To say it’s been quite a busy year for Mark Lanegan is something of an understatement. With his painfully honest autobiography Sing Backwards and Weep hitting the bestseller list and the accompanying album Straight Songs of Sorrow earning some of the best reviews of his long and storied career, he would be forgiven for disappearing for a bit and putting his feet up. However, anyone who has followed his career over the past few years will know that that just isn’t his style. His next project sees the release of a full remix album for his most direct album to date, last year’s brilliant Somebody’s Knocking.
Unlike previous remixes for Phantom Radio and Gargoyle, this marks the first time he’s given the entire album to a single artist to rework; in this case British trio IYEARA. As he admits, it’s an idea that he’s had for a long time.
“Way way back in the ’90s, one of my favorite records was Global Communication’s “Pentamerous Metamorphosis”, which was a remix of Chapterhouse’s entire Blood Music record, and I have always dreamed of such a scenario for one of my records.”
The first taste of the album, entitled Another Knock at the Door, is the stunning reworking of the original album’s emotional centerpiece “Playing Nero”. IYEARA’s take on the track strips away the gentling washing synths of the original for something a little more dramatic. Creaking and groaning with industrial zeal, the trio lay a tense synth bassline on top of uneasy, ominous keys as they slowly ratchet up the tension. Musically, this thick fog of electronics adds a darker majesty to Lanegan’s voice as his words punch through like shafts of light through a blackening sky.
“We wanted to take the dark gravel and roll it around in the gutter.” Explains Toby Butler from the band. “Place it in a new landscape. The vocal on Playing Nero has such a woozy swagger that we just wanted to take it even further. Lazy synths and dragging beats.”
Remarkably, the darker soundscape works to add new levels of meaning to Lanegan’s lyrics, sounding more desperate and sorrowful than the original, most noticeably towards the song’s conclusion as syllables fracture and echo before crumbling back into the music. It’s an inspired reimagining that twists the song into fresh and unexpected shapes.