nthposition online magazine

'26 mixes for cash' by Aphex Twin

by Ian Simmons

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Aphex Twin has long been a much sought-after remixer, and he is refreshingly upfront about his motives for doing this: he gets paid, hence the title of this CD. It gathers a diverse array of his remixes from right across the board, from megastars (Philip Glass and David Bowie, Nine Inch Nails) to losers (Jesus Jones) and complete obscurities (Buck Tick?). So, what does this reveal about Aphex? Well, mainly that he can make almost anything sound like an Aphex Twin track. More than a few of the tracks here bear absolutely no trace of the track from which they were remixed - Jesus Jones' Zeroes and Ones appears to have evaporated entirely, leaving a pleasantly ambient shadow, but then this is not surprising for someone who once palmed off the Lemonheads with a hastily grabbed DAT of something completely unrelated when the courier turned up for a remix he'd forgotten ever agreeing to do. He then claimed that he'd actually compressed the original track into a snare sound and built the rest round it. The Lemonheads never released it. He quite unashamedly admits that some of the tracks here have no relation to the supposedly "remixed" item. There are two Nine Inch Nails remixes of which he says "I never heard the originals, I still haven't. I don't want to either, or my remixes for that matter." While this might seem pretty slovenly and appalling, given the bands in question, replacing them entirely with Aphex Twin has to be a big improvement, and from what I know of Nine Inch Nails, it certainly is (The Lemonheads piece isn't on here). Putting lots of tracks of this kind together does, however, reveal the weakness in Aphex Twin's remix strategy: given something to rework, it seems his first response is to whack a big, rough-hewn, chunky beat up-front and then fragment the track in the background. Sometimes this works - his ram-raid on dull shoegazer's (was there ever any other kind?) Curve gives them a dazzling rhythmic drive which he then drapes in a plush choral multitracking of Toni Halliday's vocals which are transmuted into almost pure tone. It doesn't show much regard for the band, but an excellent eye for what can be salvaged from the turgor. Likewise his spiffy reinvention of German Goths, Philip Boa and the Voodoo club. Tricked out in restless drum and bass rhythms and synth washes, the vocals reduced to an ethereal, distant skein in the background, it hugely improves on the original. Elsewhere, though, it seems dismissive, and an excuse for not engaging with the source material, but given the state of some of it, who can blame him? Mike Flowers Pops, anyone? Where he does care about the track, the results cam be truly outstanding, his remix of Philip Glass' reimagining of Bowie's Heroes is extraordinary. Aphex manages to reconstruct it completely, yet remain true to the original song and the Glass reinterpretation - a shimmering, vibrant tour de force. His affectionate reworking of two Meat Beat Manifesto tracks shows great affection too, but he comes badly unstuck with Gavin Bryars. The Big Drum remix of Sinking of the Titanic goes down with all hands; the grave beauty of the Bryars piece is submerged under a burst of tricksy beats and superfluous strings and flounders away in the background seemingly bearing no relation to the noise going on in the foreground. Oddly enough, he seems quite taken with DMX Crew's You Can't Hide Your Love, which retains its original vocal intact and at the front of the mix and remains pretty much a conventional light-weight pop song utterly unlike anything else here. Just when you think you have Aphex taped, he goes and does something to confound expectations.