Tracey Thorn – Out of the Woods

After a gap of twenty-five years, filled only by an entire musical career with Everything But The GirlTracey Thorn returned ten years ago this week with her second solo album Out of the Woods.

It opens with the sweet, nursery rhyme-like Here it Comes Again. I haven’t heard her 1982 debut A Distant Shore, but I think it’s probably safe to say that it sounded a lot less polished than this. It’s laid back though, and lacks some of the electronic sound of her work with Everything But The Girl, so the opening riff of A-Z will be very welcome if that’s the kind of thing you’re looking for. It’s a great synth song, very different but every bit as good as anything Thorn had done in the preceding couple of decades.

The lead single was It’s All True, a collaboration with Ewan Pearson and another great synthpop song. It’s a lot more playful than you might be used to, but it’s still extremely good. And the collaboration obviously worked out – Pearson produced the entirety of Thorn’s subsequent album Love and Its Opposite (2010).

Get Around to It is a cover of a song by Arthur Russell, which is a little harder to fathom than some of the other things on here, and then Hands Up to the Ceiling is a wonderfully ironic, largely acoustic piece about partying.

Thorn worked with a wide range of different collaborators on this album, and it shows, both for better and worse – it’s a deliciously varied collection, but it can be a little hit or miss at times too. Easy is one of the better pieces on here, full of atmosphere and melancholy, and Falling Off a Log may not be the catchiest ever, but it has an enormous bass part and some clever production too.

Nowhere Near passes you by fairly anonymously, but Grand Canyon, which rightly appeared as the album’s third single with a whole pile of remixes, is probably as close as this album gets to the likes of Missing – it has a catchy but sad melody, with an enormous house riff in the background, and frankly it’s fantastic.

The production on the more folk-flavoured tracks is fun too, and it’s probably fair to say this would be less of an album without them, but on the other hand By Piccadilly Station I Sat Down and Wept is definitely a lot less memorable than Raise the Roof, which follows, and also appeared as the second single.

Amazingly though, this is such a varied album that you probably didn’t notice this was the last track already. Digital editions added a beautifully broken down cover of Pet Shop Boys‘ King’s Cross, which later appeared as a single in its own right with a fantastic remix by Hot Chip, but you don’t get that on the CD unfortunately.

Apart from that notable omission, Out of the Woods is a great second album, and an extremely promising way for Thorn to revitalise her career.

Buy the digital version of Out of the Woods here, or buy the CD but then make sure you add King’s Cross on for yourself – it’s a key part of this album.

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Vinyl Moments – Röyksopp

There’s something particularly Nordic about Röyksopp. Somehow their music really captures the cold, lonely, and deeply beautiful pine forests and fjords. For this Vinyl Moment, I decided to start with the lovely Someone Else’s Club Mix of Remind Me.

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This is a curious single – Side A clocks in at well under four minutes, and for some reason runs at 45 RPM while Side B is 33. I’ve reflected previously on what might have happened with this version, and can only conclude that it’s a work in progress between the original version and the Someone Else’s Radio Mix that brought Röyksopp to my attention back in 2002. What would become the chorus – the “remind oh remind oh remind me” part – is still hiding in the middle section, and the squealy synth part that was originally where the chorus ought to be is still here.

So it’s maybe not quite as good as the final radio version, but it’s still very good indeed. From the second 12″ of the same single (or it might be the first – who knows which way around they’re meant to be heard?) I picked Ernest Saint Laurent‘s pleasant Moonfish Mix, an electro version which skips most of the lyrics, but still explores some interesting territory over its seven minute duration.

I don’t recall being entirely convinced about either side of the two-track promo for Sparks, so on a whim I picked Derrick Carter‘s So B.H.Q. remix of So EasySparks was an awkward final single from Melody AM, with some very odd remix choices, and this is a particularly curious one, although it’s better than I remembered. It’s mainly built on some tribal beats and a funky acid bassline, working around the computerised “so easy” from the introduction. There’s even the occasional hint of the original melody here and there, if you listen very carefully. I’m still not sure how much I like it, but it isn’t too bad.

Jumping ahead a couple of years, we arrive at the “difficult” second album, and its exceptional lead hit Only This Moment. The remixes were a mixed bag, but I opted for Alan Braxe and Fred Falke‘s version on Side A of the 12″ single. This mix turns out to be a massive, throbbing deep house reworking of the original, which is actually reasonably good, in spite of some slightly awkward chord changes.

The 7″ single for Only This Moment provides something very special – at the time, it would have been the first taste of the adorable What Else is There? but even now it’s an exclusive edit, which is something to treasure. Hidden away on Side B of a long-forgotten single, it sounds particularly fantastic, although it does end rather suddenly, leaving you wanting the unedited version.

Second single 49 Percent delivers another selection of remixes, and I decided to go for Ewan Pearson‘s Glass Half Full remix. It’s an interesting version, mainly building on the original by adding some more beats and bonus noises here and there. It works though – this is every bit as good as the original version.

Last but not least, the curious 7″ picture disc of 49 Percent, for the time being the last Röyksopp single that I own on vinyl, which I’m pretty sure I’ve never actually listened to before. As its b-side, it includes a track which also appeared on the bonus disc of The Understanding. Maybe it’s not as good as most of the things on the album, but it’s still pretty uplifting, and it makes a pretty strong statement to conclude this first run of Vinyl Moments.

So for now, Go Away. The next series of Vinyl Moments will follow in the New Year.

