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Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
»Deerhunter
Halcyon Digest
4AD
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
»Robyn
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Lisbon
Fat Possum
My Brightest Diamond
Tear It Down
Asthmatic Kitty

Rating: 7.4/10 ?


March 6, 2007
The remix is an odd thing. Often intriguing, sometimes beautiful, occasionally terrible, it provides an altered glimpse into the possibilities of one artist's craft through the eyes of another. Bring Me The Workhorse, Shara Worden's breakout release for Asthmatic Kitty last fall, perpetuated what the shortly preceding A Thousand Shark's Teeth had failed to, shoving My Brightest Diamond out from the shadow of labelmate Sufjan Stevens. While Shark's Teeth was undoubtedly the more ambitious of the two (anyone can make a pop album, but it takes an entirely different breed to whip out a record penned for the accompaniment of a string quartet), it was the latter that led to people really taking notice. Perhaps stumped for a way to burn off all the energy she'd had the chance to let out as cheerleading captain for Stevens' Illinoismakers, Worden set about dispensing the elements of Bring Me The Workhorse to a wide array of artists for remixing, each of the album's tracks (save for "The Robin's Jar") getting a chance at reinvention, with three of them getting worked over twice. As one might predict, the result is often intriguing, sometimes beautiful and occasionally terrible.

"Golden Star," one of the standouts from Workhorse, leads off Tear It Down with one of the collection's best offerings, courtesy of Oakland glitchtronica whiz Alias. While the track only loosely resembles the original, it represents all of the magnificent possibility inherent in the concept of remixing. Whereas Worden's original was minimally reliant on beats, instead drawing its power from the molasses drip of her voice (punctuated by a few piercing wails) and the understated sweeping of strings, Alias' version is propelled almost entirely by synthetic percussion, lightly garnished with flourishes of digital wash, as well as a few snippets of strings kept smartly in proportion with their place in the original Workhorse version. The end result is something that stands entirely on its own legs, perhaps even taller than the track Alias started with, and evokes that contradictory warmth of anonymity and embrace that the current crop of European electro/ambient artists has mastered. There is little wonder why Alias' joint was slotted for lead off, and the track winds down perfectly over the last 20 seconds, slipping easily into the subtle downtempo of Ghostly artist Lusine's take on "Workhorse," an apt reworking of Bring Me the Workhorse's closer.

While Tear It Down has credible numbers strewn throughout, the opening half of the album is noticeably stacked against the latter, and for anyone with a hankerin' to get out on the dance floor, the peak comes sure and solid with Gold Chains' "Panique" mix of "Freak Out." The cut is loaded down with buttery fat beats that dribble over the edge and off into every corner, Worden's vocals are both muted and framed, and it goes a long way toward proving that you don't have to reinvent the wheel to get something rolling. Gold Chain's version is a full two minutes and some change longer than the Workhorse original, but flashes by in an instant. The same cannot be said for DJ Kenny Mitchell's "Rewind 93 Remix" of the same track, which at more than seven minutes in length is completely unremarkable, an almost tongue in cheek neon club mix that comes across as a brash din of shallow beats and forgettable vocal additions from Nimnomadic. "Rewind 93" sounds like some sort of low-class suburban radio station programmed by C+C Music Factory, and Mitchell's reworking - especially compared with Gold Chains' trunk-full-o-junk handling of the same track - sounds laughably like a squirrel trying to get a nut to move your butt.

While the louder and faster paced tracks are the most noticeable after a cursory listen, Tear It Down isn't entirely comprised of glitzed-up club numbers for the black-on-black set buying eyeliner in bulk. Stakka and Murcof deliver subdued takes on My Brightest Diamond ("Disappear" and "Dragonfly," respectively), the latter of which is a particularly brittle little bit of ambient lace that slowly, almost unnoticeably, gains bits of momentum over five minutes before switching off the ignition and coasting down the last sixty seconds. Later, David Keith's reworking of "Something of an End" holds true to Worden's original creation, amplifying the subtle chiming of the original and stuffing the silent spaces between Worden's voice and the track's base layer with a muted bed of strings and percussion, taking the singer a few steps back into the mix without completely obscuring her. Keith's version is perhaps most aptly described as a remix, as it neither handles the original cut with kid gloves nor completely rips it apart.

"We Were Sparkling" gets a twinkly once-over from laptopper Haruki, and "Gone Away" is given two treatments, a somber and understated operatic score from David Michael Stith and an equally slow tempoed but far busier, reverberated, blipped, dust and crackle-infused turn from Strings of Consciousness. Tear It Down closes with a Cedar AV "Wheat to Whiskey" mix of "Disappear" that is far more ambitious but not necessarily weightier than Stakka's earlier filtering.

As an album, Tear It Down doesn't really work, but that should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with the finicky nature of remixes, which have so many things to consider. There is the original vision of the composer, the aesthetic inclinations of the remixer, the composer's reaction to the translation into something somewhere between the two, and of course the overall landscape for the third parties listening in. Ultimately remixes encompass so many variables that they almost never satisfy everyone, and trying to mold all the here-there-and-everywhere into a coherent album is all but impossible. That said, Tear It Down does succeed on the level of individual tracks, all but the cheesiest glowstick cuts respecting elements (if not the ambiance) of the originals from Bring Me The Workhorse while providing glimpses of the remixer's art as well. If Shara Worden has accumulated any diehard fans, they'll certainly be interested to hear her songs filtered through such diverse screens, and I'd lay odds that more than a handful of Asthmatic Kitty groupies will be pleasantly shocked at the results.

Reviewed by Eric J Herboth
Eric J. Herboth is the founder, publisher and Managing Editor of LAS magazine. He is a magazine editor, freelance writer, bike mechanic, commercial pilot, graphic designer, International Scout enthusiast and giver of the benefit of the doubt. He currently lives in rural central Germany with his two best friends, dog Awahni and cat Scout.

See other reviews by Eric J Herboth

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