LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy was originally approached by Nike to put together a piece of music to accompany a run or similar workout. The result was 45:33, a continuous piece of electronic music that ran to nearly 46 minutes and was initially made available on iTunes in 2006. Popular demand led to a CD release in 2007, where the piece was presented as six tracks supplemented by additional pieces. Despite the programmed nature of Nike’s brief, it seemed that Murphy was keener to make reference to other iconic moments in the history of recording and performance, such as the RPM speeds associated with vinyl records, John Cage’s 4’33”, and Ash Ra Temple member Manuel Göttsching’s solo album E2-E4. With the release (also in 2007) of Sound of Silver, LCD Soundsystem’s second album proper, it became clear that the music composed for 45:33 had also formed the basis for some of the new songs.
Murphy’s DFA label has now released a set of remixes of 45:33 as a series of 12-inch vinyl records and a CD compilation. What is immediately obvious is that the music has not only been remixed, but has also had its original purpose radically reconfigured. Where one movement led organically into the next in the original release, the new mixes extend and separate key moments in the piece to present themselves as eight close but distinct relatives to the original. In this sense at least, the pieces do what all good versions (covers, interpretations, remixes) should, combining a sense of fidelity to the original with a desire to change important elements, to remake and remodel.
The original piece began with three minutes of warming up, represented by a gradually sped-up synth scale supplemented by anticipatory piano chords and handclap beats; the main beat did not come in until later. In contrast, Runaway’s remix kicks straight off with the beat, a high-tech “on” switch to the original’s analogue delay. If Murphy’s opening represented the limitations of human musculature, the remix celebrates the instantaneity of the digital age. That both messages can be sent within the medium of electronic music is interesting, although such a comparison ultimately positions the new mixes more in the realm of functional dance music than the complex vocabulary of electronica.
Prince Language’s remix follows a similar trajectory, while also focusing on the song elements of the original, repeating the “You can’t hide / Your love away from me” line to make it into a piece of voice-and-beat-driven house music. Again, the message is different from that originally transmitted (where the vocal was something that accompanied the larger piece rather than being the driving element of it), but the end result is a catchy and coherent piece in and of itself. Here, the benefits of the new approach come to the fore, allowing the listener/dancer the opportunity to discover in greater detail the fleeting moments of the original. If Murphy’s piece was more like a rapidly passing journey, these mixes allow for the pausing and enjoying of the scenery. Where stopping wasn’t an option before, now we are encouraged to get off the treadmill and have a look around.
One of the most exciting parts of the original release was the section that came in at around ten-and-a-half minutes (shortly into Track 3 of the CD release) when a sinuous melody line worked its way into the proceedings. In its original context, this could be seen as representing the moment when various muscles start working together to coordinate the workout routine, homologically registered in the increasingly complex interaction of the numerous musical elements. The Prins Thomas “Diskomix” deals with this part and, not surprisingly, fetishizes the catchy melody, repeating it over an initially far starker beat than that employed by Murphy on the original. Prins Thomas adds a slowed and distorted spoken vocal to the mix, giving the track a sense of spooky menace. However, the possibilities of a full-on doom-house mash-up are left as a mere suggestion as the remixer focuses instead on developing the beat over 13 rather long minutes.
Detroit DJ Theo Parrish provides a ten-minute “Space Cadet” remix that combines female vocals with space invader synth incursions and a juddery cut-up technique that fills its empty spaces with splashes of jazz piano, fractured brass, and distorted speech. Parrish’s is the most cosmic mix on the disc, and one which radically reconfigures Murphy’s workout organicism into a driven, yet simultaneously stricken, attempt at forward momentum. It’s a haunted take on the original that finds a parallel with British dubstep.
The Trus’Me remix returns to the “Shame on You” vocal, letting the “You can’t hide / Your love away from me” drive the piece alongside brassy accompaniment. Padded Cell’s mix focuses on the “out in space” elements of Murphy’s work, while also finding plenty of time to highlight a deep, groovy bass line and metallic samba percussion breaks. Pilooski offers a stark reading of the later stages of 45:33 centered around robot voices and a gradually mutating bass line. The final remix, courtesy of Riley Reinhold, pushes the low end frequencies to the fore, while letting the higher end float in the background like distantly ringing bells.
The end result is eight distinct pieces that offer a deconstructed take on Murphy’s work. Those particularly attached to the original’s careful transitions and ultimate coherence may find themselves wishing that such deconstruction had been followed with a bit more reconstruction. Certainly, it is difficult to conceive of the CD compilation as an album in the way that 45:33 was, suggesting that the true home for these pieces may well be the vinyl versions instead. If such is the case, fidelity will ultimately have shifted away from Murphy’s work and towards the rather different work of the club DJ.
// Notes from the Road
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