Wednesday, March 3, 2010

In Sea Remixes - Aarktica

In Sea Remixes

Silber Records.

SCQ Rating: 79%

Discovering In Sea on the cusp of winter paid some enormous dividends. Like an ode to the silence and stillness that snow brings, Jon DeRosa's latest full-length will always fit my early November memory of wandering Chinatown at 1AM; its careful drones and webs of guitar grimacing between buildings and sprinkling a first frost. What could’ve scored mountainous treks or, I don’t know, collapsing icebergs, ended up soundtracking my walk through concrete grays, which would seem like a waste if In Sea’s mood – graceful yet downtrodden – didn’t compel such honest surroundings. Those who, like me, basked in Aarktica’s cross-breezes of emotional numbness have unintentionally reaped another bonus: the eventual thaw.

A topic of discussion since the release of its parent record, In Sea Remixes collects a new take on each album track plus an appendix of ‘Am I Demon’ remixes initially plotted for a separate EP release. With a slew of talented contributors (among them Rameses III, Yellow6, and The Declining Winter), In Sea Remixes also boasts surprises uncommon of its recycled blueprint. Namely, this collection defies my usual disinterest in remixes. Whereas most remix compilations uproot sequencing and mood in favour of track-privatization (in other words, the act of artists covering their own asses, final product be damned), In Sea Remixes flows like the original record if Aarktica had been inspired by IDM and electronic pop. That spray of optimistic beams first borne on ‘Young Light’ gets vocals and a hazy makeover courtesy of Planar while Mason Jones reworks the title track with crisp post-rock percussion that compliments DeRosa’s echo-drenched guitars. If those aforementioned remixes successfully incorporate cousin-genres to In Sea’s rippling drones, Keith Canisius’ take on ‘Autumnal’ gets downright ballsy, crafting a subtle dance-beat with pitch-shifted, cut-up vocals. It’s a loose translation of the original but also one of the record’s top tracks. The greatest of these many revelations is that In Sea Remixes, despite its variety, flows like a more vivid, spontaneous companion, one which praises its source material while evoking the sounds of spring. From the melting tones of ‘LYMZ’ (by Slicnaton) and chirping birds of ‘Hollow Earth Theory’ (by Summer Cats) to the laptop beats and warm piano of ‘Onward!’ (by Yellow6), these remixes celebrate an end of hibernation, not to mention the begging question of where Jon DeRosa plans to go next.

At the risk of setting a precedent, it’s worth noting that not everything here comes up roses. James Duncan's remix of ‘When We're Ghosts’ is likely the most adventurous, what with its club-ready beats and random “fuck you!” snippets, but it nearly makes a late-bid to deride what is, for the most part, an exception to the Remix-Album-Rule. In these rare instances of lost focus, it’s the heavier contributions – deep drones by ThisQuietArmy and collaged chaos by Al Qaeda - that rope the release back on par with Aarktica’s densely shaped moods. And remaining true to the feel of In Sea isn’t so hard when DeRosa’s performances still sizzle beneath each of these renditions. A remix album that stands by its inspiration while reaching in several fruitful directions? I could get used to this.

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