Blamstrain :: Remixed (Merck, CD)

1172 image 1(12.05.05) Merck records assembles a strike force of their flagship artists as they get ready to close their doors with a release cataloged under Blamstrain. In reality, it is attributable to he and ten of his finest
label-mates. In the dying era of the full-length LP, Remixed from Blamstrain displays a mature collection of electronic craftsmanship that Merck has become known for.

The conceptual structure of Remixed was, at first, a bit confusing. Remix records generally see artists covering specific tracks from an artist’s catalogue, neatly delineated on the sleeve. Blamstrain, however, has provided an unnamed pack of sound sources for his companions to manipulate as they see fit. The song titles are simply the names of each remix artist – track one is titled “Mesak;” track two is titled “Funckarma;” etc. This creates an abstract mindscape as one listens to this record. The songs, created from a shared palette of sounds, maintain cohesion from one to the next, while at the same time bringing forward the unique touches and production experience from each artist.

Because of this structure, the record suffers a bit when listened start to finish. While it maintains the sonic attention to detail typical to Merck, the listener is quickly reminded that all songs come from the same audio seeds.

With that said, once this record was loaded into my portable music player, the motivation behind this unique concept became amazingly clear. It has been said that the era of the LP is dying in the wake of the iPod, where tracks are shuffled together and playlists compiled from select songs. It is in this format that this release truly shines; when played on shuffle, the tracks on this record help create an overlying motif in a playlist, bringing the random music selection a sense of order. Merck’s artists have developed a justified reputation for focused and deliberate rhythms amid atmospheric synth manipulations, and it becomes a true joy when one of these songs pops up in my ears.

The source material is never truly revealed, but with a complete listen of the record one can discern what must have been given to the artists. The songs incorporate quick glitches of percussion, thick and clean synthetic bass hits, and bubbly riffs of synth leads that come from the streets of Detroit. Each track represents the typical sound of each artist when applied to a given base of sounds. Proem’s remix is reminiscent of Negativ while Syndrone syncopates triplet-infused rhythms with gated microsamples. Blamstrain and No Xivic break down the beats to a mental wash of ambience.

The Gridlock track deserves mention, as it is the final song from the band. They have enjoyed an acclaimed but underappreciated career, beginning on the Pendragon records label (alongside industrial acts such as Individual Totem & Haujobb) with soul-crushingly hard beats and dark ambient soundscapes. Once Pendragon was swallowed by Metropolis Records, they moved to a more Autechre-influenced sound with their Dryft release (a product of band member, Mike Cadoo). Their remix here finds the band punctuating their career with a style somewhere in between, simultaneously atmospheric and crushing.

Fans of Merck records and finely crafted electronics will enjoy this glitch/idm-oriented release.

Remixed is out now on Merck.

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