Icarus: Sylt Remixes

It certainly seems as if no band has embraced the remixing concept more fervently than Icarus (Ollie Bown and Sam Britton). Not only is the group's 2007 album Sylt a remix album of sorts, with live performances remixed from what began as remixes of earlier studio tracks (confused yet?), but its latest gives the reins to an A-list crew of producers (Xela, Isan, Frank Bretschneider, Opiate, etc.) for another overhaul. The original material is made over so extensively that what results is akin to brand new material, with Icarus's originals functioning as springboards for radical re-interpretations.

Many contributors anchor Icarus's hyperactive flutter with beats—a wise move given that the group's extreme experimental tendencies work best when they're leavened by regulating beat patterns, which on this collection are more often than not dubstep in character. Planet Mu's Ital Tek fires up the slamming mechano dubstep of “Selfautoparent”: with a combustible bass attack, while Nabo's bass-heavy throb grounds the busy machinations of “Volks!” with dub-funk thrust. In a surprising move, Xela departs from his current dark ambient style to instead give “First Inf(E)Rænce” a cloudy hip-hop feel.

Sylt's opening track, “Keet,” receives a number of treatments, and as such conveniently allows one to compare the remixers' interpretive approaches. Isan's exquisite version takes the track on a sweetly melodic ride where glockenspiels tinkle and bell tones softly murmur amidst the whirr and click of Icarus's original. Bretschneider underlays it with pulsating breakbeat patterns that lend the tune coherence, Badun takes it on a slightly funky cyber-jazz spin, and, in an unusual, flamenco-tinged treatment, Ivan Pavlov (aka oxy/CoH) softens it with loops of bright guitar picking and destabilizes it with beat patterns that both burble and swing. Icarus itself even revisits the track, dressing it up in banjo and a multitude of other orchestral instruments.

Some guests opt for a less rhythm-centered approach, choosing instead to push Icarus's already-explorative style even further into abstraction. In Isambard Khroustaliov and Lothar Ohlmeier's jazz improv-styled treatment of “Jyske Rugkiks,” a bass clarinet snakes its way through an electroacoustic hall of mirrors teeming with violins, congas, and other sounds. Svartbag eleven-minute handling of “Rugkiks” turns it into an at times nightmarish musique concrete setting of voices and clattering machine noises, before having it settle into a funereal slab of chain-rattling dungeonscaping.

Obviously, then, Sylt Remixes is a varied collection and, though it is a long haul and admittedly not all of it succeeds equally well—like insects burrowing underground, Goto80's “Second First Inf(E)Rænce” mix is as obsessive in its approach as an Icarus original but ultimately of minor interest—, you do get your money's worth.

July 2009