Broadly speaking, I’m not a fan of remixes nor the culture that built up around them. They’ve always been a cynical marketing ploy to try to get big name producers on marketable material, or a shallow disguise to push the latest generic pop trash into the clubs, neither of which interest me greatly.
But hey, I survived the “mash-up” craze of the late 90s, and I can survive this.
There’s currently three types of remix as far as I can tell. The first is possibly the worst, but certainly the most prevalent remix-type; “use an upcoming trendy producer to push my shit into the clubs and try to give it some credentials remix“. This generally consists entirely of stealing the hook and melody from a pop tune and pasting it over modern drum samples. That’s it really, it’s that primitive.
Clear examples of this are Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe Remixes”, featuring such gems as “Manhattan Clique Remix”, “10 Kings Vs Ollie Green Remix”, “Coyote Kisses Remix”. Producers so fresh and trendy, even I don’t know who they are. Each one of them is an example of approx. 10 minutes work in Ableton. The “Coyote Kisses Remix” isn’t even in the right fucking key… Disastrous.
The second remix type commonly found is “pay an extremely popular dj-type to remix my rubbish track, and hope his name brings customers remix“. Here a ‘big name’ producer receives a few thousand quid to remix something they’ve probably never heard. Olav Basoski, Jan Driver, FatBoy Slim, Basement Jaxx, Moby are all guilty of this… It’s their bread and butter. It’s how they pay the mortgage.
Lastly, we have the “oh shit, I forgot I was supposed to remix that remix“. This can occur in either of the two situations posted above, and results vary greatly. What seems to happen is the producer is so uninterested in remixing the material that they completely forget to do so. Panic then sets in as the deadline approaches, they can almost see the money leaving their bank account.
So what do they do? Send in an utterly unrelated work, of course! Good examples would be Pub’s “Summer (They Can’t See Us In The Dark) Delay Configuration 1”. 19 minutes of wobbling dub craziness, and one of the best pieces of music I own. Sadly, it’s not a remix of “Summer”, not in any sense of the word. It is magic though. Poor examples include Antipop Consortium’s “Volcano (Four Tet Remix)” or Underworld’s “Beautiful Burnout (Pig & Dan Remix)”. Irrelevant dance tracks, plopped on a disc in the hopes that the title will be enough to fool a listener.
As you can see, there’s really no middle ground in which good remixes occur frequently. We can quickly score off the first remix type, because trendy new producers do what trendy new producers do – produce trendy bullshit. The next two types are somewhat less predictable, and this is where we can occasionally find some gems, albeit in a greatly diluted ratio.
What do I think makes a good remix? That’s a very good question.
There’s no formula, but good remix I think is something that enhances or reshapes what’s already there. It creates something new while respectfully adhering to some segments of the original material. There should be enough of a relationship to the original to make to connection, but done with a new slant. It doesn’t pander to an audience or particular market segment (yuk!). It doesn’t just enhance what’s there, it creates some new from it.
Now, after six-hundred odd words of rambling bullshit, we can get on point. What is the best remix of all time? I’ll bet at this point you’re expecting me to say something gruelling and pretentious like the afore mentioned Pub’s “Summer (They Can’t See Us In The Dark) Delay Configuration 1”. Well I’m not.
Instead I’m suggesting that the little known and commercial unsuccessful Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s “Two Tribes (Olav Basoski Tiberium Power Mix)” is the best remix of all time. That’s right, the man with over 100 ‘remixes-for-money’ to his name finally struck gold.
The entire original track is here, beautifully decomposed and broken down while a thick Olav beat, heavy with bongo accompaniment, drives the whole thing along. External tracks are beautifully filtered and scattered haphazardly, appearing and vanishing at will. Sirens scream, percussion is heavy and reverb laden. The track builds and escalates expertly – in nine and a half minutes, almost half is occupied by breaks, both large and small. It perfectly captures the mood of the original piece (even the gayness), and projects it into something modern and contemporary (well, for 1999 anyway).
Frankie Goes To Hollywood – “Two Tribes (Olav Basoski Tiberium Power Mix)” break snippet
It remains recognisable enough to hear the original, yet different enough to be a worth while listen. It’s larger than the original but more focused – albeit narrowly dance floor focused. It’s fresh, yet somewhat uninspired. It does something new via iteration not revelation. It’s everything a remix should be, right down to the flaws.
And there lies the problem of remixes. If it’s good enough to be an original production, shouldn’t it be one? And if it’s not good enough to be an original production, is there a need for it at all?
Remixes happen now predominantly because they are easy to do. You ship some samples off, someone loads then up in a DAW, a derivative track pops out. No one takes them seriously and no one should. It’s part of a culture that remains steadily content with taking credit for, and claiming self-expression through, others works. Have you ever looked on Facebook/MySpace/Bebo/Twitter/Google+ and been taken back by how many people express themselves through music they’ve never been involved with? Violently defend films they’ve only watched? Harp on about how one art form is better than another, even although they participate in neither?
This remix culture is a part of that, or maybe a product belonging to it. Few creators, lots of critics, and even more wannabes. Right now it’s easier to make music than it’s ever been. If you own a PC you now have the most complete and versatile studio humanity has ever seen. The possibilities for new creation are endless, yet what do we occupy ourselves with? Putting new rhythms under old tracks. Nostalgia driven footering. Longing for good results while putting in the least required efforts.
We got lazy and content, and this is only exacerbating the situation. I don’t like remixes, and you shouldn’t either.
Ok, I’ve changed my mind, the best remix ever is Pub’s ridiculously named “Summer (They Can’t See Us In The Dark) Delay Configuration 1”. Oh wait, I forgot about Armand Van Helden’s “Professional Widow” remixes! Shit. Look, I’ve fuckin’ written myself into a corner here.
Ah fuck it, I’ve written it now…