The Norwegian mood-pop act let remixers have at their latest album, often with surprisingly successful results.
There has never been a better time for an EDM makeover. Electronic Dance Music sounds that were once relegated to clubs, bedrooms, and personal stereos are now all over the radio. In that light, Deconstruction Time Again is a brilliant move. Where remix albums traditionally have been cash-ins and/or collectors-only items, this one could actually put the veteran Norwegian band over the top.
There has always been an electronic element to Flunk's music, but it has usually consisted of the underpinning for their moody, languid indie pop. On Deconstruction Time Again, they have allowed an international slate of producers to bring the synthesizers and machines to the fore. It turns out to have been an inspired decision.
To be sure, this is not candy pop. There's no Max Martin, Xenomania, or even Avicii to sugar up Flunk's decidedly Scandinavian disaffection. But the expanded musical palate is often a good match for the minor-key songwriting and Anja Øyen Vister's cooing, which could easily be mistaken for a mellowed-out Björk.
When it's working, Deconstruction Time Again does what all thoughtful remixes should do, which is shed new light on the songs by presenting them through a prism of new ideas and perspectives. Most of the 14 tracks are versions of songs from Flunk's latest, strong studio album, Lost Causes (2013), with a couple older ones thrown in as well. Contepella adds a new punch and bite to the foreboding "Down", while Dögg achieves an enhanced sense of urgency on the yearning chorus of "Awkward". Sure, this music would sound great blasting out of your favorite hipster boutique, but it also invites a more intimate listening experience.
Deconstruction Time Again features multiple versions of a few tracks, allowing for comparison and contrast among the different producers' approaches. Turkish DJ ChemMister ups the tempo and turns "Down" into a gothic house number. Italian Luca Bluefire interprets "Awkward" as analog-driven synth-pop inspired by recent Depeche Mode.
True synergy, however, is achieved when the producers find a mid-point between the dancefloor and the car radio. Jean Claude Ades takes "Personal Stereo" to the disco, but wisely retains enough of the original's sad and affecting acoustic guitar line to keep it grounded in pathos. Best of all, though, is American Castlebed's excellent reworking of "Bummed". Keeping the original's rather beguiling melody, he adds swooshing synth pans, deep, New Order-style guitar, and terse beats. Thus, a traditional lo-fi indie dreampop strummer becomes a sharp, dynamic, irresistible proposition.
Of course, those who are enamored of the original "Bummed", or the frankly dreamy nature of Flunk's music in general, may not appreciate the studio surgery on display here. And when that surgery is less-than-successful, the result is either rather generic downtempo sound, as in Rashid Ajami's "Lost Causes", or equally generic house music like Sandro S' "On My Balcony".
Deconstruction Time Again, then, is not a complete success. But it is a fresh take on a band whose consistent, homogenous decade-long career was probably due for one.