Music for the Masses 30 – 2 February 2005

For the seven-week Spring term of 2005, Music for the Masses returned with a Wednesday slot, and was an entirely relaxed affair, with the presenter sitting back and operating the controls with his legs crossed. Or maybe I was just posing for the webcam – it’s difficult to know for sure.

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Show 30: Wed 2 Feb 2005, from 6:05pm-8:00pm

Broadcast on LSR FM, online only. Retrospective of 2004, with predictions for 2005 (no artist of the week).

  • Kings of Convenience – Misread
  • Delerium feat. Zoë Johnston – You & I
  • Goldfrapp – Strict Machine
  • Depeche Mode – Enjoy the Silence (Ewan Pearson Extended Remix)
  • Dirty Vegas – Human Love
  • Bent – I Can’t Believe it’s Over
  • Air – Another Day
  • Zero 7 – Home
  • Duran Duran – (Reach Up for the) Sunrise
  • Mylo – Drop the Pressure
  • Basement Jaxx – Good Luck
  • Télépopmusik – Love Can Damage Your Health
  • Röyksopp – So Easy
  • Lemon Jelly – Only Time
  • Moby – Lift Me Up
  • Daft Punk – Around the World
  • New Order – Ruined in a Day (K-Klass Remix)
  • Erasure – No Doubt
  • Faithless – Why Go?
  • Client – It’s Rock & Roll
  • Sohodolls – Prince Harry
  • Ladytron – Seventeen
  • Deep Forest – Will You Be Ready?

Various Artists – Electrospective (The Remix Album)

There are times when I really enjoy writing these reviews, and others when I wonder why I put myself through this. There’s really only one rule – I have to listen to the entire album in order while I write the review. Earlier this year I reviewed the original Electrospective compilation in its full glory, and now it’s the turn of its companion remix album.

Inevitably a remix album is always going to be a hit or miss affair, with occasional forgotten gems and occasional dross mixed in alongside one another. And so this is – but at worst, this is a journey through the story of the remix, from the early 80s extended versions to the modern reinventions, with everything in between.

Electrospective (The Remix Album) begins its first disc firmly in the 1980s, full of handclaps and drum solos, with the original 12″ versions of Heaven 17‘s Penthouse and PavementTalking Loud and Clear by OMD, and Talk Talk‘s original US mix of It’s My Life. Of these, it is the third which truly shines – perhaps because it’s the best song of this bunch anyway, or perhaps because there really is something special about this mix.

The next bunch are less exciting – Malcolm McLaren‘s Madam Butterfly drags rather over its ten minute duration, and Vicious Pink‘s Cccan’t You See and Grace Jones‘s I’m Not Perfect (But I’m Perfect for You) do little to pick things up – this is left instead to Buffalo Stance by Neneh Cherry, although Kevin Saunderson‘s techno take on this has nothing on the original.

By thus stage we’re firmly in the late eighties, an age of big shoulder pads, big string pads, and orchestral hits. Derrick May‘s club mix of Good Life by Inner City is every bit as good as the original, as is François Kevorkian‘s reworking of Personal Jesus by Depeche Mode.

But for something that’s supposed to be a chronicle of “the remix” there are some odd omissions – where’s Shep Pettibone hiding? Where are all the DMC remixes? There’s a lot missing, but in a way this feels more effective as a companion album to Electrospective than a guide to what it means to be a remix.

François Kevorkian turns up again for the next track, the totally brilliant 1990 remix of Yazoo‘s Situation, after which disc one closes with a couple of disappointments – a thoroughly unexciting version of Soul II Soul‘s Back to Life and The Orb‘s rather misguided take on Crystal Clear by The Grid. Although it is very nice to see The Grid on a compilation like this.

By disc two, we are firmly into the mid 1990s. The first track is a brilliant remix which I hadn’t heard before of William Orbit‘s incredible Water from a Vine Leaf, and another surprise follows – the amusingly energetic Cappella Club Mix of Always by Erasure.

The rest of the 1990s are less well represented, with a good but somewhat unexciting Brothers in Rhythm take of Reach by Judy CheeksPaul van Dyk‘s reworking of Passion by Amen! UK, which starts off promisingly but in the long run doesn’t really go anywhere. Then there’s Deep Dish with a pretty poor version of Wrong by Everything But the Girl.

Finally, we work our way towards the end of the decade with unremarkable versions of Around the World by Daft Punk (remixed by Masters at Work), Telex‘s Moskow Diskow remixed by Carl Craig, and the slightly better Simple Minds‘s Love Song.

Before this review turns any more into an extended track listing, we should reflect a little on what we’ve heard. Where the original collection brought together thirty years of electronic hits, this one consists of thirty years of remixed electronic hits. And if that’s the goal, it’s pretty successful. It’s not comprehensive, and neither is it particularly amazing, but it is fun to listen to, and many of the tracks which were chosen are rare and unusual, which is all very worthwhile.

The last few tracks take us firmly into the 21st century, and the inclusion of one of The Human League‘s 2003 remixes (The Sound of the Crowd) is a pleasant surprise, even if the version itself is nothing special. On the other hand, Ewan Pearson‘s Strippedmachine version of Goldfrapp‘s Strict Machine is something incredibly special, and is a very welcome inclusion.

The closing tracks come in the form of Tom Neville‘s rather dull version of Kelis‘s Milkshake and the rather more entertaining Pass Out by Tinie Tempah – apparently he’s never been to Scunthorpe.

Ultimately, Electrospective (The Remix Collection) does what it says on the tin – it’s a fun journey through some selected remixes from the last three decades. Which is more than enough to make it an entirely worthwhile listen.

You can find Electrospective (The Remix Album) at Amazon here.