underlay the whole thing.  It’s a wonderful remix that takes the listener on an entirely different journey than the original.


Summer Camp – Losing My Mind (St. Etienne Remix)

St. Etienne utilize many of the same elements of the original track, a jangly pop song with dark whistles and a back and forth between male and female vocalists reminiscent of The xx.  However, they envelope the song more fully in darkness, using only a low echo of piano and a steady bassline to propel the song toward the chorus, by which time St. Etienne has taken control of the whole track, mangling and distorting vocal samples to heighten the uncomfortable, almost eerie atmosphere.  By the time the vocalist intones “It feels like I’m losing my mind”, St. Etienne throws the track back into darkness, slowly bringing back haunted distorted vocal snippets and a stabbing piano hook as the track churns to its end.  A wonderfully moody remix.

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