We’re going through a few monumental changes in the music industry right now. Physical media is more popular to buy as a vinyl or as even a cassette, purely for novelty’s sake. You’re now also less likely to own digital media. More often than not, you pay for a subscription service to listen to whatever music you want. And now, we are beginning to see the era of the remix. Are remixes just remastering 2.0? Or is it something more?
Defining the Remix
Firstly, we must say what a remix is. How is it different from a remaster? Well, a remaster is just improving the sound quality of a song, via digital necromancy. Its like scanning and editing a photograph on a computer. you convert an analog image to a digital one, and you remove the flaws and imperfections. It doesn’t change the original song, or album in any meaningful way. A remix, on the other hand, does change the music in a meaningful way.
Remixes can change the tempo of a song, remove and add elements to a song, and change the length. club remixes by DJ’s are the most obvious ones. You take a pre-existing song, and you mess with it. The remixes I am talking about, however, combine this process with the remastering process. You take the original elements of the song in question, and you change the soundscape. Its still the same basic song, but reconstructed using modern production methods, to make it sound not quite the same.
To call it a remix, therefore, could be considered ‘Marketing Fluff’ by companies and artists to sell a few extra albums, which in this modern era of music and pandemics, is understandable. You can see why some people may not think of it as ‘essential’. Its the same as before, just slightly different. A Remix is a marketing tool. Or is it?
The Case for the Remix
Unlike compilation albums, where I don’t see the point in buying them, these ‘Remixes’ are actually something I consider to be worthwhile. Before I go on, however, let me change the phrasing. Remix is the title that a lot of people are using. A better title would be ‘Reconstruction’. And you know I like me a reconstruction.
The selling point of such albums is that the artist is essentially giving you ‘the intended artistic vision’. Most of these ‘Reconstructions’ have either been made by the artist, or artists. The ones that aren’t are usually commissioned by the artist, or their estate. Some even go as far as re-recording instrumentation or the entire thing. Examples of both including David Bowie’s ‘Never Let Me Down: 2018 Reversion’ by Mario McNulty, and ‘The Best of Electric Light Orchestra’ compilation by Jeff Lynne.
Paul McCartney famously did it with his ‘Let it Be: NAKED’ project in 2003, removing the Phil Spector flourishes and additions, to return the album to its intended ‘rough and ready’ return to 4 members playing and jamming. And more are coming this year. The delayed ‘All Things Must Pass’ 50th Anniversary Special Edition is executive produced by George Harrison’s son, Dhani Harrison, and will give the album a more modern soundscape. The Beatles did it with Sgt. Pepper, The White Album, and Abbey Road a few years back. And The Beach Boys ‘Feel Flows’ Boxset will have similar treatments for the Sunflower and Surf’s Up albums.
What triggered this post?
The album that has made me consider what a ‘Remix’ means for music is ‘The Origin of Symmetry: 20th Anniversary RemiXX’ by Muse. The band, and their current producer, did just what I described to said album. They remixed it, and it sounds subtly different. There are elements that have been changed, or extenuated, and a lot of it is for the better. The original album had a very compressed sound, and a lot of buried sounds in there, that are now allowed out.
I really like it. I haven’t listened to this album in a while, and I am very much impressed at how well the original version held up. And the Remix? If this was released now, as a new album, I think it would be regarded as one of Muse’s best albums. Even the album tracks sound fantastic.
The Remix is a marketing tool, but one of the better marketing tools that the music industry now has at its disposal. It resells music to the consumer, but these remixes thoughtfully modernise music for today’s expectations of what music is nowadays. There’s going to be bad ones, sure, but if more artists have the chance to do this with their music? I think it could be a great alternative to compilation albums and remasters. The era of the remix is here.