Total Running Time: 40 min 22 sec 1. Gave Up 5:24 2. Wish 9:09 3. Happiness In Slavery 6:08 4. Throw This Away 4:13 5. Fist Fuck 7:19 6. Screaming Slave 8:01
During recent years the big-name remix has become a fixture of the music industry, with most major artists who *can* be remixed (and some who can't) at some stage undergoing the remix treatment. This time it's the turn of NIN. Despite my usual dislike of remixes where the track is thrown away or reduced to a couple of strategically placed sound bites, I found myself rather looking forward to the prospect of what might emerge when NIN's recent EP _Broken_ was remixed as _Fixed_. Given the quality of the producers who were originally mentioned in conjunction with the remix EP (Coil's Peter Christopherson, Jim "Foetus" Thirlwell, Adrian Sherwood, Paul Kendall) it seemed we could expect a reasonable spread of remix styles and Trent Reznor's claim that they'd been given a completely free hand to do whatever they wanted with the tracks boded well.
While the mix of tracks that eventually appeared doesn't reflect what was initially announced (with no Sherwood mixes but with one featuring Butch Vig and another being done by Reznor and no less than five other people) the end result certainly *does* live up to expectations with no two mixes here sounding the same (or that close to their originals, for that matter).
First up is the Coil/Danny Hyde remix of "Gave Up". They've chosen what was probably the most atypical of the tracks on _Broken_, which meandered between driving thrashy guitar with added screaming and quieter, more plaintive (although distorted) vocals in the chorus. Apart from the inevitable restructing of the song and some additional electronics, the main addition here is a beefed-up (and extremely fast) beat and some wonderfully chopped up vocals. The latter is particularly clever, since it *sounds* like vocals, but you can't actually make out a word Reznor is saying (reason enough for doing it, some might say). The beat is...well, it's fast. I can normally work out the BPM for songs up to about 140BPM simply by counting the beats whilst looking at a stopwatch, but this one escapes me, I just can't count fast enough. A good, fast, dance-ish remix that manages to maintain a frighteningly high BPM whilst retaining the feel of the original song and not mutating into just another piece of hardcore techno.
J.G. Thirlwell's remix of "Wish" adds...drums. The whole track now revolves around a driving, martial drum track which sounds suspiciously live in places. Add a quiet choral/orchestral bridge and the expected cut and paste with the song structure and the end result is a really good remix that drags the song by its neck back towards dance-industrial territory without causing too much harm.
The Reznor/Vrenna/Kendall remix of "Happiness In Slavery" is also a rather nice reworking of the original, shifting the track back the way Reznor came - this'd have sounded much more at home on _Pretty Hate Machine_ than on _Broken_. Lots of additional synth work, a very nice remix generally. This one should appeal to those who didn't like the direction Trent moved in with the last EP.
"Throw This Away" - umm, I know it says "this recording contains various interpretations of songs that appear in their proper form on the `broken' ep" on the box but I'm having great difficulty figuring out just what the hell this is supposed to be a remix of. It sounds very much like a new track to me, unless I'm very much mistaken (which I may be). The first couple of minutes are a dark, atmospheric brooding piece of subdued guitar and electronic effects but a steamhammer rhythm gradually builds, the guitar ceases to be subdued and bingo...it's something much more _Broken_ in sound. Very much a song of two parts, the quieter section being the work of Reznor and Chris Vrenna with Butch Vig handling the loud bit. Pretty good, but not the highpoint of the EP.
The second Thirlwell remix, the charmingly titled "Fist Fuck" is another remix of "Wish". Those big, thumpy drums are back again, but this time the track follows the structure of the original only loosely, adding in a bundle of spoken word samples, weird noises and screeches. This continues relentlessly for five minutes before dropping into a pleasant little film sample followed by an incessantly looped guitar riff from the original track (one can't but help feel that Thirlwell wishes CD were more suitable to lock grooves, since that's the effect he seems to be aiming for here). Good, if lacking in structure and slightly annoying in places.
Eventually we hit "Screaming Slave". Methinks this track is going to be the subject of some heated discussion. The most obvious reference point here is Skinny Puppy's "Download" - eight minutes of effects, noise and general weirdness with very little in the way of music actually getting in the way. As was the case with the Puppy track, you'll either love this one or hate it. I've not really been able to make up my mind yet - it certainly makes *very* attention-grabbing listening but while I generally enjoy the collage of noise, phased drums and bizarre effects I do sometimes find myself wishing they'd just stop pissing about and get on with it since the studio cleverness does get a little overdone at times. I suspect my eventual verdict on this track will settle in a generally positive direction, but for the moment I'm reserving judgement. Either way, if only for its outright weirdness, the pick of the mixes here.
So, there we have it - the EP has something for the fans of old-style NIN, something for those who're into high BPM techno, something for people who like noise collages a la SP's "Download", something for those who're into thumpy dance-industrial percussion, something with lotsa spoken word samples and film clips for the Puppy fans who *didn't* like "Download", and "Throw This Away" for those who liked _Broken_ but haven't liked anything else Reznor had done before. Like I said, the EP covers a pretty wide range of styles. Very varied, and I find most of the material here an improvement on the _Broken_ originals. I was surprised at who did what though - one of the Reznor remixes coming out on top was *not* something I'd anticipated. However, I'd also expected something more atmospheric and less rhythmic from Coil and something considerably messier and louder from Thirlwell, so what do I know?
Erland Rating: +3
-- Al Crawford - firstname.lastname@example.org Department Of Computer Science, The University of Edinburgh Rm 1410, JCMB, Kings Buildings, Mayfield Rd, EDINBURGH, EH9 3JZ, Scotland Tel: +44 (0) 31 650 5165 Fax: +44 (0) 31 667 7209