Tracey Thorn: Night Time EP
Strange Feeling Records

A bit of tangled history precedes Tracey Thorn's Night Time EP. The title track isn't a Thorn original but, in fact, a cover of a tune by The xx, Everything But The Girl fans and Mercury Music Prize winners who asked Thorn and her long-time partner Ben Watt to record a track from the band's debut album for a special compilation the band was assembling. Though the project collapsed for one reason or another, Thorn's cover survived and has now made its way into the world accompanied by remixes from Ewan Pearson and Charles Webster of “Swimming,” a track on 2010's Love And Its Opposite.

“Night Time” splits the focus between a tight backdrop of minimal drums and radiant synths fashioned by Thorn collaborator Pearson (who produced both Love And Its Opposite and 2007's Out Of The Woods) and a front-line that pairs Watt's guitar playing and backing vocals with Thorn's always-ravishing vocalizing. The result is four fluid minutes of incandescent pop music that's notable for far more than just the fact that it's the first time in a decade Watt and Thorn have played together on a recording. As good as “Night Time” is, it can't help but be overshadowed by Pearson's fabulous re-edit of the “Swimming” remix done in 2010 by Visionquest (Seth Troxler, Ryan Crosson, Lee Curtiss), especially when Pearson adds new drum parts and mixdown enhancements to turn the track into an even more luscious example of trance-inducing dance pop. Tension builds slowly, with a quietly rapturous instrumental base settling itself into position before hard-hitting drums and Thorn's lead vocal appear halfway through the nine-minute mix. At this point, the song ascends even higher, courtesy of the gorgeous melodic line and the sweet little lilt that goes along with it. The result is a singularly blissful piece of music that stands head and shoulders over pretty much everything else I've heard in recent days.

Charles Webster works his own bit of magic on “Swimming,” too, in the form of a percussive-oriented mix that strips the tune down to its essence, namely Thorn's vocal and a mightily swinging house groove that's got body music written all over it. Though it's not quite as soul-stirring as Pearson's, Webster's treatment has much to recommend it, in particular his wise decision to keep the original's vocal melodies front and center. The EP's rounded out by a high-energy dub version by Webster that's magical in its right, and even a tad misleadingly characterized as a dub, given that Thorn's vocal surfaces during the tune's second half, as glorious here as it is elsewhere. As a whole, the EP adds up to a half-hour of sublime music-making that amply rewards repeat visits.

December 2011