Erik XVI, Stern-Gerlachs Versioner

[Highpoint Lowlife]


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Erik XVI’s Stern-Gerlachs Versioner, released in January on Highpoint Lowlife, compiles seven remixes of tracks from last year’s Stern-Gerlachs Försök EP. The collection is a veritable stylistic melting pot; the dystopian aura of the originals pervades but is filtered through everything from Dissident-style arpeggiator disco to dark garage. This sort of variety is a potential weakness: in pre-download days you might end up paying full price for a single quality track in a sea of duds. Luckily, the curatorial work here is impeccable, rewarding the versatile modern DJ with its diversity.

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TVO opens with the first of four remixes of “Unionens Sista Dagar,” delivering a frenetic techno version marked by bustling percussion that steadily piles on top of itself. An arpeggiated synthline snakes its way in, and eventually things are subdued by some placid chords, but for most of the duration it rests on the verge of overload Its hectic nature encapsulates the key problematic feature of this collection — certain tracks lose memorability because there’s simply too much happening. The efforts of Brassica and Ali Renault represent one of disco’s primary fixations in the latter half of the 00s: the redefinition of the oft-misused Italo tag as an imaginary landscape inclusive of creeping giallo soundtracks and Sky Records-style bearded kraut-boogie as much as nonchalant dance-pop. Both artists recorded for the late label Dissident, one of the most emblematic purveyors of this sound, and so it’s hardly surprising that both contributions contain that familiar sinister chug. Although it’s labeled a mix Brassica’s effort is apparently a cover, a combination of an overdriven Hawkwind-does-disco bass line, murky vocals and lilting synths, culminating in a track that should fit snugly in the collections of the label’s fans. Renault’s remix is very similar, retaining many of Brassica’s propulsive elements and the general noirish vibe, sounding a bit like what the former producer would have come up with had he simply remixed the track.

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In somewhat of a curveball, the track’s fourth remix is given to nu-garage producer Hot City. It’s a dynamic mover that ought to fit in with the glut of heavily percussive dance music coming from the United Kingdom lately, and laced with a tightly funky bass line and a cold minimal synth melody, it’s the most obvious dance floor tune in the collection. Spatial’s mix of “Kalabaliken i Bender” is characteristically sparse, succeeding on sheer rhythmic finesse. As pleasing as many of the contributions here are, his mix stands out for its elegant minimalism. Pared down to drums, synth stabs, fragmented vocals, and precious little else, you’re forced to engage with all of it, rather than struggling to pick out an element to follow. Furthermore, while the others are generally bass line driven, Spatial utilizes very subtle tones, just enough to add some weight without encumbering the dance. Gravious’ rework of “Gravitationskraftens Stilla Vrede” gels the opposing sides of the prior remixes. Rhythmically, it’s a half-step shuffle with deep subs, but atop this foundation rest all manner of doom-laden sounds, overdriven guitar and vocoder croak lending it a similar feel to the Dissident guys’ tracks. Lastly, Bill Ambrose concludes the release with an electro mix of “Gravitationskraftens…,” which matches most of the other contributions in intensity, the darkly funky bass line rearing its head again while an array of elements are dumped on top. It isn’t hugely progressive or memorable, but it will seamlessly fit into an eclectic Optimo-inspired set. Again, the collection is a mixed bag, but one that truly squeezes the most out of Erik XVI’s originals, a solid effort at cultivating a singular vibe through an array of styles.

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