I Thought I Was Over That: Rare, Remixed and B-Sides
ith record companies histrionically baying for fresh product and fans furiously venting their collective forum-based indignation at the perceived work-shy nature of a given band, it’s easy to see why artists sporadically feel the need to issue a collection of ‘rarities’ (for rarity, read: the stuff left over from the album…). Yet whilst at worst these tend to be a cynical cash withdrawal from the 24hr Bank of Gullible Fans or a temporary career bung, there does however from time to time slip through the music industry sieve an aural anthology that exists for more than fiscal reasons. Whether it be the elation at hearing a favourite song reinterpreted by an esteemed peer, the inclusion of previously unreleased material which helps to join up the euphonious dots and make clearer a band’s evolution, or simply reclaiming long lost EP’s from the eBay extortionists, bonus compendiums certainly have there place within both the committed and casual listener’s collection.
However there is yet a further cautionary caveat involved when appraising the merits of such records; the avoidance of assembling a mere compilation, lacking any coherence beyond the particular artists cursory involvement which itself has often been distilled down to homeopathic proportions. It is this last criteria which is arguably the most elusive, with many artists and labels releasing ambrosial collections that lack an overt internal coherence which would elevate them from esteemed adjuncts to great albums on their own terms (see Plaids Trainer, Kid Loco’s Jesus Lives For Children Under 12 Inches and Boom Bip’s Coryb). It is therefore both a pleasure and relief to encounter a record that seemingly ticks the right boxes and avoids all the potholes that so often sully such endeavours; Lali Puna, we’re all ears…
Having discreetly been making a big noise in the electronica/leftfield-indie foothills for some time, four-piece Lali Puna finally hit pay dirt with 2004’s Faking The Books, a record which combined the icy pathos of Broadcast with the juniper scented Notwist (with whom they share a member) to create an iridescent pop gem. I Thought I Was Over That: Rare, Remixed and B-Sides sees Lali Puna building upon these success-laced foundations to attract numerous high profile admirers to the mix (from Two Lone Swordsmen and Tim Simenon to Boom Bip and Alias) whilst also plundering Morr Music’s heaving larder for past treasures and networking opportunities. With nineteen tracks to navigate, Lali Puna lower us into the digital bath slowly, allowing time to acclimatise to the environment through the first of two brand new and exclusive compositions. If you’ve been understandably burnt in the past by box-fresh songs cluttering up an otherwise formidable box of treats (see just about every ‘Best Of’ ever released), don’t fear; Lali Puna are here! With an almost embarrassed analogue shuffle the album opens through the mayfly-like “The Failure of the Leading Sign Industry”, wherein oblique shades of Susumu Yokota’s “Hisen” cast fragile webs around a pre-paranoia Massive Attack-core. Alongside the unreasonably infectious John Peel dedicated and Ten Benson plagiarising “Past Machine”, “The Failure of the Leading Sign Industry” proves that, if the intentions are pure and the quality control adequately high, then new tracks can be more than aural catnip to lure unsuspecting completist fans into parting with their lucre for a load of material they already own. Ironically, in this case, they are both worth the admission fee alone…
A good cover version should take the original, reinterpret it in a way that makes you want to revisit it and subsequently precipitate a reappraisal that causes a re-evaluation of all the artists involved. “40 Days” does just that, with Lali Puna getting to grips with the Slowdive original in such a manner that forced me to go back and determine whether the overt “Papa Don’t Preach” concordance had always existed in the shoe-gazer’s dream-pop composition. With the close ties established between Slowdive and Ulrich Schnauss, it’s impossible to hear the Eno-enhanced washes, chunky knit breaks and stravaig instrumentation of “40 Days” without thinking of the German auteur (see also Lali Puna’s “[This Is] The Dream of Evan and Chan”” remix for Dntel which sounds like a cut from A Strangely Isolated Place being fed through a high-speed dubber). Similarly, Human League’s “Together in Electric Dreams” is put through the Puna filter to produce a finely rendered appropriation of electronic chamber music that slowly opens like a portmanteau to reveal a potent chimerical kick and again forces you to see the original in a significantly altered light. Of the other songs which constitute an undiluted Lali Puna, those from the Micronomic EP see clinical beats and muted strings belying a familiarity with the Lippok family (“Harrison Review”) and a more emotional Adult. getting to grips with Radioactive Man’s “Fed-Ex to Munchen” (“The Daily Match”), whilst “Left-Handed Dub” is the sound of a face-off between Terry Hall and Plaid. All good clean fun I’m sure you’ll agree.
Finally we get to the remixes, both for and by the band and ranging from the air-hole punctured refit of Boom Bip’s claustrophobic “Awaiting an Accident” (think a Mogwai referencing Josh Davis), through to the returned favour where Brian Hollen’s Casio beats, crazy-legs click cuts and Fridge-inflected reworking of Lali Puna’s “Micronomic” provides the missing aural link between his own Seed to Sun and Blue Eyed In The Red Room albums. Other notable cut and shuts include the Dntel “Faking the Books” mix (exclusive to this release) which takes one of the least convincing songs off the similarly titled album and transforms it into an indietronica classic, To Rococo Rot do their ‘percolated beats and soapy synth’ thing for “Grin and Bear” (another exclusive no less), whilst Flowchart’s “Fast Forward” guts the original and glues it back together in a found sound collage reminiscent of a more relaxed Cornelius, a pepped up Psapp or a less razor-edged Prefuse.
However top honours must go to the sanguine treatment both afforded to and administered by the mighty Two Lone Swordsmen. With Lali Puna’s gorgeous torch song re-reading of “It’s Not the Worst I’ve Looked” managing to weave the best elements of (deep breath!) Gorodisch, Schlanmpeitziger, Bola and Kim Gordon into a truly beatific whole (previously included on TLS’s brilliant Further Reminders) it is Messrs Weatherall and Tenniswood’s “Nin-Com-Pop” remix that undoubtedly steals the show. Forcing Lali Puna through a glitch template that more closely resembles their Rude Solo pseudonym, Two Lone Swordsmen push the vocals high in the mix and provide a fitting close to a remix album that improves on the originals without making them redundant, includes other artists without seeming arbitrary and scatters unreleased nuggets without appearing cynical. With the multifarious tributaries flowing effortlessly into the whole, I Thought I Was Over That has a diverse coherence that is hard to define and establishes itself as a distinct entity in its own right. Quite an achievement.
Reviewed by: Adam Park
Reviewed on: 2005-06-10