Top 10 Remixes: Digging through history for music’s finest reworkings

Schaeffer Studio history of remix

Schaeffer Studio

Delving into the roots of dance culture, Getintothis’ Josh Ray takes us on a chronological yet somewhat subjective journey through the scenes shaped by the phenomena that is the remix.

While the modern style of remix is rooted in the late 1960s dance hall culture of Jamaica, the first forms of post-recording tape manipulation occurred in France’s Studio d’Essai.

Having played its part in the French resistance through radio broadcasts during the Second World War, Pierre Schaeffer‘s studio, later renamed Club d’Essai, cultivated the theory and practise of the revolutionary music concrète.

Focussedon acousmatic sound – sound heard without seeing an originating cause – Schaeffer‘s work alongside Jacques Conpeau, took recordings of vocalists and musical instruments and fused them with electronic synthesis and abstract recordings of nature whilst also experimenting with tape looping and splicing.
However, though this work may have been ground-breaking, it – apart from aiding the development of technology – had little influence on the advent of modern day remixing.

1977 – Lee “Scratch” Perry: Son of the Black Ark [Alternate Version]

Although King Tubby was the first to “version” a track – he’s king for a reason – the visceral energy of a dub has never been better exhibited than in this Lee “Scratch” Perry mix of Junior Delgado‘s Sons of Slaves.

Opening with Delgado‘s profoundly righteous lyrics – “Are we not the son of slaves? Are we not the children of Israel?” – the almighty dub organiser gives the track his trademark Black Ark treatment. Replacing the vocals with an unforgiving bass line – even by today’s standards – and a reverb soaked rhythm, complemented by syncopated tribal keteh drumming, The Upsetter only serves to further Delgado‘s message when he reintroduces the lyrics.

1979 – The Sugarhill Gang: Rapper’s Delight

When DJ Kool Herc imported Jamaica’s sound system culture into New York’s Bronx in the early 1970s, he provided an alternative to the burgeoning disco scene as well as offering an escape from the endemic gun culture prevalent at the time. The likes of Grandmaster Flash, Grand Wizard Theodore and Kurtis Blow helped Herc develop break-beat deejaying, whereby the break beats of hard-funk records were isolated and repeated for the sole purpose of fuelling the dance floor at all night parties.

Just as in Jamaica, toasters – later known as emcees – would boastfully rap over the top of the empty spaces left by the DJ’s cuts, but it wasn’t until the late 1970s that anything was put down on wax. Chopping up Chic‘s deep and groovy Good Times, The Sugarhill Gang‘s 15 minute-epic is rightly considered to be one of hip-hop’s all time classics.

1980 – First Choice: Double Cross [Larry Levan 12″ Mix]

Imposing dub sensibilities on disco records, Larry Levan was one of the pioneers to take the genre forward into post-disco and boogie territory after the overtly racist “Disco Sucks” campaign of 1979 effectively killed off the genre. Having laid the blueprint for modern rave culture at the legendary NYC Paradise Garage, Levan sadly died in 1992, relatively soon after his legacy went global.

With all the hallmarks of a great disco track – soaring strings, wonky slap bass and the most soulful of voices – this remix of the Philadelphian trio First Choice, can arguably be described as Levan‘s chef d’oeuvre.

1987 – X-Ray: Let’s Go [Freak Mix]

Two of Detroit’s finest going head to head, Cybotron‘s Juan Atkins and the innovator, Derrick May laid the foundations for techno as well as lending much to Chicago’s acid house sound – alongside Kevin Saunderson – with their innovative experiments in the late 1980s.

Working together under the X-Ray guise, the two transferred the soul of African-American music styles into the electronic mechanisms of the likes of Kraftwerk and Giorgio Mordoder to devastating effect. Weighing in on the duo’s first release, AtkinsFreak Mix will have surely blown the minds of all who heard it back in the day.

