When I’m feeling stuck creatively, something that helps out fantastically is to pick apart someone else’s song and remix it. I fell into a bit of a funk recently and as a result have been focusing extensively on remixes, going so far as to start up a thread on one of my favorite forums to trade songs with other musicians and be creative in a different direction.
Naturally this leads to thinking about other remixes, studio musicians, and bands, and I feel like sharing what I consider to be some of the best remix albums available.
Fear Factory are primarily known for exceedingly technical cutting-edge metal, ranging from death to thrash, with industrial touches that gave them a futuristic sound to match their dystopian sci-fi lyrics. Remanufacture took a bit of an odd turn as a sort of companion to their second album, Demanufature, and featured remixes in a wide array of styles from Rhys Fulber (Front Line Assembly, Delerium, Conjure One) and Junkie XL, among others. This was probably my first introduction to styles such as gabber and to a lesser extent, breakbeat. I actually bought this before I had heard Demanufacture, so for some reason I had no idea at the time that Fear Factory were a metal band and not a weird hardcore electronic group. Sadly, there haven’t been any additional Fear Factory remix discs and I don’t suppose there will be anytime soon.
Highlights: the so-good-it’s-there-twice overhaul of “Demanufacture” that bookends the album, the bleepy, bassy almost hip-hop reworking of “Zero Signal”, the ominous, skittery breakbeat “21st Century Jesus”, and “Bound for Forgiveness”, which is guaranteed to give you nightmares if you make the mistake of listening to it before bedtime.
White Zombie is that band that Beavis and Butt-head made popular, fronted by horror movie aficionado Rob Zombie. There have been a few remix albums from Zombie but this is likely the best available, featuring remix work from P.M. Dawn, The Dust Brothers, Praga Khan, John Fryer, and my personal favorite: Charlie Clouser. This record makes a definite connection between Zombie’s horror movie groove metal and the dancefloor, playing up the “dance” portion of industrial dance. Production is top-notch across the board and not a single track is filler, all being unique takes on the original material. Tacked onto the end is a remix of Zombie’s contribution to the soundtrack of 1996’s underwhelming sequel to The Crow, “I’m Your Boogieman”.
Highlights: every single song remixed by Clouser (“Electric Head Pt. 2”, “More Human Than Human”, “El Phantasmo and the Chicken Run Blast-O-Rama”, and “Real Solution #9”). Clouser’s slinky liquid groove permeates this album throughout, all pattern filters and slick drum programming. He produced on the original album too, doing additional drum programming and keyboard work.
Referenced in High Fidelity as having one of the “Top 5 Side Ones, Track Ones”, No Protection is a beautiful dub reworking of Massive Attack’s classic album Protection, remixed by prolific British dub producer Mad Professor. This is one of the records that piqued my interest in proper dub music and its influence on wide swaths of electronic music, and if you give it a listen you’ll understand why. The original songs are transformed into rhythmic, echoey, almost lazy alter egos of themselves, focusing less on lyricism and more on creating interesting and compelling musical soundscapes. Without a doubt this is one of my go-to chillout records whenever a calm night is required.
Highlights: the aforementioned side one track one “Radiation Ruling the Nation”, the blissed out piano jazz turned deep dub “Cool Monsoon”, and the reverb-laden, bass-driven “Moving Dub”.
Not so much a remix album as a long CD single, The Perfect Drug Versions nonetheless stretches over forty minutes, subjecting Reznor’s one-off soundtrack single “The Perfect Drug” to the production talents of five production teams, including himself, mostly to emphasize the song’s late 90s drum & bass roots. The hard-to-get vinyl promo includes an additional jump-up remix by D&B DJ Aphrodite.
Highlights: Meat Beat Manifesto’s take on the song is a masterpiece of drum programming, taking the original drums and the famous “Amen Loop” and chopping, pitching, and rearranging them into a loping, bouncing foundation that almost outshines the rest of the parts of the song. Plug’s remix is breathy and atmospheric, taking the song into space and leaving it there to slowly drift back down to us before segueing into the NIN version.
Hallucinogen was one of the earlier Goa trance/psychedelic trance artists, to this day Twisted is considered a classic and one of the most influential records of the genre. With In Dub, British producer and engineer Ott, takes aim at six classic Hallucinogen tracks, slowing them down considerably, cranking up the bass, and filtering them through the weirdly colored lens of psydub. The result is an hour of mind-bending psychedelic music, bleeping, blooping, and whooshing from your speakers, demanding you pay attention and bob your head along with its lazy beats.
Highlights: the lurching beat of “Gamma Goblins (‘Its Turtles All The Way Down’ Mix)” takes one by surprise after a narrative about dreams and a relaxed guitar intro, progressing into a bizarre, highly electronic take on reggae, the slightly speedier beat of “L.S.D. (‘World Sheet Of Closed String’ Mix)” ends up underpinning a beautiful guitar line and harmonica solo, and “Mi-Loony-Um (‘A Floating Butterfly Stings Like A Bee’ Mix)”, which opens the album, sets the stage for what to expect for the remaining fifty minutes or so, all ethereal pads, slinky synthesizers, and dubby drumbeats drowned in reverb and effects.