The current gold standard for modern remixes has to be the ongoing Verve Remixed project. Especially in light of how bad it could have been, the fact that they’ve managed to put together three excellent compilations, featuring some of the best producers alive remixing some of the absolute gems of that vaunted label’s catalog, is to be applauded. (OK, maybe the third wasn’t up to the standard set by the first two, but it had some good moments nonetheless.) That their success has been seen as an open invitation for other labels with similarly voluminous catalogs to do some crate-digging of their own is an unabashedly cool thing.
The problem is, putting together a good remix project isn’t as easy as it sounds. There’s a fine line to be drawn between hewing too close to the source material and thereby stifling the urge to innovate, and straying so far from the template that you lose sight of why the source material was good to begin with. The ideal remix is a collaboration. The problem with Atlantiquity is that, despite the obvious good intentions which have gone into constructing the disc, it plays too safe to really make an impact on most of the original tracks. The only thing worse than a bad remix is a superfluous remix, and unfortunately, many of these remixes are just too damn tasteful to be of any interest.
Garth Trinidad, the compiler, has erred on the side of caution by assembling a group of remixers with a remarkably uniform style and philosophy, and the results are only marginally interesting. The best remix is, unsurprisingly, the King Britt remix of Chic’s “A Warm Summer Night”. King Britt has been on a roll the past few years, peeling off stunning mixes at every turn, and he doesn’t disappoint here. His psuedo-tribal house reworking manages to retain the structure and delicacy of the original disco anthem while still imbuing it with a new and robust backbone.
DJ Nu-Mark of the Jurassic 5 serves up a funky mix of Eddie Harris’ “Bold and Black” that amplifies the funk of the original while still speaking to a modern sensibility. Quantic’s mix of United 8’s “Getting Uptown (To Get Down)” is interesting, presenting a suitably anxious example of electro-fried broken-beat. After the King Britt track, my favorite off the album is probably the Charlie Dark mix of Average White Band’s “Pick Up The Pieces”. This is probably the track that strays furthest from the new-soul hip-house aesthetic that rules the disc, bracketing the AWB’s muscular funk to a genuine Detroit techno backbone. It’s a risk that pays good dividends—I only wish more of the remixers had taken a risk like that.
The rest of the disc is fairly conservative. Vikter Duplaix’s mix of Slave’s “Watching You” is one of many remixes that differ only slightly from something you could have heard on the radio around the time of the song’s original release—maybe the bass kick is a bit fatter. The Daz-I-Kue mix of Sister Sledge’s evergreen “We Are Family” understandibly keeps the recognizable vocal line intact, but straps it onto an otherwise unexceptional nu-soul house groove. Freddy L’s mix of Donny Hathaway’s “Little Ghetto” boy could have easily been released as a disco re-rub circa 1978.
I don’t want to give the impression that any of these remixes are bad: to the contrary, most everyone acquits themselves tolerably well. But a good remix is as much about a conceptual revision as rhythmical reinvention, and most of these remixers just don’t seem to have any interest in making more than cosmetic alterations to the blueprints. I also understand the desire to keep the disc constrained to a unifying aesthetic, but the over-reliance on the tasteful, conservative sound of modern electronic neo-soul represented by artists such as Duplaix and Quantic keeps the disc from displaying the kind of diversity that has been the hallmark of the Verve Remixed series, as well as similar efforts such as the excellent and overlooked Bird Up Charlie Parker compilation from 2003.
// Notes from the Road
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