Graveyard Tapes: I'm On Fire (White Rooms Remixes)
For this listener at least, some degree of ambivalence typically attends the release of a remix collection: there's the modest disappointment on the one hand in realizing that no new material by the artist in question will be presented, yet tempering that is the excited anticipation regarding what the contributing remixers will do with the original material. This digital collection of makeovers of material issued on Graveyard Tapes' late-2014 album White Rooms is no exception in that regard. The sophomore outing by Edinburgh-based duo Euan McMeeken and Matthew Collings is definitely deserving of attention, so if the remix set does nothing more than send listeners back to rediscover it, it'll have accomplished something of value.
But there's more to recommend I'm On Fire (White Rooms Remixes) than that. It's also a strong advert for Lost Tribe Sound, given that it features contributions from label stalwart William Ryan Fritch as well as reworks by recent signings Western Skies Motel (Danish guitarist René Gonzàlez Schelbeck) and Mute Forest (Kael Smith). Adding to its appeal, the eight-song set also includes interpretations by established artists Benoit Pioulard, Fieldhead (Paul Elam), and Dag Rosenqvist (aka Jasper TX), and at eight tracks and forty-three minutes, the release is substantial but doesn't overstay its welcome.
As sometimes happens in projects of this type, multiple versions of an original are featured, which makes for interesting comparisons: in this case, “Ruins” and “Sometimes The Sun Doesn't Want To Be Photographed” receive two treatments each. In Mute Forest's hands, the latter composition becomes a plaintive setting that gradually develops from rustic folk into something more heavily electrified, while “Dulcitone Grasses” becomes an organ-heavy instrumental hymn once Benoit Pioulard's through with it.
There are surprises, too. Often a remixer will recast an original as a louder epic, but in a few cases here the remixer moves in the opposite direction. A case in point, Western Skies Motel tones down the inherent drama of “I'm On Fire” by re-imagining it as a subdued, drone-inflected meditation (even fourteen years on from the event, it's hard not to hear the words “the shadows of skyscrapers fall” as a 9/11 reference), and Fieldhead similarly opts for restraint in his hushed, late-night treatment of “Ruins” (which, like “I'm On Fire,” can't help but invoke 9/11 when the words “all these ruins falling from the sky above” recur). Fraser McGowan's later Caught In The Wake Forever version of “Ruins” strips away the vocals to render the original as a brooding funereal expression.Not everything on the release is as subdued, however: in his bold, nine-minute workout, Rosenqvist recasts “Flicker” as a strings-drenched mini-symphony replete with mounting pulsations, ghostly voices, and booming techno-fied beats, and as one might expect given the character of his own recent Lost Tribe Sound output, William Ryan Fritch's cover version transforms “Exit Ghosts” into a dynamic outpouring of impassioned vocalizing, swooping strings, and martial drums. It'll come as little surprise to those familiar with his work and the force of Fritch's personality to discover that “Exit Ghosts” ends up sounding less like a Graveyard Tapes cover treatment than an original by Fritch himself.