Anne Garner: Be Life Relived
Slowcraft Records / Unperceived Records

The album remix concept brings with it a host of challenges for the potential contributor. To what degree should the remix deviate from the tone and style of the original? How radical a reinvention should the remix be, and what balance should be struck between emphasizing the persona of the remixer versus that of the originating artist? The challenge becomes even greater when the album on which the projected collection is based is as exquisite as Anne Garner's 2015 album Be Life: how does one possibly improve upon settings that appear so perfectly realized in their original form?

Be Life Relived offers an interesting case study in showing how a variety of producers attempt to deal with such issues. In some cases, approaches are pursued that are dramatically different from Garner's, whereas in others, the sensibilities of the remixer and Garner fluidly align. In his handling of “Come In,” Christoph Berg (aka Field Rotation) wisely leaves her voice intact and instead focuses on modifying the instrumental accompaniment, in this case one richly enhanced by his elegiac string contributions. As the album advances, it becomes clear that each participant, regardless of the stylistic contrasts each brings to the project, likewise chooses to leave Garner's vocalizing in its original form and concentrate on the instrumental design. Many retain the ethereal character and seductive mood of Be Life, yet still find a way to individuate their versions from the originals. Mute Forest first deepens the atmospheric qualities of “Soft Eyes” by embedding Garner's voice within a dense mass of hiss and then imbues it with a rather post-rock quality by adding ambient guitar accents and a punchy beat pattern. Elsewhere, Adrian Carter's “Your Name” captivates with an electropop treatment whose sparkle could be mistaken for a production by Lullatone.

Still, to these ears the most affecting tracks are those that reaffirm Be Life's quietly majestic tone: High Skies' and Lost Vocals' respective renderings of “Your Name” and “Soft Eyes” are so lovely they equal Garner's own, and James Murray (Garner's spouse) handles “Be Life” with such sensitivity, the result is as stirring and transporting as the original; the pooling of these artists' talents produces in this case five musical minutes that are almost unbelievably beautiful. Dean Honer's somewhat dour treatment of “Leave Your Bed” is less satisfying by comparison, but certainly most of the versions featured do justice to Garner's originals—no small accomplishment.

August 2016