Chopping Timbre

The Art of the Indie-Rock Remix

But what do the knob twiddlers get out of working with something as retrograde as a band? New toys to play with. People playing instruments make interesting sounds (guitars! guitars are great!), and multiple sounds from the same song tend to be formally related in useful ways. Besides, since remixing is ultimately a derivative art, remixers get the advantage of association with whatever they use as their source. (That can be abused, even in indie circles: watch out for the forthcoming Low remix album owL[Vernon Yard/Caroline], a bunch of decent techno tracks with Low vocal or bass parts grafted on for the sake of cross-promotion.)

What's still missing, though, is a reversal of the process. It'd be great to hear more musicians who love the pop-song form (for its verbality, its concision, its convenient access to memory) and are comfortable with the wilder possibilities of the mix; who maybe aren't married to the postmodern dance; who understand that blanketing a song with amen breaks sounds as dumb now as shoehorning it into a house beat did in 1990; who treat exploration of the new electronic sounds as a means rather than an end. That's started to happen in the mainstream, with things like the last couple of Björk albums and even Brandy & Monica's Aphex-inflected single "The Boy Is Mine," but aside from Gastr Del Sol's semi-successful attempts to integrate Popp and pop into their final album and a few flashes of brilliance from Dub Narcotic Sound System and the Fall, it hasn't happened much yet down in the rock underground. C'mon, folks. Just try it. We'll even let you have your guitars back.

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