Various Artists “I Put A Time Bomb In Your Submarine” (Bearsuit Records, 2014)
Bearsuit has been releasing intriguingly eclectic electronica. Their latest serves as both a “new” album as well as an introductory retrospective designed to illustrate the scope of their catalogue by featuring (sometimes radical) remixes of key tracks from some of their most key artists. [While the originals are spread throughout the two dozen or so releases in their catalogue, newbies are also directed towards the Run Over By An Elevator compilation from 2012 to get a taste of what lurks within the hearts and minds of the original artists whose work is plundered, rearranged and dissected within these grooves.] So let’s dive in, shall we? The British-Japanese trio Anata Wa Sukkari Tsukarete Shimai’s ‘Doll’ already sounds like it was tossed through the blender before Senji Niban and Cardiff’s Mice Girls got ahold of it, so the former’s hypnotic loop and disembodied voices and the latter’s spooky, spacey lo-fi electronica are right on target and, like most of this “tribute”, provide enjoyable alternative universe listening pleasures. The same applies to Asuka Tanaka’s remix of the trio’s otherworldly disembodied voices that lie at the heart of ‘Invalid Bed’.
Strasbourg’s Greguy offers a more contemplative take on synthy electronica via ‘An American Way of Life’ from his Minor Injury album, and Ryota Mikami builds on its New Romantic, Depeche Mode (ca. Black Celebration) sensibilities, while the ambient, Eno-inspired, piano-driven navel gazing romanticism of Hidekazu quiet “A Shout Away” is reimagined as a glitchy hiccough in Stricknice’s remix that quite frankly, zaps all the beauty from the original. And I’m sorry to also report that 0point1 sucks the life out of the Whiz Kid’s playful ‘Circus Juice’ by again dissecting it into looped, glitch segments that seem more academic than fun. On the other hand, Utu Lauttauri, Broken Bubble Gum, and Gritty Glitter have successfully captured the Stars Wars-inflected animated sounds of Haq’s ‘Jikan Ga Nai’, effectively bottling its arcade sounds into four minutes of evocative fun.
Ryota Mikami also focuses on the female vocals that are at the heart of Bunny & The Electric Horsemen’s ‘Snowflakes’, twisting and turning them into airborn snatches of icy ennui and industrial cacophony that Bunny and her horsemen will no doubt appreciate. And speaking of the feminine voice, they don’t come any sexier than Léa Cervini’s ethereal cooing on the original title track of Greguy’s Minor Injury, so it’s almost sacrilegious for Shinamo Moki to mess with and almost dispose of it altogether. But I’m glad that Ullapul pretty much left the dreamy aspects of Wakabayashi and Nono’s ‘Family’ intact. Newcomers may best appreciate the more Earthbound creations of Wakabayashi and Nono or the Whiz Kid’s playfulness on such toy piano-driven eccentricities as ‘Kid Santa’, even if LTPimo and Jupiter’s Child’s 60-second remix of the latter leaves a puzzled look on your face! I mean, 60 seconds!? What’s the point? Or, maybe that IS the point! And Mark Tamea’s even-quieter version of Harold Nono’s ‘A Bigger Spider’ may be even more frighteningly anxiety-inducing than the original. You can almost feel those eight legs creepy-crawling up your spine while you aren’t watching...!
As with any collection of remixes, the success factor is directly proportional to your expectation. Do you want the remixers to radically reinterpret the original, perhaps finding something in the grooves that the composer overlooked…or do you want a faithfully-executed reproduction, albeit with different instruments or cultural interpretations? Bearsuit prides itself on bridging the British and Oriental (typically Japanese) electronic scenes, so having one culture reimagine the musical compositions of another is an exciting idea. The fact that many of these projects already consist of international artists often recording via the Internet or email contact makes the collaborations/remixes less radical than one might expect, and makes the perfectly-titled I Put A Bomb In Your Submarine a lot more fun than it has a right to be. It might clear a few rooms at parties and is rarely going to get your guests out on the dance floor, but for a more cerebral approach to what can be done on the re-manufacturing front of the experimental electronica scene, it’s hard to beat.
Review made by Jeff Penczak/2014
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