[5 March 2007]
Remix albums, typically a re-casting of a CD’s original tracklist re-cut by a different remixer each song, often have a difficult time achieving coherence. A group of songs originally united by theme, or an artist’s voice, or a certain musical outlook is necessarily mangled by different interpretations. But how to preserve the album’s original experience to provide more than just the momentary thrill of a song you recognize, reworked for the dance floor?
That My Brightest Diamond’s remix album, Tear It Down, doesn’t totally fail as a cohesive unit is a testament, primarily, to Shara Worden’s distinctive voice; but it’s also a measure of the invasiveness (or lack thereof) of the remixes themselves. These various tracks, most mixed by relatively obscure Worden collaborators or MySpace friends, show a keen respect for the feel of the original songs. Though they don’t always preserve the verse-chorus structure that defines most of Bring Me the Workhorse, most of the time the remixers succeed in crafting distinctive moods out of originals already so full of personality.
The first couple of tracks set a definite mood: skittering trip-hop. Full of space, Alias’s reworking of “Golden Star” maintains the explosion (just when the word itself appears in the lyrics); but, actually, the original has more pathos, more power, more operatic drama. Lusine’s “Workhorse” is more successful, turning the “Lost all your youth, and all your usefulness” into a swirling mantra, surrounding Worden’s compelling voice with bells and swirling atmosphere.
But just when you think you have Tear It Down pegged as a passably appropriate, lush, down-tempo version of the original disc, things get kicked up a gear. The first of two “Freak Out” mixes emphasizes the title phrase, which becomes the tagline of the disc in an obvious kind of way. Likewise, Gold Chains Panique’s mix is obvious electro, all siren synths and jittery bass. Cedar AV’s “Disappear”, which ends the disc, starts with a pretty music-box tinkle, cuts all the vocals into fragments, and adds a piston-like, Au Revoir Simone beat; but the devolution into wall-of-atmosphere is ill advised. In the end, these tracks are passable, but detract from the cohesion of the album as a whole, and should not be here.
You expect remixes to bring more, more, more—more beats, more texture, more crescendo, and so on—but in fact this remix disc gives us mostly less. On Stakka’s remix of “Disappear”, the verse-refrain order’s been switched, the lush orchestral accompaniment becoming both freeform introduction and running theme. But apart from this, we are given something eerily similar to the original—just a re-touch—a different, equally valid, interpretation of the original musical idea. David Keith’s remix of “Something of an End”, though, substitutes all the swooning power for sheen, and we lose all its power and Bjork-esque majesty.
Tear It Down is a pretty, compelling series of tracks; the only question is, is it necessary? If you loved Bring Me the Workhorse, you will find something new in Tear It Down. But if you’ve never heard of Shara Worden or My Brightest Diamond, skip this one and head back to the debut—its vision and drama are complete, and more cohesive than these thirteen tracks.