Octave One: Revisited: Here, There, and Beyond
430 West Records

How to celebrate two decades of music-making? If you're Octave One duo Lawrence and Lenny Burden, you do so by asking a number of acclaimed electronic producers to reshape classic tracks from the Octave One back catalog on the Burdens' own 430 West label. Some of the album's updates have already seen the light of day, having been released as part of a four-volume twelve-inch series during the past year, but they're now joined by additional new versions, with figures like Luke Slater, Sandwell District, Alter Ego, Ken Ishii, and others taking part.

The album starts off strongly with the Burdens freshening up two of their own Octave One classics, the first a piledriving version of “Dema” (from 1994's X-Files EP) that sets the album's tone by peppering a lethal groove with blazing synth stabs for eight glorious minutes and the second an equally slamming update of “Meridian” (from 1995's Detroit Techno City EP). On a more experimental tip, enigmatic techno outfit Sandwell District tackles the 1990 cut “I Believe,” which in its original form appeared on Derrick May's Transmat and was co-written and produced with Anthony ‘Shake' Shakir. The original vocals by Lisa Newberry are still present, though the update finds them caught in the tornado-esque swirl that Sandwell District adds to the pulsating remix. Alexander Kowalski's soulful take on “I Need Release” (from Octave One's 2009 album Summers on Jupiter) also benefits from a warm vocal presence, with in this case the sultry chirp provided by Ann Saunderson, who also elevates the high-spirited makeover Alter Ego duo Roman Fluegel and Joern Elling give “Blackwater.”

Some of the makeovers stay very solidly in the techno zone and play like retooled updates on the Octave One tracks that don't radically reimagine but instead freshen up the originals. Iranian-Swedish producer Aril Brikha, for example, recasts “Daystar Rising,” from the 1998 release Aztlan / Daystar Rising (originally issued as a collaborative effort by Underground Resistance and 430 West), as a percolating, synth-heavy exercise in aeorodynamic techno. Joyous too is the sunkissed take Gerald Mitchell contributes to the collection in his soulful Los Hermanos remix of “Somedays.” German-Swedish producer Cari Lekebush treats “Love and Hate” (originally featured on the 2006 Octave One live DVD Off The Grid released by Tresor Records) to a lively, house-tinged makeover whose cymbals-driven skip loses none of the original's anthemic thunder while also covering it in a sleek sheen and bolstering its irrepressible snap. Luke Slater brings an Ostgut Ton vibe to the material in his locomotive “The Greater Good” remix, which being so relentless and unwavering could as easily pass for a track by Slater under his Planetary Assault Systems alias than an Octave One piece.

Only one original receives two treatments, with Vince Watson and Ken Ishii each contributing versions of “Nicolette.” Watson's bounds confidently into position, with a powerful bass line a rock-solid foundation that allows the producer to give full reign to the tune's Latin-percussion swing, while Ishii's is more of a hard-wired, gyroscopic raver by comparison. In honouring Octave One's material by updating it, the collection is everything a remix collection should be, as the remixers don't disfigure the originals by going too far in their alterations yet nevertheless make the material sound fresh and newly polished as a result of their contributions. More than anything else, the respect and affection they feel for Octave One clearly shines through in their homages to the duo's tracks.

February 2012