Junior Boys Dead Horse [EP]

[Domino; 2007]

Styles: glitches, remixes, gathering/shindig/hootenanny beats
Others: Hot Chip, Coloma, LCD Soundsystem

So here’s a rather long-playing EP chock full of remixes from some renowned fellows, acting as a follow-up release to 2006’s fantastic So This Is Goodbye. In an effort to avoid making the dead horse pun (it’s a dead horse), let’s pick this up and head to the imaginary gym of the mind:

The elliptical was a good first choice. Heart’s warming up, socks are getting sweaty a little early. Hot Chip’s remix of “In The Morning” is fading in and out through the increasingly laborious breaths you’re taking. It’s being pumped straight into your ear duct by way of this mystifying future-like portable music device that must have cost like a thousand dollars (let’s call it.. an iPod, as it’s shaped like a bodysnatchin’ pod and is controlled by the singular user “I”). It’s got a strong beat and a dreamy looped vocal track, at times seeming to stray too far from its source. A sweet whining synth solo around the seven-minute mark helps solidify its temerity, but the feeling remains that on the whole the Hot Chippers could have developed the mix a tad more. The song isn’t a misstep, as your feet clearly keep moving around in circles without faltering, but in the end it still feels like running in place.

The Ten Snake remix of “FM” is akin to the rigorous, self-inflicted gauntlet of weightlifting in front of those big mirrors that cover an entire wall of the facility. You see the reflection of those Big Poppa Pump guns of yours flexing and relaxing in the mirror and it’s just damn good to be you. It’s a near-perfect remix, taking some of the best elements of the original track and twisting and distorting them until they fit a new and totally unexpected mold. While it used to carry a sweet and sad bedtime melody, “FM” has been transformed to a slick and polished dance floor stomper. And it all happened as easily and smoothly as an unsuspicious car morphing into a factional robot warrior in the bat of an eyelash! Half of the original’s chorus has been taken out of its context and made downright catchy, and contrast this then with Marsen Jules’ use of the vocals to a haunting effect in the ethereal whirl of the electronics in his remix at the tail-end of the EP. Jules’ version of the song is more like the original, but taken to the extreme depths of dreamland and sleepyville. It’s the song that hits you after you’ve pushed yourself too hard on the equipment and the battery acid pumping through your veins brings you to that state of euphoria. It’s also what you hear when you take that first gulp of water when you’re parched like a poor man’s cactus.

The two mixes sandwiched between the biceps-smooching extravaganza and the cool-down conclusion of the disc don’t fare quite as well. They each swipe a few notes here-and-there and a couple slight vocals and insist on playing them down. They plow through formidable track lengths without ever being any true shade of engaging. They’re by no means ear-splitting, but the music seems to lack solid backbones to draw them to any satisfying highs. As a result, both tracks plod along until we hear something recognizable surface briefly before melting back into the fold.

With its sort-of sinister thumping house groove, the remix of “Like A Child” by Carl Craig has a little more to offer than the occasionally bizarre, stilted renderings of Kode 9’s take on “Double Shadow.” The deep, gravelly, and mumbled rendition of the chorus that pops up in the track is far too reminiscent of the stray talk of beady-eyed, haggard men on the subway late at night. Or more applicably, the whispered compliments of some muscle-bound gym creepdog you catch admiring your sweat lines a little too closely.

The five remixes on the slab of polycarbonate plastic prove their worth, but they do it in their own terms. Taking the stomach-strangled, loveless lullabies of the Junior Boys and distorting it into anything else runs the risk of trying to compete with the original compositions. Across the board, that is a poorly thought-out plan of attack. So This Is Goodbye was a stellar work, and this EP works as an accompaniment, but not as an addition and especially not as a substitute. A few of the mixes capture a key moment and extrapolate it to its breaking point, allowing it to spread itself to a conclusion that was never intended but seems as natural as day. And it’s in that intensified highlighting of the important parts where the remix succeeds. I swore I wouldn’t, but: the art of the remix being a dead horse or not, you can still spin some glue out of it.

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