Completely unexpectedly, LCD Soundsystem chose to release an accompanying remix album to 2007’s compilation/mix album 45:33. This is unexpected and a bit odd because of two reasons:
1. 45:33 was a sort of mix album. There were no real songs to speak of.
2. LCD Soundsystem has two splendid full-length albums in their catalogue already, both containing an array of songs that is, and have been, easily remixed (not to speak ofreleased and officially dropped too).
When Nike released 45:33 through its own little music store on iTunes, marketed as a running mix, I never quite got the hang of its awkward space disco jamming. It didn’t quite help me run better, even though I certainly had a lot more fun than if I would’ve run without any other hipster groove in my ears. When DFA then released the CD version, on which the different parts of the mix have been given their own tracks on the disc, I never quite got the hang on how I was going to groove to it as I should: in the living room with the help of my involuntarily retro, late 80’s stereo. It was, as frontman James Murphy himself had remarked, as brilliant as any of LCD Soundsystem’s other studio work. It was just that it was so stuck in between a jogging entity listen that references the length of Daft Punk’s first live album Alive 1997, and a self-aware and extended “good taste” home listening music jam that references John Cage’s composition “4’33”.
Will an eight-track remix compilation help me find some sort of balance in my eagerness to categorize this peculiar release? Probably not. 45:33 Remixes is something completely else. I don’t even have to listen halfway into the first track to understand and calculate the outcome of this disc and the conclusion I’m about to reach. It’s not as brilliant, but paradoxically it’s an album that’s easier to put into a decent jogging context and/or an enjoyable after hours chill out session at home. The equation is, however, a lot easier to solve than the first glance may mislead us to think.
Minimal doesn’t belong to the overrated, underachieving DJ feeling he was born in the wrong European country and wishing that his (Her? Unlikely, I’m afraid.) explicit taste and oh so unique skills will be discovered and picked up by Kompakt… anymore. A crossover of techno, house and electro in its most embryonic state is no longer the freshest kid around. It’s been on a well-needed recession for the last three years or so. Disco-revivalism is the heir and, once again but in another fashion, in grooves we trust. Something that 45:33 Remixes must be credited for showcasing so fascinatingly well.
Minimal techno has since its rise in the late 90s been a playground for even the most inexperienced producers. From building tracks with particle-sized elements in a Lego-like fashion a lot of creativity has been released. It’s inevitable that with the comfortable restraint, lowered level of standard in effort and minimalistic structure the pure techno model provides, the producers end up with pieces that are very, very, very reminiscent, if not identical, of each other. Oh, how many ace singles haven’t been tastelessly paired with a minimal B-side remix version and how many remix compilations haven’t been harassed by nonsense, microscopical yet teasingly lengthy fodder?
This album isn’t haunted by such stripped-down, time-consuming parasites narrowly squeezing into the remix suit. Thank the disco-revivalism, of which DFA has been one of the leading labels, for that! Rhythmic grooves normal people can dance to, tribal drums that are so chic and crisp beats au natural are initially greeted as saviors after this long, dark rule of basslines that almost no portable speakers are able to deliver and dubby soundscapes spotted with arbitrary electronic fuzzing and buzzing. Yet, what’s the use of such a shift of government if the new one only uses new means to achieve the same goals?
Runaway has gotten the trust from his label to start the album off. How does he repay them? By offering the flagship of DFA with a lame excuse for a remix that barely reaches the standards of a lounge-y rerub based on the near 11-minute fourth track and mid-section of the original mix CD, I’m afraid. This particular, original spaced out krautdisco piece has for some reason and a bit unjustly become the favorized material source of choice for the remixers contributing to this albu. Prince Language, on the other hand, invented his own beat to lead the nice, old skool and constantly cycling trio consisting of the soulful female vocals, electro-funky synth tweaks and ridiculously elegant horn section. Unfortunately he then let this string of material more or less run for about 12 minutes (!) and it’s annoying since it’s not much more than one of those typical, unpretentious but to its size, epic, mosaic grooves primarily used to shake off the last club brats in the wee hours of the morning. It’s danceable and infectious… the first five minutes.
Another prince pitstops for another one of his popular tracks in the Diskomiks series. Prins Thomas, being the most renowned remixer here, was expected to do more than add a minimal rhythm and muffled bass drum to accompany the background’s reworked vocal ambience of the mix CD’s relaxation part. Also being the producer owing most to the popularity of the minimal dance scene in Europe, he falls a little flat with this latest edition of his disco crossover potential.
Not even Pilooski, being the other renowned name on the list, manages to take 45:33‘s 45 minutes worth (!) of remix material and create something truly original but stay PC and fall into line showing the other, completely obscure side of the same coin of his that gave him the simplistic but heureka-inducing hit re-edit of “Beggin'”. Disappointingly it pretty much continues in this very unfortunate and converging nu-tribal disco vein all the way through this weird way to fill out time inbetween released on DFA. Fonky basslines mix with spacey futuristic disco sensibilities that are much more bland than they sound on paper. The only remix that really stands out is the one made by Padded Cell that is the only one using the original second track’s vocal feats and distinguished semi-house-piano.
In days when the success of a release can be measured in the amount of remixes it spawns, and when remixes are hard currency on the market, 45:33 Remixes doesn’t ease up the climate nor spur any creativity. These eight repetitive and rather savorless remixes flow together in their own blurry and hazy way to the point when this album can be tagged as avant-garde lounge. In carefully sized doses, this sort of almost literally mind-blowing and comfortably numbing disco groove can actually be pretty enjoyable, but this is just too big a spoonful of minimal techno detox medicine. To be honest, the most appropriate audience this may be aimed at is carefree hipsters searching for some nu to put in front of (or play inside) their lounge. It’s not even recommended to those in abstinence, awaiting the new LCD Soundsystem album.
Compact Kompakt-techno is on its way out after years of overexposure, overuse and overrating. DFA and their currently peaking capitalization of the disco-revival “movement” are hoping to strike from a clear blue sky. What this disc may perhaps forebode is that the same mistakes are about to be made.