Remix compilations have a bad reputation. In all honesty, I think it probably has something to do with the way that most remix discs are usually assembled—haphazardly, and without any attention to the type of cumulative detail you’d expect from so much as a C-list rocker’s B-sides compilation. Oftentimes, companies anthologize a producer’s remixes without so much as the cursory involvement of the artist in question, putting together a collection of tracks based simply on the fact that they have the publishing rights to said tracks. I’m not going to deny that I’ve bought a few of these fly-by-night collections—it’s worth it in the case of artists you follow to have the tracks in one place instead of scattered over a dozen CDs or 12ö records—but they hardly make for satisfying listening experiences. Rarely is an artist’s remix output assembled with an eye towards creating a cohesive body of work, an actual unified album statement.
Born Again presents an exceptional example of how future remix collections should be approached. Although the thematic unity of Sutekh’s remix material is probably unusual, it should be noted that great care has been taken to construct a listenable, fully immersive collection. If you had given me the disc with no label, I would probably have guessed that this was an artist album and not a collection of disparate tracks remixed by the same man. It is to Sutekh’s credit that he approaches his projects with such a high degree of conscientious homogeneity, and the results speak for themselves.
Sutekh is Seth Horvitz, a producer from the Bay Area who specializes in glitched-up broken-beat techno in the vein of Matthew Herbert and Akufen. The primary difference between Horvitz’s production and those of the above-named gentlemen is the fact that Sutekh mostly stays away from conventional house beats, preferring instead to work within the general rhythmic frameworks of hip-hop or IDM—any DJ who tried to mix these tracks would probably end up with a headache. Tracks such as his remixes of TV Pow’s “Friendship Patrol” and Ammoncontact’s “Baila con los Ninos” owe as much to acts such as Prefuse 73, producers who work at more deliberate tempos than their more frenetic peers but who still retain their kinship to the world of spliced and chopped sampling.
All of which simply serves as an example of how little such generic markers matter in light of such a highly atomized electronic landscape. Sutekh’s remix of Wobbly’s “Clawing Your Eyes Out Down To Your Peady” is, at least in terms of tempo, a house song, but it is constructed in the exact same manner as the more somber and contemplative remix of Murcof’s “Memoria”. Most of the constituent sounds have been broken into tiny pieces and reformed as broken shards, with staticky slivers of beats and melodies serving in lieu of whole sounds. It’s the kind of distinctive effect that could only be created in an entirely digital environment, the jumpy sonic equivalent of downing a cup of cappuccino and flipping across the radio dial at random while bouncing on a trampoline.
ThereÆs a great variety of sound here, and a lot to recommend. The mix of o.lamm’s “WD” is harsh and lonely like the soundtrack to a spaghetti western directed by Shinya Tsukamoto. Ben Neville’s “Vancouver and Fairfield” is morphed to resemble an Autechre composition, with an implacable digital beat offset against minutely observed specks of human voice.
Although I confess to having been ignorant of Sutekh’s work before Born Again arrived in my mailbox, I am suitably impressed. Any artist who can maintain this level of consistency over such a wide variety of remixes is definitely worth following, and well deserves the wider acclaim that such accomplishments naturally imply. The folks at the Leaf Label are also to be commended for approaching his body of work with the consistent respect it deserves.
Note: The finished package includes two discs, only the first of which was available for review from the label.