It seems standard fare that remix albums make the original tracks less accessible. Take Bjork’s Hologram and Feist’s Open Season, both of which offered up some glorious moments but ultimately failed at the project of creating new albums. My Brightest Diamond’s Shark Remixes is a blessed exception to the rule, the remixes cracking open the songs from MBD’s original A Thousand Shark’s Teeth while still retaining the epic magic that informed those songs. In fact, Shark Remixes holds up well as its own album, even without comparing the songs to the originals.
This coherence is established in two ways. First, the credit goes to My Brightest Diamond (aka Shara Worden), who has a special skill for creating a haunting thread that runs its way through the whole of a work. Just as her voice and delivery carried her debut, Bring Me the Workhorse, it is again Worden’s ethereal timbre and vocal phrasings that make Shark Remixes beautiful. The second factor was Worden’s wise choice of remixers for this album. Rather than change remixers from track to track, each remixer does a small series of songs. This is appropriate, since Worden originally conceived of this double album as a set of four EP’s.
Alfred Brown remixes the lion’s share—the first eight tracks—on the first disc. He uses the perfect touch throughout, never heavy enough to obscure the beauty of the songs. “A Thousand Stars Against a Dark Sky” acquires a pensive fragmentation that makes the song even more haunting and dreamlike than the original. “black!Black!BLACK!” now has a lightly percussive nature evoking bands such as Amiina.
Son Lux takes on the first disc’s final songs. The move from Brown’s gentle touch to Son Lux’s full-on reconstruction of the original tracks is instantly noticeable. Thankfully, Worden’s voice, sounding almost operatic here, is preserved. After the jarring opening, the remix seems less like a science project and more like a more electronic My Brightest Diamond song. Son Lux’s touch is lighter on ‘The Diamond”, maintaining an electronic sensibility but also letting more of the string arrangements bleed through.
The second disc begins with arrangements by Roberto C. Lange, who seems fond of sharp techno stabs, grimy beats, and crawling synths. “Manzanas” is barely recognizable in his hands, the vocals lost under so much synth work. It’s an interesting experiment, but ultimately, there isn’t enough of the original song to salvage this piece. The same goes for his other remixes, namely “Estar Pluto”. Thankfully, he keeps other songs like “Queen” relatively intact.
DM Stith finishes out the compilation. His approach preserves Worden’s voice above all else, but with added slow, percussive beats. Stith beautifully trance-ifies songs like “^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^” though some gently chaotic synth maneuvering can be heard in the background. Stith is a good choice for a closing remixer because he represents the highlights of the more conservative and more experimental remixers alike.
Shark Remixesis one of those rare remix albums that is not only for fans of the artist but for fans of lovely music in general. For those who thoughtA Thousand Shark’s Teeth was too much like a standard string album, Shark Remixes may be the perfect album to make you want to go back in the water.
// Notes from the Road
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