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PureH, "Signia"

cover image Although ostensibly a remix album, there is no need to be familiar with the source material to enjoy the remix work here.  From what I gather, PureH are a successful electronic rock band out of Slovenia who invited a slew of electronic artists to rework a single track, "Signia."  Not being familiar with the original track, I purposely avoided listening to the initial song to fully appreciate the remixes, which all vary greatly and, as a whole, make for strong, diverse tracks.

 

Pharmafabrik

It is not hard to recall the all too brief existence of the so-called "isolationist" outgrowth of ambient music when looking at the artists charged with remixing PureH's track.  Anyone who was listening to music of that ilk in the mid to late '90s (led by prolific artists such as Bill Laswell, Mick Harris, and Justin Broadrick) will recall names like Eraldo Bernocchi, P.C.M., D.J. Surgeon, and K.K. Null, who all appear on here.  And along with these "big boys" there's a good mix of lesser known artists who show they have got the chops to hang with the established guys.

The established artists show that, some ten years after they first stepped on the scene (at least from this reviewer's perspective) they have largely refined and honed their work to stay contemporary, yet not alienate those who remember them from back in the day.  K. K. Null takes the rather conventional sounding original material and pitch shifts it to a painful high end shriek as well as cutting up the rhythm section into dense, distorted loops that still allow a semblance of the original sound (via voical fragments and somewhat recognizable elements), but twists and turns it into pure sonic sadism in his "Signia Pagan" mix. 

Another of the old recognizable names is the duo of P.C.M., who, though mostly limited to remixes and a single 12" on Mick Harris' old Possible label.  They start out their "Signia Blue Waters Turn Black" mix with an opaque haze of thick reverb drenched loops that are met with a slow, monotone beat that eventually explodes into a hardcore blast of a drum n bass loop that plows through the mix like a pipe bomb.  It has the manic intensity of vintage Squarepusher or Aphex Twin, but without the whimsical trappings and a sense of pure insanity.  Unfortunately, Eraldo Bernocchi seems to have not developed his art as much as the others:  while the dubby beat and subsonic bassline stay solid, there is simply less variation or development on here, and it's repetitive nature is among the gripes of artists from the time period.

The artists that I'm not quite as familiar with also hold their own among the big names.  Chris Wood excerpts the electronic elements and tones from the original track and cuts them up with a high end skittering drum loop that morphs and changes throughout, making for an extremely dynamic track.  Wodan takes the track for a more electro spin on "Signia H Light," throwing down an old school stiff monotone beat, swirled bass pastiches and an ordinate amount of distortion.  Another unique take comes from Taiwanese artist MoShang, who uses the rock track as clay to sculpt into a light take on downtempo electronica, mixing in a hip-hop beat and additional samples.  It's not really my thing, but it is well done.  Clocking in at 16 minutes, Psychedelic Desert's "Signia Live Farce" mix comes across with good intentions, stripping the track down to only its most rudimentary sounds and tones, but over such a length it begins to drag and slow down.  If it had been around the eight minutes that most of the other mixes were, it would have been a great contribution.

It is great to know that, even with my intentional abstention from checking out the original track, these artists can use that source material to design tracks that, while standing out on their own, still feel thematically linked by the occasional untreated elements of the original work coming through.  Those who long for the days when dark textures mixed with hip-hop/jungle loops like peanut butter and chocolate will enjoy this stroll down memory lane.  Now, to check out the original "Signia" track…. 

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Review of the Day

Murcof, "Utopia"
Leaf
This gap-filler disc from Murcof is Leaf's way to buy time and keep the name fresh before the release of the next proper Murcof album, but it's no less inspired, all the same. Beginning with a 10 minute epic of film score orchestration and minimal techno thump, Utopia establishes early on that Murcof is dealing with a larger scope and a more developed tone than many of his contemporaries. Jan Jelenik's clicky, jazz-spliced remix of "Maiz" is the perfect groovy counterpoint to the album's creeping, moody opener. Sutekh gives "Memoria" a tweaked techno workout with plenty of glitches and squiggles that pop out over the monotone bassline and piano chord. "Utano" blends dark cello and brass timbres with twinkling electronic percussion for a while, then drops out the techno trappings for a more experimental approach to the cinematic loops and swells that other artists tend to leave in the background. It's refreshing for someone working with beats not to make the beats the primary focus for a change, and Murcof is able to bend and arrange sounds with a composer's rather than dj's ear. The remaining remixes are mostly placid and unremarkable; not an affront to the source material but certainly not as clever as they'd like to be or as necessary. "Una," the second to last of the un-remixed tracks takes symphonic and operatic fragments and glues them to a stuttering dsp-laden beat that is just short of club-friendly, but not so overblown as to draw unneccessary attention to itself. The "Colleen Mix" of "Muim" could easily figure in a Chris Nolen film as its all backwards pianos and heavy string passages that conjure up the grimy noir of "Memento" and the slick isolation of "Insomnia" equally. The remixes are all solid, sometimes taking an ambient detour that's welcome amidst the electrobeats, but Murcof's originals clearly stand out as the best tracks here. If nothing else, Utopia performs its role by making a case for watching for the forthcoming album and possibly for picking up the back catalog. 

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