This half-remixer/half-remixee album, a teaser for Various’ upcoming sophomore release, serves its purpose. The production outfit behind 2006’s The World Is Gone emerged from nowhere with this strange hybrid sound that mixed dubstep and folk into a heady, addictive mix; their sound, constructed from the building blocks of trip-hop but ending up at a much darker and stranger place, seemed from the beginning fully formed. And that hasn’t changed here.
Various remixes six Top 40 and Britpop tunes from Sugababes to Sia to Ian Brown, translating the disparate originals into Various’ own language. The results are on point. Who would have predicted Sugababes’ “Too Lost in You” could seem almost vital (though still more straightforward rhythmically than Various’ own compositions)? The Delgados’ chanteuse Emma Pollock’s “Limbs” gets the folk-end of Various’ treatment, a flittering hum of electronic affect the only hint of subversion behind her solemn accordion waltz. At the other end of the spectrum, higher energy interpretations of the grimy Virus Syndicate song “Apollo” and Ian Brown’s single “Sister Rose” show Various still have the ammunition to light up a dub dancefloor.
On the back half of the album, Various submits its songs to a variety of collaborators; that the results lack the spark and coherence of the group’s originals is hardly surprising, though still a bit disappointing. The remixes that stray furthest from Various’ own formula fare best (Zomby’s “Hater” remix, e.g., just sounds like a sub-par version of the original). In contrast, the Actress remix of “Lost” is subdued but confident, its fuzzed-out 4/4 beat driving the tinkling ballad into something more urgent.
If you’d forgotten about Various, who have slipped back into the genre niche from which they emerged briefly at the end of ’06, keep an eye out for the proper sophomore album that should be out before too long. Various Versus, though it’s got some exquisite material, seems more like a promise of things to come than the group’s fully formed next artistic statement.