Bombay Dub Orchestra have been fusing eastern and electronic music for several years now and doing it with a grace and elegance that is unparalleled. I still go back to their 2006 eponymous debut album which sounds as fresh now as it did then. Their mix of eastern modes and musicians, with lush strings channeled through electronica and dub transformations, forged a sensual, seductive and enraptured east-west exotica.
So why was I struck with dread when I saw the release of BDO’s album, The New York Remixes? It’s because so many remix albums are just an excuse to use a name and a few exotic touches of an artist’s music to create dance floor grooves that by and large are generic. I still cringe when I think of the Patrick O’Hearn remix album, Mix Up. So does O’Hearn.
So often remix artists take music that is delicate in melody and subtle and complex in rhythm and strip it down to four on the floor tom hits and handclaps. I remember Thrash, then of The Orb, telling me that when they remixed Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells, he wanted to speed it up so fast that it would be just a blip that he would use as a drum hit. Inveterate hippie Alex Patterson wouldn’t have it.
“I’m thinking, this is semi-sacred sort of thing. It’s got to be put on. We eventually came to an agreement where we could have a backward one as opposed to a forward one.”
Still, you’d be hard pressed to find any of Mike Oldfields melody in their remix.
There are exceptions. Solar Stone always seems to tap into a more serene aspect of any artist and the album of Ulrich Schnauss remixes, Missing Deadlines, is a wonder of anthemic drive and euphoric ecstasy.
But from the opening thud of Bombay Dub Orchestra’s “Compassion – Pivotal Movement Remix,” it’s clear that subtle will go out the window. Three remixers take a whack at brutalizing this song. They all have something of merit. Pivotal drops in swooning bass, loops several voices of the song into a canon and has some startling pressure drops, but the beauty of the original is lost. For point of reference, here’s the original:
Likewise Force of Change makes some interesting dubstep moves on “Monsoon Malabar”, but in the process ruins everything that was beautiful about that song. With “Junoon,” remixed by EarthRise SoundSystem, The New York Remixes hits its nadir, with a generic hip-hop groove and forgettable raps by no less than three MCs. Why does anyone think this is a good idea?
Sound Shikara seems to understand the moods of “The Berber of Seville” for a minute. Not surprisingly perhaps, he’s from Oman, not New York. But it isn’t long before he launches into a ferocious dub-step groove of doom. The original “Berber” strings have little to do with the rhythms he’s created making it almost a Cagian “Indeterminacy Music” effect. But I don’t think that was the intent.
Of course, you can go the other way. Moby frequently, if not always, creates remixes of his music. And frequently, if not always, he strips out everything that made the song interesting and turns it into vaporous ambience. We went 5 or 6 songs deep into his Wait for Me album, but I could barely find a piece to play off Wait for Me, Ambient. Same thing with Destroyed Remixed, even though both original releases were Echoes CD of the Month selections.
When you’re handed someone else’s music to remix, I think there should be an obligation to respect the original spirit of the song, to draw upon the best elements of the composition and production, but also bring something new or discover a hidden facet. Just turning a song into a dance tune just isn’t enough, and is not interesting.
Surprisingly Bombay Dub Orchestra have done some cool remixes themselves like their take on Juno Reactor’s “Pistolero,” Miklós Rózsa’s “Love Theme from Ben-Hur” and Azam Ali’s “Abode.” You can hear several of these on the BDO website.
And completely aside from its intrinsic artistic merits, there’s no Echoes on this disc. Where are the chill mixes guys? Meanwhile, I eagerly await a new Bombay Dub Orchestra album.
~© 2012 John Diliberto ((( echoes )))
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