Artist: Apollo 440
Title: Liquid Cool
Format: 12" Single
Label: Stealth Sonic Recordings
Catalogue Number: SSXT3
Year of Release: 1994
A1 Liquid Cool (Theme for Cryonic Suspension) 12:12
A2 Deep Forest Ice Cold @ The Equator Mix 8:39
B1 Future Sound of London Remix 7:54
B2 Jah Wobble Remix 8:38
The official site of the band (apollo440.com, not surprisingly) seems to be down at the moment. There's a fair bit of info in their Wikipedia entry, but nothing current. The most recent news on this fan site dates from August 2004.
Would it be too cruel of me to say, "No news is good news"? Probably.
This is one of the type of singles that I don't buy any more, I'm not even sure if they make anymore, a full 30+ minute remix single. It got me thinking about the art of the remix, and what it is that makes a good one. Remixes I know and love include Aphex's Seefeel remix, Autechre's Stereolab remix, In The Nursery's Sabres of Paradise. Is there something in common?
In a word, Yes.
Here's my basic criteria for a good remix:
1. The song/track should be broken down into its constituent parts.
2. It should then be remade in the fashion of the remixer, were the remixer actually to have produced that song/track.
3. It should be sufficiently different from, but still recognisable as, the original.
This is why, in my opinion, remixes that simply tweak the original, a bit more treble here, heavier drums there, fail. Similarly, most of The Cure's Mixed Up is rubbish, being just longer versions of the originals. Any remix done by the artist/band themselves is ultimately pointless. Aphex Twin's alleged remixes where he simply submitted an unreleased track of his own also fail to be good examples of the craft. Points 2 and 3 also work when applied to the Cover Version, come to think of it, but we shall talk about covers at the appropriate time.
Firstly though, we should probably deal with the original track. It's a reasonable piece of mid-90s ambient dance, slowish 4/4 beats with elements of the dreaded dance-rock cross-over (namely a distorted guitar solo that could be called 'scorching', but that would be stretching it). Parts of it have dated badly - the piano motif was done similarly, and to death, a few years later with Robert Miles' Children, the vocal samples were done better by The Orb, Orbital etc. etc. But it's, y'know, okay. Especially considering some of Apollo 440's later material. At least this has some conceptual depth, it's not just built on a nicked rock riff or jazz drummer.
And so to the remixes! Two words that send a shudder through any music lover's CNS - Deep Forest.
Not as terrible as I thought it might be, and they have fulfilled the terms as set out above, putting their own inimitable ambient-world-music stamp on it. I just dislike them, and everything they do.
Next up - The Future Sound of London. There's a band that used to be considerably better. I'm starting to define growing old in terms of the disappointment you feel when bands that were great when you were young, grow up as you do, and then turn shite. FSOL, Spiritualized, R.E.M*. Gary Cobain can take his last two Amorphous Androgynous albums, and forcefully enter them where the psychedelic sun don't shine. I fail to understand how someone that produced the darkly masterful Dead Cities, can go on to put out The Mello Hippo Disco Show. It's like Alec Empire putting out a soft rock album. Anyway, I have a while in which to work on this rant, F is currently (optimistically) pencilled in for 2010. By the way, anyone see this article, by KLF's Bill Drummond? Uncanny.
The remix they do of this works fine. The drum loop used though, is exactly the same as the one in the breakdown towards the end of Portishead's Glory Box, which I found distracting. Then there are loads of FSOL-type samples wafting over the top, along with samples of the original.
I expected the Jah Wobble remix to be much the same as the original, but with an over-elaborate, slighty dub-style, bassline over the top. I was correct until about 2 minutes in, when the tempo doubles in a way that's reminiscent of Ultravox's Vienna, and a drum'n'bass breakbeat kicks in. This works well until the original samples get played back over the top, as they too have increased in speed, but not pitch. The overall effect is rather comic. I imagine Jah playing bass in the studio, breaking into a sweat trying to keep up with his own pesky programming. And with that happy thought, back on the shelf it goes.
* Must admit, I was struggling for a third band here. Spirtualized and FSOL were hugely important to me growing up, REM were okay, but have since gone downhill, there is no doubt. The cavernous drop hasn't been as pronounced for REM as with the other two, but in their case I just don't care as much.
Regardless of that, if anyone else can suggest bands that used to be great 5 - 10 years ago and continue to churn music out that is:
a) under their original moniker,
b) a vapid, lifeless shell of their former work, and
c) proclaimed by themselves to be the best thing they've ever done, thus further trampling your fondest memories into the dirt,
then let me know.