Germany’s Infracom label is one of the most well-regarded and consistent purveyors of the nu-skool jazz or acid jazz on the continent. To celebrate their recent tenth anniversary, Infracom decided to flip the script a tad. They approached the German jazz trio [re:jazz] to produce acoustic reinterpretations of a cross-section of tunes from their catalog. This disc is the culmination of that initial project, with producers from across the world remixing the tracks that have already been reinterpreted by [re:jazz].
So there are multiple layers of interpretation to be sifted and plumbed. Above all else, this album is yet another example of the innate elasticity of modern electronic music. Like a chameleon, it shapes and distorts itself until it becomes inextricably intertwined with thorny concepts such as “authenticity”. The fact that most of these tracks do not linger far from being jazz themselves is also an indicator, of sorts, of the malleability of the sounds we recognize as being jazz.
The compilation begins with Nicola Conte’s remix of “Quiet Nights”. It begins with the anxious interplay between an upright bass and a taut cymbal. When the melody begins, it starts with a massive whoosh and pulls the entire movement of the track behind the sanguine melancholia of the vocal movement. Vocalist Lisa Bassenge swoons “Of all the things I’ve had to do / The worst was leaving you” with the mournful sensuality of a veteran heartbreaker. The track builds for five minutes, adding piano parts in addition to a full Latin rhythm section before building to a fateful and abrupt conclusion.
The Russ Gabriel mix of “My Love Is Higher” is a step down in tempo, a more moody piece focusing on the interplay between tenor sax and xylophone, whilst a softly scaling bass trips up and down in the background and a gently processed drum pattern marks the rhythm. The Akufen remix of “Mental Strength” is one of the disc’s more forlorn tracks, relying on Akufen’s trademark frenetic cut-and-paste to create a dark, rhythmic foundation of hisses and pops, with instrumental passages chopped and altered to resemble the random musings of a skipping turntable.
Ras’s remix of “Swoundosophy” tries to summon up the funk, with a keyboard midsection reminiscent of the great Herbie Hancock and a sliding pseudo-house bassline running underneath like subway tracks. The jangly guitar brings to mind jazz of an older vintage than Hancock, however. Frost & Wagner’s reinterpretation of “Torch of Freedom” brings the proceedings into the arena of dub reggae, with Joy Denalane’s gospel-tinged vocals set over a traditional Jamaican skank.
Swell Session’s “Release Your Mind” is perhaps the most evident concession to club culture on the album. It begins with a standard electro house beat, slowly adding elements from the jazzy original until the straight 4/4 morphs into a slinky Latin shuffle, bongos and keyboards included. From a rhythmic point of view, Dublex Inc’s rework of “Style” is probably the most ambitious track on here, with numerous different drumlines all fighting to be heard under Kirsten Pfau’s poppy vocals.
After “Release Your Mind”, the Jazztronik remix of “Cupid & Orlando” is probably the most “electronic” track on the album, with most of the jazz base having been ejected in favor of a Latin-tinged progressive breakbeat. The Yukihiro Fukutomi mix of “Second Sight” is quiet and almost contemplative.
Things take a darker turn with the Society remix of “La Mouche Lumiere”, which features a melancholy house beat set below a series of increasingly sad instrumental snippets. The Bugge Wesseltoft mix of “Arena” is the least obviously remixed track on the album, with a lone piano playing over an improvising drumline. There are some glitches and squiggles, but overall this track sounds like it could have been performed just about as-is in the recesses of a smoky jazz club somewhere in Hamburg. The final track, Led Gammas mix of “People Come Running”, is a surprisingly brisk and rousing finale, an uptemo two-step number with the various jazz elements sliding and flowing over the frenetic beat.
If listening to this compilation does anything, it makes me seriously interested in tracking down both the original electronic sources for these tracks and the acoustic reinterpretations that inspired these remixes. I have a feeling that, besides the obvious pleasures to be taken from this very enjoyable compilation, a deeper understanding of this particular game of musical telephone would be a very illuminating experience.
// Notes from the Road
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