Trip-hop’s Ruby first appeared on the scene in 1996 with Salt Peter and rode the wave of the minor hit “Tiny Meat”. After a five year hiatus, Ruby released Short-Staffed at the Gene Pool in 2001, but it failed to make much of an impact. Did it really need a remix album to accompany it?
Remix albums are perhaps a bit self-indulgent on the surface, asking fans to buy songs they already have, only in different forms. This is fine for completists, but can Altered and Proud truly stand on its own, without familiarity with the source material?
Like most remix albums, Altered and Proud lacks consistency, with several different artists reinterpreting these songs in different styles, like the sparse, beat-heavy “Waterside (Deep in the Void Mix by Aksum” and the hip-hop-inspired “Lamplight (Bench and Doufos Parrrtay Mix! by Bench)”. All the songs on Altered and Proud have to be taken as individual units, and in that respect, knowing Short-Staffed at the Gene Pool would be an advantage since listeners would be able to enjoy the differences between the remixes and the original songs.
For those who don’t have that benefit, Altered and Proud is a disparaged, although still entertaining, journey. With each track’s modest running time (onlyy one approaches the nine-minute mark, and the rest are around five minutes), the remixes stay fun without collapsing in on themselves with drawn-out lengths. With multiple remixes of the same song, the variation that is here keeps Altered and Proud exciting.
Unfortunately, though, the album barely works. While individual tracks, like the fascinating “Beefheart (Wavenfold Remix)” are strong, when the songs are all together, they mostly fall together into an incoherent jumble. If the album were perhaps in a continuous mix, with one song flowing into the next, it would be easier to listen to. As it stands, however, these remixes crowd into each other uncomfortably. The strength of these remixes individually is all but lost.
As a companion piece to Short-Staffed at the Gene Pool, Altered and Proud has some value, and listeners may return to favorite tracks, but to listen to the whole album in its entirety feels like a pointless exercise. While it may be an admirable piece of self-indulgence for Ruby, it is self-indulgent all the same.