Rhythm & Sound have always had a near-spiritual comprehension of groove. All their work burrows deeply into its soundbed and extracts from it rich, subtle forms. Where romantic composers invented the ‘tone poem’, what Mark and Moritz have contributed with Rhythm & Sound is the most highly developed example of a poetics of texture, depth and space in electronic music. If their self-titled album was the first full exploration of this instrumental landscape, their work in dialogue with ‘The Artists’ was a move out of the root of the sound, back to the roots of the sound – or a way of opening Jamaican music out of its fire and colour, and sending it (up in smoke) into a rare atmosphere. It’s difficult to convey how magnificent R&S’ best work is, and to most people paying close attention to what they’ve been listening to, it’s probably unnecessary. Suffice to say, the honour of being asked to remix their work would probably have been followed in a heartbeat by a deep feeling of dread in having to offer an interpretation which moves, but doesn’t remove. How can you re-finish a complete statement? ‘See Mi Yah (Remixes)’ in its complete, collected form reveals a lot, both about each artist’s vision and interpretive powers, and about the art and science of techno, dub, and remixing.
Basic Channel’s ‘See Mi Version’ is difficult to beat – a self-interpretation that shares with its ancestors an incredible ability to resist the effects of time on music, while seeming to barely lift a finger. Vainqueur’s remix of ‘Rise and Praise’ is also as large as the task – this is a real piece of work, while Sleeparchive’s version of ‘Dem Never Know’ twists the original around Sähkö-like shapes and back into his own machine’s symmetry, somehow managing to do justice to the original and himself in the process.
Soundstream’s ‘Free for All’ draws the free-floating spirit into an uplifting atmosphere, in a way that will please, but not overwhelm. Hallucinator acquit themselves respectably with a big-hearted chug-a-long that, like Sweet Substance’s contribution, doesn’t over-reach itself, or offend. Carl Craig’s ‘Poor People Must Work’ is suffering the caning its high-impact, hard-hitting push made inevitable. It’s the odd man out having a big night out, but its bombast makes it trying to tired ears. Tikiman’s ‘Boss Man’ sounds almost quaint after the Craig thunderclap, but even though it’s less offensively large or loud, it’s too unambitious and conventional to stand shoulder to shoulder here – or is it?
Less successfully, Villalobos’ ‘Let Me Go’, like most of his work, sounds like the effects of entropy on aimlessness – soaking in its meandering stream, it loses and finds itself and the listener somewhere between brilliance and abject boredom. Francois K’s ‘Lightning Storm’ could be read as a half-hearted junglist’s protest of confusion, indifference, or misunderstanding, unless you’ve got a fondness for frantic drums. You get the impression that K is trying to fill the gaps, like a speaker running off at the mouth for dread of a pause in conversation. But Vladislav Delay’s ‘Truly’ is the real disappointment, considering what you would presume to be an equal (though very different) appreciation of depth and space. Perhaps its re-inscription as a Luomo mix might render it more accurate and less of a letdown, but if it is Luomo, it’s not as good as his own weaker productions. In this case particularly, you sense that Vlad lost his nerve, and opted to engage the less risky of his musical selves.
A collection like this needs to spend years in the world before its strengths and failings finally resolve. We need time for the smoke to dissipate, for the dust to settle before anyone can say whether anyone here has lived up to the enduring legacy of some of music’s most talented and original collaborators. I think some of it might.
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