Remixes tend to be much maligned little beasts that are treated by some naysayer with a huge dollop of scorn. For a while it was a discipline that was completely overdone, with seemingly every single release containing about twenty re-rubs of just one song. The fact that at least 90% of these would sound exactly the same meant that most people’s brain cells would have gladly committed suicide before even coming close to the final version. It was overdone incidents like this which succeeded in giving the art of the remix a very bad name. By JOHN BITTLES
Yet, if a remix is done right then it can be a truly glorious thing! Skilled remixers such as Mark E, Andrew Weatherall, Ewan Pearson, and Hardfloor have, over the years, been able to sustain a critically acclaimed and successful career through their skills at improving other people’s records. A good remixer can scoop out what is good about a song, expand on it, alter it, and mess with it until the tune has finally come out of its disco shell becoming a much superior version of what it was before.
My first experience of the remix came in the 80s with the discovery of that majestic thing, the twelve inch. Bands like Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Simple Minds, Duran Duran, and Sydney Youngblood, (yes, even then I was cool as fuck) would release versions of their tunes on 12inch that seemed to go on forever in a dubbed out journey into dancefloor gold. And the fact that I usually enjoyed the elongated instrumental bits before and after the actual song is, probably, where my love of house music first originated back in the day.
Looking back on the art of the remix I decided to go through my record collection to pick out ten of my personal favourites that will forever hold a very special place in my heart. As this is a purely subjective endeavour please don’t get too upset if your particular favourite isn’t here. It isn’t that I think it is shit (although it might be), it is just that there are so many fantastic re-rubs that I couldn’t include them all. As always feedback and extra suggestions will be appreciated, as will money, recognition and warm, sweaty hugs.
1. System 7 Alpha Wave (Plastikman Acid House Remix)
One of Plastikman’s lesser known tunes, this is almost 20 minutes of acid house mayhem that builds and builds until it feels like your brain might just explode. It’s a euphoric 303 style monster that you never want to end! In the know DJs used to delight in playing this from the very beginning of the track just so they could witness the utter devastation it would cause when the extra acid lines would finally kick in. Seriously, stick this on with some headphones on your ears, turn it up loud, close your eyes, and prepare yourself for the ride of your life.
2. One Dove – Breakdown (Secret Knowledge Light Mix)
This is so euphoric and orgasmic sounding that the last time I listened to it I walked around with an erection for five full days. Exposing everything that is great about house music in ten truly memorable minutes this is the track for getting your hands up in the air and experiencing an overwhelming ecstatic rush. Using the original elements of the song sparingly this is, quite simply, one of the greatest tunes you will ever hear. When the piano style breakdown arrives three minutes in, it literally feels as if your heart is going to soar out of your chest and into the sky.
3. Wamdue Project – Where Do We Go? (Armand’s Last Hustle in Paris)
I had always wondered what all the fuss was about regarding Mr Van Helden. And then I heard his low down and dirty remix of this and suddenly I understood! Certain to rock any club this is a remix created for one purpose and one purpose only, for making people move.
4. Ned’s Atomic Dustbin – All That I Ask Of Myself Is That I Hold Together (No Answer Mix by The Black Dog Version)
Like the most glorious shot of heroin you have ever experienced (drugs are bad, kids), The Black Dog’s version of this track is so beautifully sluggish and druggy sounding you wonder how it managed to crawl its way from the speakers to your ears. Using the vocal elements of the indie grunge track to sinister effect only adds to the disorientating feel in what is a smoke filled soundscape that is quite unlike anything you will have heard before. Turn the lights off, lie back and just allow this song to drift into your mind. You can thank me later!
5. Beth Orton – Central Reservation (Spiritual Life/Ibadan Remix)
Like a little ray of sunshine beaming its way happily into your life is how I like to think of this stunningly beautiful track. Taking the full vocal from the folk-tinged original the dream-team pairing of Joe Claussell and Beth Orton combine beautifully as the former adds swathes of exotic sounding guitar and a lush house beat to Beth’s stunning voice to create a tune guaranteed to put a smile on even the saddest of faces.
