What exactly is the point of a remix? Cynics would say it’s an easy way of filling up space on singles, or of making diehard fans pay up countless times for the same tune. When carried out in the right spirit, however, remixes can be an art form in their own right, highlighting aspects of a song that may have been buried or obscured in the original mix. On the other hand, of course, it can just be an ego trip for big-headed DJs. You pays your money, you takes your choice.
This selection of remixes from the ground-breaking Nation world dance label are, predictably, of variable quality. While there’s no doubting the spirit in which many of these tracks were remixed, big-name DJs like Justin Robertson and Andy Weatherall working for a pittance, or less, it’s worrying that many of the remixers have a higher profile than the artists they are reworking. When DJs who, let’s face it, spin records for a living, become more important than the people who actually create music you know priorities have become somewhat skewed.
That said, many of the remixes gathered together here, have been much-prized, not least Weatherall’s richly layered work on Uzma’s Yab Yum, one of Nation’s first releases and Mr Scruff‘s Latino-flavoured remix of Manchester group Yam Yam‘s The Spectacle, one of his first ever remixes.
Elsewhere producer / remixer Tony Thorpe, who has worked with the likes of Public Enemy, The KLF and The Residents, has opted for some intriguing combinations, most notably Joi remixed by Spring Heel Jack. This is one of those remixing marriages seemingly made in heaven, preserving the integrity of the original while adding some intriguing new musical textures and flavours.
There’s also DJ Scud‘s revamp of Asian Dub Foundation‘s Witness, hailed by the band as their greatest ever remix. Pressure Drop‘s mix of Fun>Da>Mental‘s The Last Gospel also results in a powerful version of this recent track, which was recorded during the Iraq war.
Other collaborations, however, are rather less successful. Justin Robertson’s remix of Transglobal Underground‘s International Times sounds as though he needs to get the plumbers in and the Elite Force remix of Recycler‘s Fuh 115, adds nothing, and possibly detracts, from the original.
Rather a mixed bag then, which tends to be the way with such projects. Still, there’s more than enough here to keep the collectors happy.