Stadium Rock Electronica with a dash of Cowbell
The DFA Remixes: Chapter Two
The producing duo of Tim Goldsworthy and James Murphy that make up the DFA have released another collection of redone and undone tracks with "The DFA Remixes: Chapter Two" (Astralwerks). Clocking in at almost seventy-two minutes, the album journeys through a disparate but not dischordant pack of unlikely artists.
Opening with Montreal-based DJ Tiga Sontag's "Far From Home", the DFA have more than picked up the pace of the original, they've somehow anthemized a set of lyrics that wasn't even much of a chorus. The DFA did more than just turn up the tempo: from what was plodding and introspective rumination, the end result has an extroverted and confident kick. This is a much more organic take on the original with plenty of real drum sounds and a filtered/phased organ sound reminiscent of the Who's "Won't Be Fooled Again", think again: stadium rock anthem feel set to electronica layers.
Junior Senior's "Shake Your Coconuts" gets the full treatment in track two. Junior Senior is a ridiculously upbeat Danish duo that got some play in 2003 with a hilarious pixel animated video for their single "Move Your Feet". This is the kind of music my daughter loved to dance to when she was 3 years old – it's repetitive and hyper and she is on to more sophisticated fare now but I think that even she would appreciate what was done with this tune. Again, the DFA went with an organic start to what had previously been very electronic. There's a real bass playing on there, noodly electric guitars, and plenty of drums and bottles and, yes, cowbell. The DFA spares us a lot of the lyrics and the previously obnoxious chorus, and doles them out sparingly which makes this a much better experience.
While I love Hot Chip, I had always thought that their "Colours" single was weak and even the DFA can't save this one. I had similar feelings about N.E.R.D.'s "She Want's to Move" (from the "Fly or Die" album) but the treatment it received for this collection resurrected something I would normally FFWD through. The DFA got rid of a lot of the noise that had made this originally so annoying, the sirens and ridiculous guitar loop, and let it come back down to the beat and Pharrell Williams voice which is the real reason to listen to N.E.R.D. in the first place.
"The Hand That Feeds" via the DFA is the Nine Inch Nails song that every Goth would turn their back on. Supposedly this is the showpiece track of the collection. It certainly is the one that sticks out the most but it seems to be the most formulaic: a danced-up melody with the original vocals overlaid. I can't be too objective here because I like pretty much any danced-up track that the DFA does and this one still kicks butt. It's just bizarre to hear Trent Reznor's voice over it.
The final three recordings are much more homogenous, which is not a bad way to spend the final thirty minutes of a dance mix. Goldfrapp, who has a name that I like to say really loudly, provides the DFA with a chance to get all house-y on us with "Slide In", at least for the beginning before building to a typically satisfying DFA cacophonous jam for the final five minutes. "Destination Overdrive," by Chromeo, yet another Montreal-based electronica team, is vastly improved here – a heavier beat, a deleted guitar track, and reduced vocals makes one think they are listening to an actual song instead of a game of Pinbot. Tim Goldsworthy was involved in a previous incarnation of UNKLE, and they've allowed him and his new partner to take one of their contemporary tunes, "In A State", to new heights. The initial minute or two makes you think that you are about to embark on the typical, final chillout track of an electronica set, but you'd be wrong. It takes about three and a half minutes for the rhythm to be set up and a delightful final eight minutes takes you through several peaks and valleys, each different and more dynamic than the preceding.
Is "Chapter Two" better than "Chapter One"? Hard to say. While they are very different collections, there are fewer "wow" artists in the second effort but the second set is more complex than the first and that is compelling for its own reasons. If you are a fan of the DFA or LCD Soundsystem, getting this is a no-brainer. If you are unfamiliar with those guys this is still a great introduction to the indie electronic/left-field genre, a place where great things keep popping up, I'd advise you to stay tuned.