Most remix albums just don’t work. They usually tread a line between relying on one or two very good remixes, or a number of remixes of one very good track. They can often get bogged down in substandard versions of the original strapped behind throbbing beats and bass and invariably don’t work as a start-to-finish listen. It’s refreshing then to hear one in which a consistently high level of quality is maintained, all the mixes are interesting reinterpretations rather than dance remakes and that works as a cohesive release.
Up against such a beautiful source material, Murmuration, each of the remixers face a challenge to create something that doesn’t fall short of the original. Remixes from Ben TD and The Comorant sit in Jamie xx territories, although slightly more laid back. Chopped up and detuned vocals form the backbone of the Ben TD’s Blue Dawn, which give way to an understated, subdued and thoroughly pleasing climax, whilst evermore is has a slightly more summery feel with reverb drenched guitars and a slightly more upbeat feel.
Akira’s remix of The Freedom of Seamonsters has a resemblance to Jonnie Common remixes, with a strong sense of melody and excellently treading the line between playful and serious. The Black Sun sees a darker, bass driven take from Machines in Heaven, Ludwig is given a slice of summer from Joyful Lungs and Cycad takes a more glitchy left field approach to Moth and Moon. The more mellow Every Uncertainty, also remixed by Cycad is a perfectly placed percussionless take providing a welcome airy breather and similarly Adem’s downtempo remix of Cordelia perfectly pulls the album to a close. The inclusion of these two tracks is instrumental in the tape’s flow as an album, and alleviate it from a collection of tracks to a well curated remix album.
Interestingly the two remixes that are probably most keenly looked forward to are both the strongest and weakest. Cross Ties is remixed by Fraction Man, aka Gordon who recently left Frightened Rabbit. Given Gordon’s involvement in other projects, like his Lau remix or backing Siobhan Wilson give this track some buzz, which unfortunately it doesn’t live up to. The track is approached in a much darker and heavier way than the rest, and slightly sticks out because of it. The percussion is neither as strong as the other tracks, nor do they sound particularly nice. There is, however, a redeeming factor in the bridge, the string parts and chord changes intertwine and rise to build up to a chorus which should be better.
On the flip side, Carbs (Jamie of Conquering Animal Sound, Jonnie Common and Jay of Field Mouse) provide the cornerstone of the album. The beauty of their take on Kingdom is unsurpassed, and through interesting beats, atmospheric synths, layering vocals and gentle crescendos they have created a really exceptional few minutes that emotively sums up and pulls together the album as a whole.
The album does have slight peaks and troughs, but these troughs are very shallow and as a whole this is a far more consistent than most remix albums. From the choice of remixers to the careful track placement, Olive Grove have really managed to pull together an album that effortlessly stands up against the original.
The album is out today as part of Cassette Store Day, although is limited to 40 copies and can be bought (I think) from Rough Trade and Lion Coffee + Records. If you miss this, Olive Grove are putting this out on CD and digitally on the 13th October.