May 1, 2007

Junior Boys - Dead Horse EP


A lot of people might say that the remix is nothing new—and in a sense, they’re right. But what is new is the emphasis, and the excitement. Where in the “old days” a remix was a way of disco-nizing a pop hit or letting the studio heads show off their skills, these days, the remixes are often not only more anticipated (and fascinating when they do drop), but also a way of establishing connections between talented artists, and showing the points of condensation and digression among and between various mutations of music. Hot Chip (and the Knife, with less success) have grasped this shift in the logic of (re) release and presentation, driving completists mad with a vast array of remixes, many of which are offered with multiple colours on the cover art. Junior Boys were always the third in the holy trinity of highly rated electro-pop releases last year, but unlike the Knife and the ‘Chip, this is only the Boys second remix EP, after 2006 gave us Smoke’s beautifully calming mix of “In the Morning” and Morgan Geist’s disappointing crack at “The Equalizer.” But here—wow, talk about big guns… oh no, did somebody say zeitgeist again?! Carl Craig, Kode 9, and Hot Chip all on the one piece of wax. So? What’s it like, you ask?

Well, fantastic, in a word. Fantastic, with a big “but” (I’ll get to that). Hot Chip pull out all the stops here for a typically heart-strings yanking electro-pop anthem, adding (as they often do on their remixes) their own new lyrics over the top. The vocal harmonies of the original become a background choir, and in the front is a big, fat, and warm rave synth that drives the mix along. Like their wonderful version of Steve Malkmus’ “Kindling for the Master,” the group manages to not only add, subtract, or re-arrange, but to multiply the songs melodic elements into something wonderful, touching, and entirely new. Marsen Jules’ pop-ambient offering (for obvious reasons the least in-your-face of the bunch) is likewise a transformative effort that brings the original’s vocals close to some of the work on Panda Bear’s great new album Person Pitch, with its own heart-on-sleeve remembrance of beaches and boys of yore.

Carl Craig’s re-work reduces in order to enlarge (for the big room), turning “Like a Child” into “Like a Bad Weekend.” It’s too easy a criticism to say “it’s too long,” but there’s something not “un” but undersatisfying about the track here. It’s definitely Carl Craig, but by the book, if not by numbers. There’s no button being pushed here that hasn’t been pushed better, harder, and more passionately elsewhere. Kode 9’s mix here brings us back to the grimy, alien/zombie-filled landscape of the dubstep imagination. No doubt Hardwax thinks this is the best mix (and it is neat) but it’s a whole lotta Kode 9 and very little of the Junior Boys—is there any overlap between the black, paranoid, science-fiction imagination of Kode 9 and the white, floppy-boy romantic snow-borne sorrows of Junior Boys? That would be a negative. Ten Snake’s mix goes for a spacey/italo/electro rendition, which jars with the other offerings here, though it does have its own discrete charms.

The big “but” after this long description is that, with the possible exception of Hot Chip, none of these admirable mixes comes close to the aching beauty of the original tracks. I finished listening to all these tracks…and I just wanted to hear the album again.

Domino / RUG251T2
[Peter Chambers]


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