I think this is the second or third time I’ve written about Hardfloor and remixes. I’m not sure what it is about this perennial German duo – still the Status Quo of acid techno – that makes their music so fitting as either the remixer or the remixee, but for a very long time now these shadowy arts have been an important part of their myth.
Of course, in the early days when they were very much the flavour of the month. On the back of Acperience’s vast, genre defining success, their was a queue for their services that stretched all the way from the deepest underground to the very top of the charts. The last time we visited it was to hear their reworking of Rising High Collective’s Fever Called Love, a tune that still remains one of my all time favourites, not least for the way it combines a searing, peak time vocal with some truly funky acid drenched mayhem. That tune, though, was just a single facet of their skill, and remains less well known than some of their other success – undeservedly; the remixes of Mory Kante’s Yeke Yeke, or Robert Armani’s Circus Bells are both far better known, yet both lack the fluid grace and soul of Fever Called Love. Perhaps the difference is that Fever… lends itself to a remix better, having never been as famous in the first place as either of those two monsters.
The flip side is Hardfloor’s own work being remixed. Surely a worrying proposition for any artist. I call them the Status Quo of acid techno only slightly in jest. Like the ancient denim armoured rock act, Hardfloor have become synonymous with a style which is easy to ape yet hard to copy, and at its heart – for all the hundreds of 303s employed on each record – is a relatively simple formula. Sometimes harder in tone, sometimes lighter, but always recognizably Hardfloor – a form of acid that for all its techno leanings is very much of the early European acid house scene. When the synths roll in, the chords are big, and the mood of hands in the air abandon and joy is often painted in with the widest brush, and part of the fun it that it’s often so knowingly naive; primary colours accented by clever gradients and shading. Various artists, from Surgeon to Armando, have tried their hand at remixing the masters over the years, but very few reworkings have been that great. It’s like they just miss the point slightly.
Interestingly, the best of their remixes have been down to electro producers, and the slim body of tunes which have landed in the hands of the break beat contingent seem to have a better time of capturing something of Hardfloor’s tone. Egyptian Lover, Boris Divider, Morphology and a few others have a great success redefining the music. I suspect that the reasons for this are simple. While those mentioned primary colours, the big shapes and the big sounds, are important, the electro brigade have understood the shifting tones and moods of the acid storm, the way they inform – sometimes almost invisibly – Hardfloor’s music. Electro, especially the electro of the last 20 years, has often made such unsteady landscape its home. It’s a natural partnership even though, at first glance, it might not seem it.
My favourite remix of a Hardfloor track – hell, one of my favourite remixes by anyone – is ERP’s reworking of The Life We Chose. It perhaps helps a little bit that the original track is rather atypical of Hardfloor, with its loose breakbeats, deepened, darkened synths, and bubbling, tightly restrained 303s.
But the remix takes all that and stretches it out to the horizon. This goes beyond what a remix is expected to do and utterly redefines the scope of the track. It’s a vast burst of light; grainy and flooded with almost too much contrast, with the 303s pushing up and away, rudely framing the beats as they suck away at your oxygen. But neither the breaks nor the curling acid lines are the point, as wonderful, as precise as they are. No, what makes the tune so heartlessly beguiling is the growing cloud banks of the synths, like a gathering storm on the very edge of the world. Ancient, tired even, but endlessly swirling with mournful, beautiful, majesty. It’s so effective it moves the track beyond any discussion of genre or remixing, deepness or groove. It simply is.