Telefon Tel Aviv – Remixes Compiled (Hefty/Creative Vibes)

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They say that you can’ polish a turd, but isn’ that what remixers are paid to do? After all if the song were any good why would it need to be remixed? Or if for example a dark industrial pop band wanted to appeal to the electro glitch community why not make an electro glitch tune instead of giving a couple of young guys from Chicago a bucket of money to work something up from your latest colour by numbers angst ridden tome (okay yes there’ a Nine Inch Nails remix here but we’ll get to that later).

As a rule these kinds of collections are patchy, but often depending on who’ twiddling the knobs and slapping down the new plug-ins, there can be moments of utter transcendence, where you wonder if new genres of music are being created before your very ears. With this in mind despite suggesting they follow no formula, it’s a little disappointing that these Chicago based producers seem to predominantly be following, well, a tried and tested formula. We’ve got the previously unreleased remix of Nine Inch Nails ‘Even Deeper’ in which they heighten the atmospheres and create a skeletal electronic beat of low key percussion and glitches, then there’ label boss John Hughes’ piece where they place a electro glitch beat around low key wisps of guitar. Do you sense a pattern here? Midwest Product, Phil Ranelin, Nitrada, ditto, ditto, ditto. Maybe this chilled beat orientated programming is implicit on their being hired. It’s hard to know, and it’s not to say that these tunes don’ sound good, the Hughes and Marc Hellner in particular are corkers, it’s just that there’ nothing new and adventurous which seems a waste. Yet they can deviate, and these deviations are the highlights. Oliver Nelson’ Stolen Moments has not a beat in sight, an almost orchestral ambient piece that is absolutely stunning and a collaboration with Tortoise’ John Herndon of AmmonContact’s ‘BBQ Plate’ yields a couple of left turns, ending in a fiery post rock section.

Bob Baker Fish

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Bob is the features editor of Cyclic Defrost. He is also evil. You should not trust the opinions of evil people.

4 Comments

  1. I have to say I find this attitude to remixes, frequently expressed (but usually by rock heads), to be a bit puzzling. At best, a remix is a kind of collaboration between artists – it’s not meant to be improving on or fixing the original. If the track’s great to start with, then it’s providing particularly good material for someone else to work with!
    Remix collections are frequently the most exciting kind of release available – if it’s remixes of an artist, then it could bring new aspects of the original tracks to light, or if you don’t know the artist it could still be a worthwhile compilation album if you like the remixers; if it’s a collection of remixes *by* an artist one likes, then it’s a chance to hear them working on other people’s tracks.

    Of course, remixes *can* be utterly boring, your mileage will vary etc. But I don’t think remixing is an art deserving of a priori/pre-emptive disdain. In fact, when a remixer seems to just be going through the paces, I’m disappointed *because* I think remixes have so much potential to be exciting (see Fennesz vs the Junior Boys, or Four Tet vs the world… Herbert vs Cibelle or countless others…)

    In the case of this album, I think a lot of the tracks stretch back some years, and Telefon Tel Aviv were some of the pioneers of the glitched beats with postrocky sounds, so at the very least it’s a formula that they were trying and testing before most people had gotten there.
    That said, I probably agree with your assessment of the album, really ;) It is samey overall, which is an unfortunate characterstic of TTA’s sound, I think – so much potential, but often applied without enough inspiration. The NIN remix is a case in point – I don’t know the original track, but this just sounds like TTA by numbers (whereas the Telefon guys’ actually-released contributions to the Nine Inch Nails Things Falling Apart release are excellent, and retain more of the NIN sound too).
    At their best TTA are unbeatable, and from my initial listens I think the album offers quite a few top-notch productions in there, as well as some forgettable bits.

  2. seconded.

    to my mind, (and at their most basic) remixes are just a different set of ears tackling the same set of sounds. that can be insightful, thrilling, gorgeous, unsettling. all those things and other things too.

    at their most radical, remixes can be a complete re-imagining of a song (good or bad) like a cover can be – just listen to the avalanches or dj/rupture’s recent takes on architecture in helsinki – or (if the song’s not so great) something completely unrelated. it has the potential to be as creative (or lacking in creativity) as any music.

  3. Actually I agree with both of you. But was left feeling a little underwhelmed at their achievements. The possibilities beyond turd polishing (which if truth be told is an incredible art form in itself) are really endless, and surprisingly enough I’ve probably enjoyed one’s by Rock heads the most. I’m thinking about Pluramon’s Bit Sand Riders remixes where the High Llamas, Sonic Youth and co really moved to the outer reaches of genres, or Mogwai’s incredible remix album. So the problem here wasn’t pre emptive disdain, rather the opposite. So the question for me was when you have so many possibilities open to you why do the same thing over and over and over again?..Unless that’s your shtick and what you’re being paid for.

  4. Yeah sure Mr Fish, I think you’re quite right regarding this album, although we’ve both pointed out a few great tracks. ‘Tis a shame, although to be honest it wasn’t too unexpected for me :/