After a long hard week, and a quite tiring trip into London lat night, it was good to relax this morning, and then this afternoon go into Oxford with Julie to watch (ahem) The Muppets film, which was a nice, if slightly silly way to spend some time and wind down a little. I enjoyed it anyway, despite falling asleep at one point. That’s two films I have watched over the last twelve months or so, one by Herzog, the other The Muppets. Not many people can say that. This evening then I have been listening to another CD / free download from the excellent Insubordinations label. A little over a year ago I wrote here about a release on the label named Complaintes de mare basse by the Diatribes duo of D’Incise and Cyril Bondi, who were joined on that release by the guitarist Abdul Moimême. I enjoyed the disc a lot, and have played it through again today as the new release I have been listening to consists of rewordings of the seven tracks from the first album by seven new musicians/groups of musicians. The new collection is named Marées de Hauteurs Diverses (something like Tides of other heights?). This new release then is essentially a remix album, the like of which hasn’t passed by my ears for quite a few years now.
The original album was a tetchy, brittle affair full of activity. It fizzed, roared and wailed its way through a half electronic, half scrap metal form of improv that appealed to my sensibilities nicely. The new album has taken the same seven pieces and, having handed them to seven different recomposers seen them subjected to a variety of different processes, the aftermath of which we get here. Of the seven remixers, only two are familiar names to me, one being Ludger Hennig, whose laptop work appeared on yet another recent Insubordinations disc I wrote about, and the other being Francisco Lopez. Of the other five names I am unfamiliar, though I suspect some may be pseudonyms, and in the case of Honoré Feraille, who reworks the third piece, perhaps a link can be made to the Diatribes musician D’Incise, who I believe shares the same surname. None of this matters much though, and not knowing much about who did what here only adds to the intrigue for me really.
The thing about remixes of this area of music is that much of the time the general level of activity involved in the original work leads people to feed it through some kind of virtual blender, so that much of the detail gets filtered down into a more soupy wash based on the original ingredients. This tends to be the case on two or three of the pieces here. While Nicolas Bernier’s reworking of Crustacés retains much of Bondi’s original sprightly, fidgeting percussion, everything else seems to become an insistent groan of digital pulse and hum. It works well, especially as everything gets louder and more explosive as it progresses steadily, but the basic structure is quite a simple one and it is difficult to know how the original is improved upon. Honoré Feraille’s The tide is gone on its own reshapes the title track from the original disc into what is essentially a piece of dark ambience of the kind briefly described as Isolationism at the end of the nineties, all slow moving sheets of vaguely metallic sounding moaning with a thin gauze of gritty abrasion attached. Its nice, often quite beautiful stuff, but again I think I prefer the vibrancy of the original improvisations.
My favourite pieces on the new album are the fifth and sixth of the seven tracks here. Mokuhen’s brilliantly titled Poisson Silence, Oki begins with small digitally processed sections of quiet activity. A little short of three minutes in though the calm we had settled into is suddenly broken by further treated sections of the original, but here the end result is a wrenching, sudden series of violent twists that don’t stay for long but sit in complete opposition to the quietude that came before. Francisco Lopez’ Untitled #279 (has he really reached almost three hundred now?) is another quite extreme rethinking of Pavillon Noir from the original album. Opening with four or five seconds of brisk abstract activity at high volume the piece suddenly and quickly cuts away to just the very slightest of murmurs that had me reaching for the volume control to turn things up after the energy of the preceding piece. Four or five further minutes of very little pass before things build at all again, never really becoming loud, but highly processed shimmers of metallic sounding material slip in and out alongside what feels like stray lazy strikes at a drum, though doubtlessly small sections of the original improvisation have been cleverly excerpted by Lopez who certainly does feel like the most accomplished and original voice here.
Given that its a free release, as was the original album, I thoroughly recommend spending time with these two albums back to back. The energy that is currently spilling out of the Diatribes / Insubordinations community is both infectious and inspiring, and the way it is being done, far from the trappings of how labels traditionally work and ignoring the usual hierarchies that drive even the most niche areas of experimental music is admirable. Throwing a lot of music out there as free downloads isn’t always a good thing as the ease of distribution often results in a lowering of quality, but this doesn’t feel the case for Insubordinations, much thought and consideration seems to go into each release, which are available as lovingly produced hard copy releases as well as free downloads. Don’t take my word for it though, go grab them yourself.