You know the story: The year is 1976. Brian Eno hasn't yet collaborated with Bowie on Low, and is looking for a project. Eno had already shown huge Krautrock interest with Roxy Music and (possibly apocryphal) quotes from the era have him calling Harmonia "the world's most important rock band" at the time. What is clear: He loved the band, a group composed of musicians from Neu! and Cluster. And so as the leaves in Forst, Germany, turned from green to gold, Eno and the boys lay down what would become Tracks & Traces.
And then it was forgotten. Not to be heard from until 1997 when the original masters were discovered in a climate-controlled space capsule hovering over Berlin. (OK, I made that part up.) Either way, they were released by Rykodisc more than a decade ago. And rereleased this year on Grönland Records. And the results—if you don't already have them in your amniotic playlist—are pretty much as to be expected. Wistful, chuggy, fun, sad, corny, shimmering, eschatological—and above all, pregnant with the sounds would set Detroit and Manchester afire in just a few short years. Durutti Column fans, this is the Nag Hammadi Codex.
The real reason we're here today, though, is to discuss the pair of remixes, available on chic white vinyl and digital from Amazing Sounds. The reimaginings come from some top talent from the brainier side of today's techno—Shackleton on the A and Appleblim with Komonazmuk on the B. Shackleton picks the chilly aquifer that is "Sometimes in Autumn" and warms it up just a click—adding a cavernous beat pattern and picking snips of the tune's wandering pads to loop to the point of near annoyance. He truncates the track from 15 minutes down to ten and the result seems much longer than the original. It's a bit like stealing the stones from a ruined temple of antiquity to build a public restroom.
Appleblim and Komonazmuk pick a much riper fruit to mess with and do so much more likeably. The beatless original "By the Riverside"—a bouncy amoeba of space bass and air compressor synths—trades primarily in charm and whimsy. The rework adds a satisfying thunk-to-the-gut kick, some skitter snares and some choice parts of the source to add some structure, but for the most part, leaves the artifact fully intact, if only restored and repainted for modern audiences. It also weighs in at a slim 7 minutes, 49 seconds, nearly two minutes shorter than the original, which if one is trading evolving shades for conventional techno structure, is a smart boredom-fighting move.
A remix will always be a remix—and idea about an idea. But for material that never got the attention it deserved in the era for which it was made, it can be a necessary freshening to keep fine music where it belongs—out of the museum and in your ears.
Buy Harmonia 76 - Remixes at
Tracklist: Harmonia 76 - Remixes A Sometimes In Autumn (Shackleton remix)
B By The Riverside (Appleblim & Komonazmuk remix)
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