2001 was a turning point for Alkan. He'd made his first step into production—a bootleg of George Michael and Missy Elliott—and his zeitgest-defining night, Trash, at The End in London, came into its own as a hub for the dance-rock crossover. Bloc Party, 2ManyDJs and LCD Soundsystem played early gigs there. It attracted a diverse and fashion-conscious crowd, as receptive to records by Felix Da Housecat as they were Britney Spears or Elvis Costello. Analogues existed elsewhere. Optimo, in Glasgow, and Motherfucker and MisShapes, both in New York, engineered the changes taking place in dance and indie music. It was a time where these worlds began to talk to each other again.
In the mid-'00s, Alkan was at the centre of a musical universe experiencing a major boom. Reworks Volume 1 charts the rise of indie acts both sides of the Atlantic (Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Hot Chip) and the remixes of that era's hits (Klaxons' "Golden Skans," Justice's "Waters Of Nazareth") that took on a life of their own. The internet helped amplify this. Sites such as Hype Machine gave remixers—both amateur and professional—a more visible outlet for their work. Tastemaking bloggers were given record promos previously only handed to traditional media outlets. MP3s of variable quality were easier to share. This was the foundation for blog house, an overlapping online scene that fuelled demand for this music.
The remixes here, though, are uniformly well-rounded and considered. It's a marked contrast to the chaotic sloppiness that marked live performances by bands like MGMT and Klaxons, or the brickwalled compression of the electro house artists that followed Justice's wildly popular debut LP, †. Alkan crafted tracks for DJs that felt like real songs, and vice versa. Take the "Glam Racket" remix of Franz Ferdinand's "Do You Want To." The traditional verse-chorus-verse structure of the original is gone, but the tension and explosiveness remain as wave after wave of the track's swaggering guitar riff is teased out. Franz Ferdinand, aware of the remix's impact, began incorporating it into their gigs.
A handful of Alkan's reworks are so good that they render the originals a tad obsolete. The compilation begins with 2010's "Won't You Make Up Your Mind?," the highest note it hits across nearly three hours. The original was a horizontal groover from Australian indie-pop band Tame Impala's full-length debut, Innerspeaker (his capacity for spotting talent early is another defining trait). By making just a few modest adjustments, he elevates the song from great to sensational. The drums are sleeker. Kevin Parker's lovelorn vocal is more exposed. There's an extra sparkle to the brilliant riff, which later entwines with a beautiful coda. Alkan makes it feel like it could go on forever.
Other highpoints are reached via elegant, tender extensions of Connan Mockasin's "Forever Dolphin Love," Metronomy's "The Bay" and Night Works' "Long Forgotten Boy. " Perhaps most striking of all is a complete reupholstering of Scissor Sisters' "I Don't Feel Like Dancin'," a monster hit in the summer of 2006. The garishness of the original is replaced by a tranquil mood, but Alkan's minimalist take still pumps. The tracks built for club impact, though, are spottier. Some of these, such as the jerky machine funk of his remix for LA Priest, and the thunderous charge of Death From Above 1979's "Romantic Rights," remain thrilling. I wouldn't say the same for the "Horrorhouse Dub" of Daft Punk's "Brainwasher," from their unloved album Human After All, or the spasmodic yelp of Yeah Yeah Yeahs' "Zero."
There's an admirable craft to Reworks Volume 1. Alkan's remixes speak to the character of the source material, even as he makes radical changes to it. This studiousness has made his work durable. He belongs in the class of other fêted studio scientists like François K and William Orbit, whose best remixes exist out of time. Some of the sounds Alkan has pushed over the years might feel dated now, but the huge middle ground between rock and dance would be considerably poorer for his absence.
Mon / 11 Dec 2017
01. Tame Impala - Why Won't You Make Up Your Mind? (Erol Alkan Rework)
02. Death From Above 1979 - Romantic Rights (Erol Alkan Love From Below Re-Edit)
03. Justice - Waters Of Nazareth (Erol Alkan Durrr Durrr Durrrrrr Re-Edit)
04. LA Priest - Engine (Erol Alkan Transonic Re-Edit)
05. Gonzales - Never Stop (Erol Alkan Rework)
06. Kindness - Gee Up (Erol Alkan extended Rework)
07. Hot Chip - Boy From School (Erol Alkan Extended Rework)
08. Scissor Sisters - I Don't Feel Like Dancin' (Erol Alkan Carnival Of Light Rework)
09. Klaxons - Golden Skans (Erol Alkan Ekstra Spektral Rework)
10. Connan Mockasin - Forever Dolphin Love (Erol Alkan Rework)
11. Franz Ferdinand - Do You Want To (Erol Alkan Glam Racket)
12. Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Zero (Erol Alkan Rework)
13. The Emperor Machine - RMI Is All I Want (Erol Alkan Extended Rework)
14. Daft Punk - The Brainwasher (Erol Alkan Horrohouse Dub)
15. New Order - Singularity (Erol Alkan Stripped Mix)
16. Metronomy - The Bay (Erol Alkan Extended Rework)
17. MGMT - Congratulations (Erol Alkan Rework)
18. Night Works - Long Forgotten Boy (Erol Alkan Extended Rework)
19. Beyond The Wizards Sleeve - White Crow (Erol Alkan Rework)
20. Todd Rundgren - Runddans (Erol Alkan Rework)