[1 June 2008]
PopMatters Associate Music Editor
Single-artist remix albums are a dubious proposition. Usually, the stronger the source material, the more disappointing the remixes. While some of this disappointment may result simply from familiarity with the originals, it’s often a product of the remixers’ lack of respect for those originals, too. Or, said another way, if that downtempo track you love had first appeared as a frantic trance anthem, would you have paid attention in the first place? Too often, remix compilations are a way to pick up club play and earn some cred with the deep-seated electronica crowd, and that’s it.
Jamie Lloyd’s late-2006 debut album, Trouble Within, was a well-received batch of intelligent, sensuous, song-based electronica. Now comes the companion remix collection. More Trouble features mixes of eight of Trouble Within‘s 13 tracks, along with a couple non-album tracks. Although most everything here has already been released on vinyl singles and EPs, the compilation holds together as an album and actually complements Trouble Within quite nicely. The mixes have been created with care for both the dancefloor and the original versions. While More Trouble starts out as a very good deep house album, by the end it has expanded its sonic palate considerably.
In keeping with current trends, several of the 11 tracks here sound more-or-less like they could have been released in 1988 rather than 20 years later. For example, the staccato synth rhythm of Quarion’s take on “May I?” sounds like it’s straight off an old Inner City track. And Finnish duo Putsch 79 bring “Adori’s Kitchen” across as an updated Trax Records gem, complete with stilted bassline, crisp handclap-snare, and thudding syndrums. These tracks aren’t all rehash, though, as the retro sounds are applied to forward-thinking arrangements and embellished with plenty of fresh sounds.
If the first third of More Trouble does have you feeling like you’re on a bit of a nostalgia trip, things get a little more complex the further you go. Fellow Sydneysiders Poxymusic add a tense, tech-house feel to their version of “What We Have”. Further, labelmate Jimi Polar’s mix of “All the Honey” in founded on a shimmering, lonely guitar twang that hangs around even after the electro-rhythm kicks in.
If “All the Honey” literally adds depth to More Trouble, mixes like Betaville Orchestra’s take on “Bidi Bidi Bom Bwah” give it breadth. Starting out with chirping crickets, the track stretches Lloyd’s voice out until it sounds like Peter Gabriel doing some pan-cultural wailing, before being interrupted with radio static. Fang Jnr.‘s mix of “Bad Motherfucker”, one of only a couple tracks to retain most of Lloyd’s vocals, is abstract, brooding, and creepy. More Trouble ends with one of its most unique mixes, Brooklynite Brennan Green’s version of “Movin’ In”. With both a brisk reggae rhythm and chilly, expansive synth washes, the track sounds like mid-‘70s Pink Floyd covering Bob Marley’s “Could You Be Loved”.
Even though the relatively broad scope of sounds and approaches holds your interest, the high point of the album is definitely on the more familiar, retro side. Swtzerland’s Cyril Boehler, aka Zwicker, has made a name for himself on Compost’s Black Label series, and his remix of “What We Have” is another landmark. Taking advantage of the song’s wordless vocal harmony, the track opens with some genuinely swinging hi-hats, percolating bassline, and those throwback handclaps. Lloyd’s phased, earnest-sounding lead vocal is retained, and it’s all very 1988. But then Zwicker throws in some 21st century-style analog bleeps and tones that fit in surprisingly well. Four minutes in, the track heads into an extended, chugging Moroder/Kraftwerk coda that’s pure bliss.
More Trouble is the rare remix album that actually goes somewhere with the original material. If you loved Trouble Within, chances are you’ll like it. And, even if you haven’t heard Lloyd’s originals, this compilation comes highly recommended. Even with a couple duds, tracks that just sit back in the groove too long, it’s an exceptional collection of electronic dance music that demands repeated listening.