HEALTH: DISCO2

[23 June 2010]

By Matthew Collins

It’s been a couple of years, so let me remind you: HEALTH’s DISCO is a fantastic record. It’s not just a great listen in its own right, though; it opened our eyes to just how good HEALTH’s band of skronk-punk is, a collective equivalent of the time you got high in your parent’s basement with Trout Mask Replica on the stereo—“it’s not just noise man…there’s beauty and purpose and stuff in there, too.”

Something happened since DISCO, though. HEALTH have sanded off their most jagged parts and developed a sound inspired by their remixers, more electronic and song-oriented than ever before. This leaves DISCO2 in a sticky situation, with GET COLOR already an accessible listen, simply pillaging the album for samples (à la DISCO2’s predecessor) seems strange, but the group’s sound is so singular that more traditional remixes could easily fumble when faced with the group’s complex approach.

DISCO2 frequently splits the difference between these two techniques, and the remixes—done by artists as diverse as CFCF, Salem, and Tobacco—are strikingly similar in approach (if very different in result). Nearly every remix is a complete re-imagining of the original track, but the source material isn’t always made to serve the remix; the vocal parts are frequently left whole and chord progressions built around them.

The most renowned remixers generally provide the most straightforward remixes, turning a HEALTH original into something that fits perfectly into their catalogue. Amongst these are Crystal Castles, with a wonderfully spastic take on “Eat Flesh” that wouldn’t be of place on their latest, and Javelin, whose funked-up version of “In Heat” works so well it makes me forget that its source material is GET COLOR’s pounding opener. Tobacco’s take on “Die Slow” is less impressive. His particular sound is all over the remix (buzzsaw synths!), but it doesn’t come close to the fervent paranoia of the original. Similarly retro-sounding synths pop up, to mixed results, on appearances by Small Black and Little Loud as well. Chillwave seems better suited to HEALTH’s work when the remix is further from the original (as with Little Loud) than when it stays closer to the source material (Small Black).

A handful of these more distantly connected remixes pop up towards the end of the album. Blondes’ version of “Nice Girls” is an eight-minute deep house cut that barely references the original (and is just okay, unfortunately for its runtime), while Pictureplane’s version of “Die Slow” is predictably delightful. By ignoring its structure, Pictureplane delivers a fantastic remix that doesn’t ask you to draw comparisons to the original.

And even though there are a few flatout stunners on here (along with Pictureplane and Javelin’s contributions is Blindoldfreak’s album closing take on “Before Tigers”), none compare to HEALTH’s own contribution to DISCO2, the monstrous “USA Boys”. Featuring a mindboggling synth lead and the best production we’ve yet seen the band with, it tops everything in their catalogue by more than a small margin (which is to say nothing of how it starts this disc on an impossibly high note). As great as some of these remixes are, now that HEALTH are making tracks this downright enjoyable we won’t be needing a DISCO3 next time around.

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/126661-health-disco2/