Okay fine, so most remix LPs are inessential at best and outright filler at worst, especially within the confines of Our Thing, where a tit-for-tat remix culture often results in high volumes of alternate versions of dubious quality. Still, a retake of a song, be it cover or remix, sometimes tells us something about the source material we hadn’t suspected before. And hell, sometimes those disparate versions, whether altered to fit another style or rendered down to base elements and built up again, become a part of the fabric of a song or a record we can’t divorce. In that spirit we thought we’d scare up a list of twelve remix LPs we think are worth your time. Some are obvious, some not, but each of them brings something to the table and adds to the continuum of the source artist in a meaningful way. Got a favourite we didn’t mention? Leave it in the comments!
Nine Inch Nails, Fixed
As unlikely as he ever would be to admit it, Trent’s remix releases are the truest connection the mighty NIN has to their industrial roots. You’ll note that we specifically picked the Broken companion here. While Further Down the Spiral is equally notable, we think the concentrated nature of the JG Thirlwell and Coil created mixes gives us an idea of what Reznor might sound like had he followed the more experimental angels of his nature. The Reznor and Vrenna (and Paul Kendall who you should really know something about) version of “Happiness in Slavery” is a vision of a band we never actually got to hear. Plus, for our money, the Coil mangled version of “Gave Up” featuring the cut-up Reznor vox is by far the best and most interesting version of the song, a little taste of genuine kink from a time when T Rez was all about angry fuckin’.
Godflesh, Love And Hate In Dub
Godflesh’s looping grinds always sat in close proximity to industrial culture, cited as being “real industrial” by those still upset by the genre’s embracing of clean(er) synthesized sounds by the late 80s, or as the sort of industrial-esque metal to which rivets needed to pay respect (if only out of protocol), or even as a sort of missing link between Ministry and Swans. Regardless, the rhythm-heavy Songs Of Love And Hate was prime for breaks-heavy reinterpretation in the mid-90s, and the resultant mix of jungle and industrial sludge felt both like a representative signpost in the band’s unique journey through extreme music as well as an indicator of contemporary electronic trends in broader culture.
Skinny Puppy, Remix Dystemper
A far more adventurous reinterpretation of S’Puppy’s catalog than that offered by 1990’s self-explanatory 12″ Anthology, Dystemper is a peculiar listen sixteen years on. It suffers in part from the late 90s obsession with DJ and “electronica” culture (see Josh Wink’s contribution), but also nicely points to Puppy’s influence within circles beyond industrial. Where else are you gonna find KFMDM, Autechre, and Guru (yes, that Guru) all trading versions (and not just contributing outtakes to 90s movie soundtracks). Perhaps more pertinent today, the direction the then newly formed creative team of Ogre and Mark Walk took on their version of “Smothered Hope” is a perfect blueprint for the entire sound of the first two ohGr records.
Coil, Stolen & Contaminated Songs
A bit of a cheat as this isn’t a remix LP per se, more of a collection of alternate versions and outtakes made from the same source material as Coil’s Love’s Secret Domain. We’ll cop to straight fanboyism here, but seriously, have you ever heard anything like this? Unlike Gold is the Metal which serves as an addendum to the classic Horse Rotorvator, we feel like Stolen & Contaminated Songs is a wholly unique entry into the catalogue from its source material. While LSD is often beholden to the genre experimentation (mostly techno and nascent forms if IDM) Balance and Christopherson were partaking in, Stolen & Contaminated Songs sounds like the album you would expect if you only ever heard the title track of the former LP. All freaked out exotica, twisting samples and drug-fuelled studio wizardry straight from the addled minds of two of the greatest to ever drop a tab and hit record. Absolutely essential.
Taking the relatively sonically consistent Freeze Frame Reality as its primary source material, Frames would prove to portend all of the experimentation and tense atmospheres Haujobb would come to be known for once the project officially kicked into high gear (check our survey of the ‘jobb’s catalog from a few years back for a deeper gloss of their evolution). Remixed both in and out of house, Frames runs from ambient to noisy, from beat-heavy to sweeping, but always remains evocative. Featuring a murderer’s row of mixers (members of Puppy, FLA, Clock DVA, Mentallo, and Forma Tadre all lend their talents), this record feels like anything but a quick cash-in on a band just coming off their sophomore release (the original tracks which are included on some versions don’t do any harm either). The road to Solutions For A Small Planet is patently clear from here.
iVardensphere, I Dream in Noise: Remixes Vol. 2
Not that we have anything against the first iVs remix release, but volume 2’s line-up is pretty much what you’d get if you asked us to curate a remix album. You get (deep breath) Alter Der Ruine, Iszoloscope, Encephalon, Aliceffekt, Comaduster, Caustic, Ad Ver Sary, and Distorted Memory all bringing some of their own flavour to the ‘Sphere’s brand of tribal industrial, taking it from genres as varied as glitch and EBM to dark electro and atmospheric industrial grind (that last one courtesy of Unit 187). And hey, one of our fave tracks of 2012 was BlakOpz’ take on “Ancients”, a club banger we still play out and the best intro we could have asked for an act we were unfamiliar with. A very nice capsule of the moment in which it was released, this one has a bit of everything and more for the discerning industrial scenester.
