[27 November 2007]
The Six Degrees label puts out a lot of themed compilations. For this newest one, they started with songs from famous and semi-famous movies, all recorded by the Czech Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra. Then the label asked some electronic music artists to remix and update these songs. The results are about what you’d expect; some of these remixes are really cool, others are really classy, but overall the compilation just isn’t very exciting.
Some of these artists are semi-famous in their own right (King Britt, Bombay Dub Orchestra) but most are pretty obscure (Shrift? Mark de Clive Lowe?). But that doesn’t mean that the better-known acts are the best ones here. Young Philadelphia producer Philip Charles scores huge with his version of David Shire’s theme from The Taking of Pelham 1, 2, 3; the track was tense and funky already, and he adds layers of hip-hop stutter and salsa percussion underneath it. On the other hand, Gaudi (who has released an album of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan reggae remixes on Six Degrees already this summer) fails with this approach on his version of the theme from Carrie. This track is too tentative, too gentle, too “cinematic”—and his apparent use of Nusrat vocals here absolutely screams “outtake.”
Some of these pieces are beautiful and fun, no matter the remixer or the original source. Some dude named Zeb does a pretty good job with Henry Mancini’s “Gaily, Gaily”, turning it into a sexy little chillout piece with some fusion beats and a brand-new funk guitar lick. And, as a big fan of Bombay Dub Orchestra, I really like what they’ve done here with the “Love Theme” from Ben Hur, throwing in some cool dub effects and some well-placed sitar lines ... but I don’t know if we needed two similar versions of it. Likewise, King Britt’s two brief versions of “They Call Me Mr. Tibbs” are pretty much the same, but the spunky instrumental version beats the one with the disinterested-sounding Mr. Lif backpack rap.
But most of the remixes here don’t try hard enough to separate themselves from the original material. Shawn Lee treats the theme from The Birdman of Alcatraz as a tone poem, and his “Ping Pong Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark” Mix wastes its time just kind of floating there. Tom Middleton’s ten-minute mix of the theme from Inherit the Wind does anything at all for about eight of those minutes. And I didn’t think anyone could make Duke Ellington’s elegant “Paris Blues” boring until I heard the track by the Real Tuesday Weld, which pretends to deconstruct it but doesn’t really have the courage to do that.
Not to say that this is a bad CD—it was a noble try, and all the tracks are at least pretty and sweet. (Oh, forgot to mention the great thing that MNO does with the theme from Some Like It Hot, very nice work there indeed.) But overall this disc is better for people who value keywords like “lush” and “beautiful” more than words like “exciting” and “jaw-dropping.”