1987 – Eric B. & Rakim: Paid in Full [Seven Minutes of Madness – The Coldcut Mix]

Described as being “girly disco music” by Eric B. whilst being tipped as the “best remix he’d heard” by Rakim this trans-Atlantic exchange helped to both further cement the stateside hip-hop sound in the UK whilst at the same time paving the way for the British interpretation of the genre, trip-hop.

Fusing hip-hop with a whole range of diverse influences, trip-hop opened up endless possibilities for inventive producers and Coldcut‘s highly influential Ninja Tune label did much to propel the innovation forward.

1990 – Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan: Mustt Mustt [Massive Attack Remix]

Case in point, this exceptional Massive Attack rework of Pakistan’s seminal qawwali artist Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, a man considered to be one of the finest vocalists ever recorded. Released a year before their outstanding debut LP Blue Lines, the trip-hop heavyweights hinted towards the incredible things to come out of Bristol throughout the 1990s with these dusty downtempo beats.

1992 – The Aloof: Purity [Heller & Farley Mix]

With London lagging way behind, Manchester and rural Berkshire – of all places – became the epicentres of UK house music when it first hit the shores. The driving force behind Berkshire’s Balearic hedonism, the Junior Boys Own gang threw legendary raves throughout the early 1990s. Taking the parties through the threshold and way into Sunday afternoons, the collective brought the hallowed Ibiza DJ Alfredo Fiorito‘s anything goes eclecticism to their transcendental countryside excursions.

Absolutely ripping it up, Boy’s Own Pete Heller and Terry Farley‘s mix of Purity by electronica super group, The Aloof held its own against the relentless stream of club bangers coming out of Chicago at the time.

1999 – The Stone Roses: Fools Gold [Grooverider’s Mix]

After Andrew Weatherall threw down the gauntlet with his 1990 club mixes of The Happy Mondays’ Hallelujah and Primal Scream‘s Loaded, the indie/dance crossover proved to be fertile pastures for remixers, especially in the UK.

Adding a rough edge to the swagger of Fools Gold, the UK drum & bass don Grooverider pulls no punches in this gritty swell of Mancunian mayhem.

2010 – Dubblestandart ft. Lee Perry & David Lynch: Chrome Optimism [Oxygene pt.4]

Still dubbing way into his 70s, Lee “Scratch” Perry has taken his renegade production tactics across the world, blessing countless musicians with his Midas touch. Working alongside Austrian dub assassins Dubblestandart and warped filmmaker David Lynch, The Upsetter has given Jean Michel Jarre‘s pioneering electro classic Oxygene pt.4 a chugging metallic backbone and a slow-burning melancholic undercurrent.

2012 – Roxy Music: Love Is The Drug [Todd Terje Disco Dub]

In what’s almost a full circle, current trends have moved back to disco edits. Propounded by the likes of Greg Wilson, Dimitri From Paris and Theo Parrish, these re-edits are specifically envisaged to bring old classics into the modern nightclub. From simply adding a chunkier bass and heavier beat, to completely reconstructing the record from base level, the revised tracks open up forgotten gems to a whole new audience.

The idiosyncratic Norwegian space-disco stalwart, Todd Terje has reimagined an unfathomable amount of his deep record crates over the years, ranging from East-German new wave to Bollywood beat-down boogie, but hit his best form in this disco dub of Roxy Music‘s Love is the Drug.

With more and more great new music being created by the day, remixers have an endless supply of sounds to feed into their studios and as such, the art of the remix will continue to flourish.

Further reading on Getintothis:
Lee “Scratch” Perry: Kazimier, Liverpool
Forest Swords wins GIT Award 2014
Bugged Out! Weekender 2014: Pontins Southport Holiday Park
Lee Scratch Perry remixes Forest SwordsThor’s Stone
Liverpool Sound City 2014: Review round up and top 10 bands of the festival.
Liverpool Sound City 2014: Picture gallery from all three days of the festival.
Liverpool Sound City 2014 – all the bands reviewed from the three days.
Getintothis on The Label Recordings: Hooton Tennis Club and The Inkhearts.
The new breed of tomorrow’s LIPA artists.