Posted on February 26th, 2015 (11:00 am) by Matt LaBarbera

Remix albums are difficult to judge. They belong to a strange class of things where the whole is meaningless and the assessment of the individual parts is the only way to approach it. Not only that, but there is, in essence, an act of translation going on with them. These translations release an indwelling piece of art, related to, but not necessarily lesser than, its source. With this in mind, the task of untangling the remix album of Hundred Waters' The Moon Rang Like a Bell becomes a little more manageable. These remixes, released on Skrillex’s label OWSLA, feature a bevy of electronic producers, as well as members of the band itself, tackling Hundred Waters' eddying, kaleidoscopic 2014 album. Not surprisingly, each individual track (each artist only gets one track) varies both stylistically and in quality. Remixed has plenty of decent work, but just as much dreck.

Starting with the approaches by the band members themselves, vocalist Nicole Miglis retries album opener “Show Me Love.” Augmenting the short, a capella track with tinkling keys and doing away with vocal layering, the track turns into a simple, understated piano ballad, completely unlike anything else to follow. Trayer Tryon’s remix of “Seven White Horses” immediately comes to mind. He excises the Legend of Zelda fairy fountain chiming and replaces it with a more pronounced bass and wavy synths. As the song progresses, it speeds up to cartoonish standards and culminates in something of a drop as the high-pitched squiggling is suddenly swapped out for a pitched-down vocal sample that carries through to the end of the song. It’s a disappointing cut that starts off promising, but ends in the sort of squall one would expect from an OWSLA production. The closer, handled by Paul Giese and Zach Tetreault, turns the ambient pop “No Sound” into a slightly creepy, music box waltz. Slow, somber horns and a drum roll add some drama to what is one of the more creative and fully realized takes on the remixed collection. Most of the other artists followed in the footsteps of Tryon’s additive, maximalist remix, instead of stripping the cuts down.

Brandt Brauer Frick remixed “Murmurs” and turned into a big, bouncing techno beastie, having a good deal of fun with the vocal sample that starts the track. “Out Alee,” remixed by Plaid, is a pretty skillful display, maintaining a pleasant bedtime atmosphere (although a dark, somewhat disturbing rumble does manage to creep its way into the cut), while making it a little danceable for those who toss and turn before getting to sleep. Illangelo, most known for his production work with The Weeknd, takes on “Innocent,” turning Miglis’ voice into a demonic yawn and, not surprisingly, amping up the moodiness quite considerably. It's a pleasant enough exercise, but the novelty wears quickly. By far the longest cut, Bvdub’s “Chambers,” is an overdone piece that is soaked with echo, reverb, and shimmering, paulstretched, ambient passages. It’s pretty, but terrifically boring. Kodak to Graph handled “Xtalk,” a track that originally alternated between synthy swirls and a sped-up, hi-hat hook. Kodak adds all sorts of effects, digital swooshes, clicks and beeps, as well as a big, bassy belch before petering out into the same piano line that closes the original.

The releases that really stood out, however, all managed a meaningful and interesting transformation of the material. Returning to music boxes, Shigeto’s “Cavity” remix sounds like someone staggeringly cranking a jack-in-the-box, waiting for it to pop, while Miglis sings over top. In addition, he cuts up her aspirations and uses them as somewhat of a metronome, creating a full vocal palette. Siriusmo converts the already dancey “[Animal]” into a full-on house lounger, complete with nu-jazz groove and a cool percussion section. By far, Siriusmo's remix is the most competent, in terms of turning these cuts into new and interesting danceable tracks. Still, the most innovative remix belongs to Alex Zhang Hungtai, as Dirty Beaches. He cuts away everything except the foundational piano line of "Broken Blue," adding in dull horns and atmospheric sounds, transferring the listener to a dilapidated jazz bar teeming with disquiet and grime. It brings to mind the dusty swing of Leland Kirby’s work, or the muted home recordings of Jason Lescalleet and Graham Lambkin. He completely transforms the song, so much so it might even be difficult to call it a remix. Nevertheless, the result is a remarkable, melancholy piece.

Despite the common thread that unites these pieces, the various alterations of a diverse set of artists with a diverse set of skills means that predicting a cohesive product is simply foolish. There’s no exemplary cut, no track that will let one orient themselves as the move through the remixes. As soon as these songs escaped the hands of Hundred Waters, anything could happen and, as The Moon Rang Like A Bell Remixed shows, anything did. Everything from tedious ambient to eerie waltzes came from the remixes, and that certainly says something about the album and its perception. Open, mutable, malleable? Maybe these alternate takes, these translations, don’t even speak to The Moon Rang Like A Bell, but reference something else; an external commonality between methodologies of music. It’s difficult to say, but what is abundantly clear is that Hundred Waters, a strange signee for OWSLA, inspired an equally odd and diverse set of remixes.

Track List:

  1. Show Me Love (Nicole Miglis Acoustic)
  2. Murmurs (Brandt Brauer Frick Remix)
  3. Cavity (Shigeto Remix)
  4. Out Alee (Plaid Remix)
  5. Inncocent (Illangelo's Confessional Remix)
  6. Broken Blue (Dirty Beaches Remix)
  7. Chambers (bvdub's Two Hearts Apart)
  8. Down From The Rafters (Huxley Remix)
  9. [Animal] (Siriusmo Remix)
  10. Seven White Horses (Trayer Remix)
  11. Xtalk (Kodak to Graph Remix)
  12. No Sound (Paul & Zach's Waltz)
Hundred Waters - The Moon Rang Like a Bell Remixed Review
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Our Rating

67 / 100
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