6. Friendly Fires – Paris (Aeroplane Remix)
One could easily compile a best of list of remixes just using the works of Aeroplane alone. Their versions of Grace Jones, The Rapture and Lullabies in the Dark are sun-kissed Balearic delights. Yet, for me, it is their lush version of Paris by indie dancers Friendly Fires which is the pick of an outstanding bunch. Dispensing with Ed Mcfarlane’s vocals entirely they instead use the lovely backing vocals by Au Revoir Simone to create a hymnal ode to the beauty of young love.
7. Incognito – Out of the Storm (C’s Planet E Special Mix by Carl Craig)
Attempting to complete a list like this without including at least one remix by Carl Craig is somewhat impossible. Expert remixes for the likes of Theo Parrish, Beanfield and Junior Boys all stand out. Yet, for me, it is his lovingly crafted version on Incognito’s Out of the Storm that is the star of the show. Soft tech-like grooves work beautifully with tons of melody to create an end-of-night comedown that will keep any right minded person rushing back for more.
8. Kylie Minogue – Where is the Feeling? (Brothers in Rhythm Soundtrack)
Created when Kylie had signed to Deconstruction and was undergoing a bit of a diva makeover this remix heralded a more mature and sexual sound for Ms Minogue. Rarely has Ms Minogue sounded so sultry, suggestive and Donna Summer-like as on this 13 minute progressive house masterpiece that caresses your soul while whispering numerous sweet nothings into your ear. Also well worth a listen is Felix Da Housecats’ Da Klubb Feelin’ version of the same track which is a bit of a pounding techno beast.
9. Mory Kante – Yeke Yeke (Hardfloor Mix)
I still remember the very first time I heard this! It was at a small club in Belfast with sawdust on the floor, out of date booze, and paramilitaries on the door. Sounds horrible, right? But then this song came on, with acid, that breakdown, acid and shivers running up and down my spine. It only took that very first listen to make me fall head over heels in love with this track. Something I still am to this very day!
10. Saint Etienne – Like A Motorway (Autechre Skin Up, You’re Already Dead Mix)
Simultaneously soothing and disquieting this is intelligent dance music that will completely take over should you allow it access to your brain. Using very little of the original track the echoing electronics are manipulated to both massage and gently fuck with your mind. There is a real sense of melody on here though that will keep the listener coming back for more.
As a mere ten picks are nowhere near enough, here are ten more.
11. Shocking Pinks – Dressed to Please (Echospace Reduction).
The highlight from a stunningly beautiful remix EP.
12. Jhelisa – Friendly Pressure (Ben Young Remix)
A dark and menacing masterpiece that stays with you long after the record has come to an end.
13. Garbage – Milk (The Wicked Mix featuring Tricky)
A quietly subdued rap is added to the background of Shirley Manson’s vocals to eerily disquieting effect.
14. The Aloof – One Night Stand (Ashley Beedle Remix)
Simply extends an already epic tune into 13 minutes of Balearic joy.
15. Everything But the Girl – Missing (Chris & James Full on Club Mix)
Better than the Todd Terry version? You better believe!
16. Britney Spears – Until the World Ends (Salem Remix)
Truly sounds as if the world is about to end.
17. Talvin Singh – Traveller (Kid Loco’s Once Upon a Time In the East Mix)
The most beautiful five minutes of music you will ever hear.
18. The Age of Love – The Age of Love (Jam & Spoon Watch out for Stella mix)
Trance Armageddon! If you haven’t danced to this then, quite simply my friend, you have never lived.
19. Soft Cell – Tainted Love/Where Did Our Love Go (Extended Version)
Epic nine minute version of this that is two fantastic songs in one.
20. La Roux – In For the Kill (Skream mix)
The moment when dubstep became respectable is no bad thing. In fact it’s pretty damn ace!
| JOHN BITTLES