ESA, The Immacuate Manipulation
Jamie Blacker is an intense fella, in case you hadn’t figured that out from listening to his increasingly dark and visceral albums of rhythmic noise for Tympanik records. Weirdly, the place where we first became aware of how much depth and feeling was built into Blacker’s work for ESA was when he handed it over to a gaggle of similarly minded artists on The Immaculate Manipulation. Witness Manufactura pushing the boundaries of “The Devil is Inside Me” to be all the more intense and emotional, or Access to Arasaka uncovering some melancholy hidden in the cracks of the scathing “Your Anger is a Gift”. High on the scale of remix releases that give new perspective on the artist they’re dedicated to, this one is actually a reasonable place to get to know ESA before taking the plunge into a dark and violent sea.
Front 242, Re-Boot
Another slight cheat, what with this being a live album, but given that it was the first and (we think) only official version of the total overhaul of 242’s back catalogue (okay, we’ll stop) undertaken before the turn of the millennium, we think that Re-Boot merits a mention. If Love And Hate In Dub and Remix Dystemper generally acknowledged what was happening in electronic music outside of industrial in the late 90s, Re-Boot signed up for the full package, complete with VIP Chemical Brothers tickets and Lo-Fidelity All Stars tea cosy. Beefed up to UK big beat standards, some of the most famous EBM songs of all time kick along at a frantic and bassy pace. A few years on, this hybrid of classic EBM and more mainstream electronic sounds would be further explored by Icon Of Coil and Apoptygma Berzerk, but on Re-Boot Richard 23’s just happy to show that he knew how to run the electronic hype-man game years before Keith Flint even thought about piercing his tongue.
Gary Numan, The Mix
We’ll readily admit that Hybrid is a better produced remix effort which cleaves closer to Numan’s own work at the time, but there’s just something irresistibly fun about The Mix. Cleopatra catch lightning in a bottle for once on a remix/tribute disc and actually land a respectable roster, most of whom are having a good day at the boards. Cagily selecting tunes exclusively from Gary’s classic era and his then-nascent dark rebirth (the one exception being Kill Switch…Klick’s valiant effort to salvage something of merit out of the awful “Emotion”), The Mix treats the dedicated Numanoid to hits old and new brought up to electro-goth speed. The back and forth relationship between Numan and industrial culture has produced some fantastic yet resolutely brooding fare over the past years, but if you’re keen to hear a lighter, club-friendlier version of that relationship, The Mix can’t be beat.
Perc & Einsturzende Neubauten, Interpretations
We won’t rehash too much of what we wrote about this 12″ from the mind of the UK’s techno-industrialist Perc back in October. As then, our primary fascination with it is in how he took a loose collection of samples from the all-time masters of shredding metallic percussion, married it to his own brand of intense, militaristic techno and came out with something that sounds like power noise. That this isn’t a simple collection of 4/4 club remixes isn’t all that remarkable; after all Perc isn’t that guy as an artist, and Neubauten are unlikely to have allowed that sort of thing to occur this late in their game. It’s just two artists with similar approaches from wholly different traditions meeting across the gulf to create something new and different, and for that it deserves your attention.
Ulver, 1993–2003: 1st Decade in the Machines
Good gravy, where to start? Ulver, those wacky Norwegian geniuses, decided that their moves from black metal to folk to prog to ambient to noir electronica (all in the space of ten years) were still affording their audience too much opportunity to pin them down. Garm and co. thus enlisted a bevy of experimental electronic producers to take samples not just from single tracks but from entire albums and use those as the basis of new compositions. The result is one of the most erratic and defiant compilations we can think of, flitting from minimal house (“Bog’s Basil & Curry Powder Potatos Recipe” – yes, the actual recipe is in the liner notes) to pure noise (“Wolf Rotorvator” – we’re not the only ones who see the Norwegian wolves as the legitimate descendents of Coil). Ulver are forever circumscribing and then abandoning their own history, leaving us to try to find patterns in the castings.
Throbbing Gristle, Mutant Throbbing Gristle
You know, Throbbing Gristle weren’t exactly the hot property they are today back in the early ‘aughts. While the group has never been far from the lips of music nerds and their ilk, the release of Mutant before the official rebirth and subsequent collapse of the group was unexpected to be certain. The fact that the line-up of remixers from outside the TG camp was so dance-oriented was bizarre, and almost archaic for the time; as much as we like the idea in theory, could you honestly say you think one of the guys from Basement Jaxx remixing “Hot on the Heels of Love” was something folks were clamoring for? Appetites of the market aside, we’re often come back to Mutant as one of those oddball moments in the catalogue of a band who defy encapsulation, a contemporary dance LP out of step with the mode of the time, but in step with the off-kilter nature of it’s subjects. United, still.