Bass is a prominent character in the theatre of the Thievery Corporation. Their “original” albums are inundated with it. The same is clearly true when they helm a remix effort. They take a tune, add lounge or Latin rhythms to it, then put the listener’s head right into the bass bin and stand well back. The result as exemplified here in Versions is a delightful Sunday morning workout of the capabilities of your Hi-Fi equipment. It matters not that they have chosen to rework some obscure tunes that probably would not otherwise grace your record collection. Indeed, it would be almost cheap of them to even consider using mainstream tunes. You want them to pan for lost nuggets of musical gold and then beat them into a beautiful shape so that you and your friends can rub your chins thoughtfully as you listen while slumped in your IKEA furniture. In this respect, Thievery Corporation do not disappoint.
Thievery Corporation have taken their lead from the Jamaican dub style by accentuating the bass and the drums; they remove the vocals for the most part and let the spaces in between carry the rhythm and swaddle the result in modern digital reverb and other effects. Due to this, on the proper equipment this recording has the capacity to really piss off your neighbours or parents, so play with extreme caution. I suggest a rainy weekend, using a decent sub-woofer set to the kind of frequencies that only your lungs can hear.
Among the luxurious tunes that Thievery Corporation have cast their leisurely gaze over is a version of Public Image Ltd.‘s “This is Not a Love Song”, but John Lydon’s vocal is nowhere to be heard. It would be too obvious and not tasteful enough to remix that song. Instead we are treated to a cover version by Nouvelle Vague, a French project dedicated to updating 1980s hits using female vocalists that have never heard the originals. Nice. They also direct their beady eyes at the Doors’ “Strange Days” and come up with something quite charming, if a little unsettling. Jim Morrison to a dance beat… not sure about it (think of how you felt when you first heard the David Holmes remix of Elvis Presley’s “A Little Less Conversation”; disconcerting but cool). All that receives the TC dub treatment comes out the other end much the better for it. There is no other way that I would like to listen to Norah Jones or Sarah McLachlan.
This is the sort of music that Steven Soderbergh would use in his Ocean’s series of film if he did not already use David Holmes. It supersedes hip and has a recognizable cinematic quality. If you are listening to this album on whatever music device you favour while travelling in a city, you cannot help but feel that you are in a movie and what you hear is the soundtrack. This works particularly well at night if you are on a full metro or other public train service.
Versions is a damn fine remix record. Also, because Thievery Corporation have a sound and trendy following all of their own; it also works as well as an original release. Although saying that, the original tunes are not as stand-out as the remixes. If you find yourself in the market for a record to put on in the background while you chat to your mates, or if you have a particularly awesome sound system that you would like to put through its paces, then you could do a lot worse than buying this album.