[2 March 2004]
Indie rock remixes have always been middling to terrible at best. Rarely does a remix of an indie rock song amount to anything more than an exercise in adding “beats” to an existing song. Lost Notes from Forgotten Songs, the new full length from instrumentalists the Six Parts Seven manages to avoid the pitfalls of (and use of the word) remix. Collaborating with a who’s who list of indie rock legends, the resulting nine-track album finds the desert-burned compositions of The Six Parts Seven infused with the lyrical sensibilities and emotional personalities of their musical colleagues.
Sam Beam of Iron & Wine strongly starts Lost Notes from Forgotten Songs with a remake of “Sleeping Diagonally”. Stripping the song to its essential parts, Beam goes for a less-is-more aesthetic. With simple production that finds him double-tracking his own voice and tastefully overdubbing extra acoustic guitars, the gorgeous cut should really be listed as an Iron & Wine track, co-written by the Six Parts Seven.
Seattle indie rock darlings Jenn Ghetto and Mat Brooke (of Carissa’s Wierd) lend their vocal stylings to “On Marriage”. Starting with a mournful piano, the song slowly unravels into a beautiful, upbeat yet haunting number. Singing “See you on a wedding day / I can’t believe this turned out my way”, the reminiscences on love are equally questioning and confident.
Modest Mouse’s Isaac Brock weighs on in “From California to Houston, on Lightspeed”. More Ugly Casanova than Modest Mouse, the track is a hodge-podge of spoken word, banjos, and Brock singing “Nothing is easy / I know”. Just as the formation of a melody begins to emerge, the track abruptly ends. Brock’s overtly intentional weirdness doesn’t lend itself well to the Six Parts Seven’s carefully planned arrangements. The track is a disappointment.
Luckily, Will Johnson of Centro-Matic steps up to the plate in the clean up position, with a small army of horns in “Song of Impossible Things”. Johnson doesn’t tinker too much with the Six Parts Seven’s epic vision and merely washes his voice over the song, creating one of the disc’s stronger collaborations.
Taking a page from Brock’s notebook, Pall Jenkins of the gothic piano trio the Black Heart Procession reassembles “Seems Like Most Everything Used to be Something Else”, creating an interesting track of the kind that is to be listened to once and skipped over after.
Surprisingly strong is “Attitudes of Collapse” by John Atkins of the Magic Magicians. Upbeat and jangly, when I first heard it I could have sworn it was James Mercer of the Shins. My eyebrows raised a little more when I found out it wasn’t. When I’m done writing this review, I will be hitting the web to find out more about the Magic Magicians. It’s too bad that the song is followed by the truly forgettable “Now Like Photographs” by Brian Straw (yeah, I never heard of him, either). Running just under 13 minutes, this instrumental track is unnecessarily long and mind-numbingly boring.
Katie Eastburn of Young People follows and offers up the album’s worst track with “Cold Things That Never Catch Fire”. While her out-of-key howl suits her band’s alt-country stylings, here it is strident and cringe-inducing. I don’t think I’ve ever made it all the way through this song without running for the Skip button.
Closing the disc, Pedro The Lion’s Dave Bazan’s love-gone-wrong song “A Blueprint of Something Never Finished” finds the sensitive Christian in awkward territory. Lyrically graphic, it addresses the breakdown of a relationship in frank terms, culminating in Bazan singing: “You should have never been unfaithful you stupid bitch / You should have never fucked with me”. Bordering on misogynistic, this is lyrical subject matter that has been better handled (and with a dose of needed humor) by Shellac in “Prayer to God”.
The Six Parts Seven have smartly chosen to collaborate with artists they admire, rather than hand over tracks to be remixed.. The downside is that the songs are only as good as the artists who are rearranging them, and as such, one’s enjoyment of Lost Notes from Forgotten Songs will really depend on whether you like the musicians listed on the back of the CD case.