Music

Au Revoir Simone: Reverse Migration

On Reverse Migration, Au Revoir Simone and their collaborators manage to craft a remix album that largely preserves the warmth, delicacy, and charm of the band's breakthrough LP, The Bird of Music.


Au Revoir Simone

Reverse Migration

Label: Our Secret Record Company
UK Release Date: 2008-11-11
US Release Date: 2008-11-11
Amazon
Amazon
iTunes

The critical response to Au Revoir Simone's second album, The Bird of Music, can be evenly split between two consensus-forming camps. The first, bemused by the existence of yet another airy synth-pop album in a post-Postal Service world, rejected the record as another tired example of laptop bubblegum. The second camp, intrigued by the album's fragility, warmth, and hushed charm, found much to love in the nooks and crannies of the record's 11 songs. Let me be clear: if you fall into the first camp, you can stop reading this review now. If The Bird of Music failed to pique your interest, nothing on Reverse Migration is going to change your mind. If, however, you fall into the latter camp, there's a good chance you'll find that, for the most part, Reverse Migration is every bit as enchanting as the source material that it pulls from.

A self-released remix album, Reverse Migration is available exclusively as a download from various online retailers (though it arrived at my doorstep in an appropriately handmade manner: a CD-R sandwiched between two inkjet printouts in a plastic sleeve, tucked into a hand-addressed envelope bearing the address of the Brooklyn apartment from whence it came). At 13 tracks, it takes the form of a track-by-track remix of The Bird of Music, with two reprisal remixes tacked on at the end. With few exceptions, the remixes on Reverse Migration aim to carefully tinker with rather than completely overhaul Au Revoir Simone's compositions -- a fact that ultimately defines both the album's strengths and weakness.

U.K. duo Slow Club kicks things off with a remix of "The Lucky One" that reimagines the song as a delicate, folky ballad. Opening with a carefully fingerpicked guitar line and the song's original vocal track, it slowly folds in a bass drum, tambourine, and a male backing vocal. As it nears its conclusion, the song blossoms into a rollicking, joyous sing-along, climaxing with a chorus of voices -- some singing, some talking. Pacific!'s remix of "Sad Song" takes things in an entirely different direction, draping the song's whispery vocals over a reverb-laden, loungey Casio line, handclaps, and a surprisingly buoyant bass line.

While not entirely devoid of value, the Teenager's reworking of "Fallen Snow" lacks imagination; it's about as predictable as four-on-the-floor electro remixes get. Disco Pusher's remix of "Stars", while fun, falls into much the same trap, even utilizing a cringe-worthy, vocoderized version of the chorus' vocal hook shamelessly.

Luckily, there's plenty of originality to be found here as well. The album's most thrilling remix, Ruff and Jam's take on "Lark", imagines what Au Revoir Simone would sound like with New Order circa 1987 as their backing band. Montag's pensive remix of "A Violent Yet Flammable World" ticks off the seconds like a grandfather clock before ushering in the retro-futurist Moogs. Keith Murray, like Slow Club, chooses to transform "Don't See the Sorrow" into a lo-fi acoustic ballad, complete with earnest vocals and Beach Boys-esque three-part harmonies. And Best Fwends manage to inject "Dark Halls" with a bit of their trademark electro-rock punch.

In his cover of "Sad Song", Alexis Taylor of Hot Chip is the only contributor here bold enough to rework one of Au Revoir Simone's songs from the ground up. While the first half of the track sounds like the boom-clap electro you'd expect, the second half takes a left turn into singer-songwriter territory. Surprisingly, it mostly works, with Taylor's earnest delivery and competent guitar playing elevating it above standard busker fare.

Ultimately, Reverse Migration's success or lack thereof hinges on your level of tolerance for the original source material. The contributors included here must count themselves among Au Revoir Simone's fans, as most have played it safe, opting to preserve the mood, sincerity and spacious delivery of the band's tracks whenever possible. While Reverse Migration is unlikely to make the band any new fans, it stands as a pleasant enough stopgap for those willing to seek it out online. Revolutionary, it ain't, though if you were looking for something more than an album of subtle, breezy electro-pop, you probably should have stopped reading a few paragraphs ago.

6

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less
3

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image