Trippy beats and psychedelic flourishes
You’d expect a guy who calls himself Nobody to slip into the background when he remixes other artists, becoming invisible, maybe, as he brings out the essential qualities of each individual he works with. Well, this Nobody, the So-Cal producer and electronic artist known to his mom as Elvin Estrela, is subtle but leaves an unmistakable mark on each of the 13 tracks collected here. His hallmarks—unfussy percolating beats, soft sonic washes, psychedelic flourishes and bits of 1960s hallucinogenic pop songs tucked in at the end—are everywhere. If the nursery rhyme Mr. Nobody was the man you could blame for muddy bootprints, broken crockery and spilled liquids, Estrela is the Nobody who turns pop songs into electro-beat dance cuts, stripped down hip hop into space-y 1960s jams, and laid-back seventies jazz, fusion and funk into right now grooves.
Revisions Revisions collects a broad variety of Nobody’s remixes, highlighting the reach and diversity of his network of connections. Here is West Coast folk-pop diva Mia Doi Todd’s lovely flute-y voice, framed by an echoing, spacious beat and occasional stabs of guitars in “Autumn”. There is Busdriver, the hyper-literate hip hopper, whose “Unemployed Black Astronaut” has been stripped of Paris Zax’s elaborate, folk-centric guitar intro, and made starker, funnier and more beat centered. (Both versions of this excellent song appear on Busdriver’s first full-length, Fear of a Black Tangent.) There are the lost 1960s psyche-poppers of The Free Design, their trippy, translucent harmonies almost hidden behind a finger-popping, snare-clattering beat. And over there, look, it’s Nobody’s most commercially successful collaborators, The Postal Service, their too sweet, too clever tendencies reined in by a popping, hissing, sleekly mechanical beat. All these artists are exactly who they are here, but cooler, trippier, more psycho-tropically melodic, and the ingredient they’ve all been missing is Nobody.
I was familiar with exactly none of the originals on this album before I started doing my review research, and so listened to Revisions Revisions several times, right off the bat, as if it were a free-standing, original album. It works well that way, not quite as good as Nobody’s Nobody and Everything Else, but at least as good, and maybe better, than his most recent collaboration with Mystic Chords of Memory. There’s more pop to the beats, more innovation in the flourishes, and maybe the basic material is stronger.
One cut deserves special notice here—the Phil Ranelin remix Nobody did in 2001 in conjunction with John McEntire’s reissue of the 1976 classic funk /fusion Vibes from the Tribe. Ranelin, a leader of Detroit’s thriving 1970s jazz scene, founded a band, label and publishing enterprise called the Tribe. Their title cut from their best known album is a free-floating, mind-jamming funk milestone, and Nobody brings its slinky, ominous, bass-heavy vibe into the present day in his shortened, body-moving remake. It closes the record, possibly because Nobody’s younger fans are more likely to know about Clearlake and Postal Service, but it’s worth waiting for. You’d think nobody could improve on this cut… but maybe Nobody did.