Owl Remix Low by Various Artists (Review)

The best way to enjoy this disk is not really so much as a Low record, but as a relatively well-done compilation of electronic and ambient music.
Owl Remix Low - Various

With a band like Low, actually remixing a song seems like it would be more interesting than just dropping in a dance beat (which is what remixing comes to mean too many times), seeing as how context and economy are central to this particular band. This being a band that makes most acoustic acts seem downright overblown. (Though that’s far from hard to accomplish with the pompous unplugged “pASSion” of today’s modern rawk artists.)

Anyway, the best way to enjoy this disk is not really so much as a Low record, but as a relatively well-done compilation of electronic and ambient music with some way-better-than-usual vocals and accompanying textures. The appeal of a band like Low, at least for me, is the humanity, and though it’s cliched to say this, music based mostly in digital land may have a harder time conveying humanity (though many electronic artists probably aren’t going for a “human” sound anyways). The Porter Ricks track probably captures the Low spartan ethos best, he (they, really — as Mr. Ricks is actually Thomas Köner and Andy Mellweg) know(s) all about the subtle and near silent pleasures, from working with such groups as E.A.R.

Tranquility Bass, though they suffer from one of the worst names I’ve ever seen, turns in my favourite track with 3, “Over The Ocean.” Like another couple of tracks on this disk, the programmed beats seem actually constructed from previously played drum performances, rather than just the bleeps and bloops that come with most drum machines and samplers. This is a good thing. Alan and Mimi’s vocals are high in the mix, as they should be. However good this track is on its own merits though, the overall treatment of this song, and probably at least half of the ones on this disk, is going to incur wrath from a lot of Low purists.

Another positive on this disk is that the songs don’t come from just one Low record. The Bowery Electric Vertigo 2 CD, unfortunately, did. That sort of thing bugs me. It’s like all of a sudden a band makes one particular album “cool” enough for the keyboard and sampler people to mess with. It would take more guts to do something from a older album where perhaps the material isn’t so already tailored for reconstruction. It would definitely be “artsier,” and on this disk, that’s none too small a goal. What I mean by that is this, that a lot of times an artist makes a remix that seems irreverent or tasteless, just because they can.

Having said that, I don’t know if even that can explain how bad “Words” is rendered nauseatingly by Jimmy Somerville and Sally Herbert. YEESH!!! This piece is right off “How To Make Crappy Dance Music, Vol.1” Ok, who haven’t I offended yet, between acoustic feebs, tech-heads, and Low fans? At any rate, I give this disk THREE AND A HALF STARS.

Written by Pearson Greer.


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