Oceanic: Remixes & Reinterpretations (2 Disc Set)
posted on 4/2005 By:
The material on Oceanic: Remixes and Reinterpretations was originally released in extremely limited, vinyl-only serial installments, each of which contained three tracks. Thankfully, Aaron Turner’s Hydra Head has released the complete set on CD to appease the vinylly-challenged. The remix is a dicey proposition. Change too much and little if any of the song’s original persona remains. Change too little and the effort is left feeling duplicative and gratuitous. This balance is further complicated when the source material is as well thought of and near perfect as Isis’ Oceanic. Remixes are a mixed blessing and nearly always superfluous, and fans will view the concept of this collection with conflicted interest, being excited about the opportunity to have new outlets to enjoy an album they love, contrasted by feeling of trepidation that these interlopers may have simply fucked up a perfectly good song. The nice thing about this collection of remixes is the quantity of material—although it’s priced as a single album, this collection contains two discs, which combine for a total of 13 tracks spanning 90 minutes. With such an abundance of material fans are sure to feel as though they are getting their money’s worth, even if they view some tracks as extraneous.
The material is split between remixes built on phrases and segments of the original material, and ambient reinterpretations that barely resemble the original songs. Individually, these ambient tracks are typically less interesting, mostly because they don’t feel as connected to Oceanic, but in the context of the collection the majority of these songs work, and go a long way to break up the choppy nature of the other remixes. The other reason that this division of tracks works so well is that it mirrors the character of Oceanic, which captures so perfectly the tidal nature of contrasting heaviness and lulling melodies. One song offers the best of both worlds, as James Plotkin’s (Khanate, Atomsmasher) “The Other” pulls threads from the original track and manipulates and draws them out into a carousel of echoing atmosphere. Teledubgnosis makes a go of “Maritime” with ambient droning humming layered over celestial waves, before transitioning into an echoing bass guitar, snare/cymbal loop. Fennesz’ “Weight” employs a Doppler-like advancing and receding ambience, while Thomas Koner’s version of “Hym” has a simmering ruminative vibe. Also weighing in with ambient works are Destructo Swarmbots, with the noisy “From Sinking to Drowning”, and Tim Hecker, who contributes two My Bloody Valentine-esque reworkings of “Carry”.
Artists contributing some of the more loyal reworkings include Justin Broadrick (Jesu, Godflesh), Mike Patton (nearly every band), and Oktopus from crossover hip-hop constructionists Dalek. Oktopus’ take on “False Light” has dense layers of samples and a laid back, electronic drum loop. Phrases of harsh vocal lines and peculiar elongated tones create verses for the song. Mike Patton’s version of “Maritime” is the remix that most clearly resembles the identity of its creator (although Broadrick’s is a close second). Already one of the more lucid moments on Oceanic, Patton’s version contains his falsettoed crooning to create a dreamy, loungish feel that is reminiscent of his Mr. Bungle’s California. He mixes it up toward the end of the track, building a heavier, swaying melody with thick programming and bongos that contribute a world feel. One of the more unique pieces is Ayal Naor’s (who guested on Oceanic) version of “False Light (Carry Edit)”, a dark and menacing remix that melds the two songs together and showcases the originally buried gorgeous and heartfelt female vocal work of Maria Christopher. DJ Speedranch also takes a stab at “Carry” (“Like I Will Love Her Forever? (Fuckin Die!)”, but with much different methodology. This version is much more discordant and choppy, beginning with a child reciting part of Humpty Dumpty before leaping into crashing samples of guitars and vocals. This track again places greater emphasis on the female vocals and has a nice interplay between the sweet and fragile female vocals and Turner’s aggressive barks. The collection closes with one of the definitive highlights of the album, Broadrick’s expansive reworking of “Hym”. This is his second crack at remixing the work of Isis, after reinterpreting “Celestial” for the band’s Sgnl>05 album. The fifteen-minute “Hym” opens with a lengthy segment of the droning, spiritual sounding vocal lines of the original track. The song gradually builds with more aggressive and choppy looped chords and ambience, before becoming minimalist again in the middle of the song and rebuilding in a slow and leisurely manner.
Although a slightly bloated and uneven listening experience when played from start to finish, Oceanic: Remixes and Reinterpretations is worthwhile for serious fans of Oceanic. It is a curiosity that may not see frequent spins, but is an interesting way to reconnect with the masterful Oceanic in a different way.
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