Considering that the art of the remix is one of the cornerstones of House and Techno, remixes themselves have long been something I’ve felt ambivalent about. For every remix that takes the original and reworks it into new and fantastic shapes, there are ten others that bring nothing new to the song. In some senses remixes occupy a similar space to cover versions within rock music – whilst, it has to be said, maintaining a different function. With covers, I have often found myself frustrated by bands that approach the discipline by either rendering a note perfect facsimile of another artists vision or, even worse, turn it in to a god awful acoustic version that has no purpose except to show us how deep, soulful and sensitive the musicians are. It amazes me how often the vastly different dynamics of an acoustic piece are ignored in favour of simply twatting out the same song on acoustic gear. MTV Unplugged has so much to answer for there should be trials in the Hague.
Within electronic music we are lucky that we don’t tend to have to worry about that sort of thing, but as an art many producers seem unwilling to step too far out of the shadow of the original. A remix should surely be more than a simple reworking of pitch or tempo or sound. It should, instead, be as much the remixers own interpretation of the themes and feels of the original as anything else even if the original piece has to be stripped away into nothingness. Many years ago the Aphex Twin raised eyebrows when he claimed that when remixing the work of a now probably long forgotten Indy band he had left nothing of the original but a single snare sound. He had simply cut away the melody, the rhythm and everything else that would have been recognisable to the original artist. At the time the general consensus seemed to be ‘it’s the Aphex Twin. He’s mad, isn’t he?’. Well, He might be as mental as a badger in a bin but in this case he is right.
The original version of Jazzanova’s That Night is a piece of weirdly dystopian future jazz that floats and falls on the vocal by Victor Duplaix. It’s part snapping electro-soul, part Chet Baker and part Berlin club music from the early years of the Millennium. It’s a nice tune, rather caught up in its own adventures, but with a heart and soul that lightens the slight wankiness of its concept.
While The Wahoo remix never goes to quite the extremes of our much loved and missed Cornish bampot, it cuts away at all the extraneous flesh of the original leaving little but the vocals. Then the rebuilding starts. It works slowly, a long intro that seems to meander a little too much before the glorious bassline arrives. It’s pure Detroit but of Motown rather than Model 500; a deep, prowling thing that holds the tune upon its broad but graceful shoulders and transforms the jazziness of the original into a barely contained slab of prime late night house that owes as much to disco as to later electronic music. The vocals are reframed, giving the laidback (but still direct) strut of the music an emotional core that is often lacking in simpler, less interesting remixes. The result is a tune that pulses with vibrancy and poignancy. Exceptional.
Before I go I’d also like to recommend the version featuring Clara Hill on vocal duties. It goes the other way, removing almost all the electronics and reducing the music down into a stark and haunting jazz work that lingers in the deepest and very darkest hours of the night. In it’s own way every bit as exciting as the magic Wahoo works.