What’s a remix for?
It wasn’t too long ago that remixes were a vital part of a track’s journey from studio to record shop. Back in the ’90s, the shelves of megastores and specialists groaned under the weight of multiple CD singles and 12”s, each bursting with alternate takes from that week’s hip production teams.
Back then, a well-chosen remix opened an artist's music up into another world. It showed that they were hip to different music scenes, worlds outside their own. Major labels would have remix budgets for each single off an album. Rock’n’roll bands could appear visionary through myriad alternate versions; pop artists could sneak themselves onto cutting edge dancefloors via the right DJ boxes. In some cases, the perfect remix would spark a complete creative overhaul and a phoenix-like rebirth (I’m sure there’s an alternate universe somewhere where Primal Scream fizzled out and gave up after ever-diminishing returns for their second album).
The digital revolution changed all that though. From paid downloads on your iPod to streaming on whatever piece of kit you’ve got to hand, the whole nature of how we consume music changed. And with that, so did the way many labels thought about remixes. If they were no longer a unique selling point on an extra format, then what were they for? Why shell out for something that’s only going to end up being given away for free online? Suddenly, that rock’n’roll band is back to peddling the usual meat and potatoes and the upcoming pop artist is no longer on the guest list.
Heavenly have always seen immense value in the remix, a value way beyond what it might bring commercially.
Since their first release in 1990 (where Andrew Weatherall overhauled a one-off single by club kids Sly and Lovechild) Heavenly remixes have been carefully curated and treated as a key part of the A&R process. It’s an opportunity to view an artist through a different prism, to play out a musical ‘what if’ scenario. Why wouldn’t you want to do that? It’s the kind of exploration that’s happened consistently through the thirty plus years the label has released music.
Take a look back at Four Tet’s reframing of Beth Orton’s Carmella, or Beyond The Wizard’s Sleeve’s deep-dive reanimation of Temples’ entire debut album. Or at the remixes that took Saint Etienne or Doves or Toy or Working Men’s Club into multiple different club scenes in the space of one single release. These things weren’t afterthoughts, they were key building blocks for artists. And who wouldn’t want to hear the opening chords of Confidence Man’s Holiday booming out of different sound systems while wandering around a festival site?
The Heavenly Remixes series continues to showcase the very best remixes, versions, meditations, re-rubs and dubs from all around the world of artists right across the roster of the country’s most exciting record label. In most cases, the albums offer the first physical release for a remix, elevating them from streaming playlists to their rightful, spiritual home on super heavy vinyl (or shiny, super-packed compact disc).
Heavenly Remixes Volume 7 heads to Belfast, where David Holmes - a producer who first appeared on Heavenly in 1994 amping up the acid on Saint Etienne’s Like A Motorway - appears as solo artist and as one third of Unloved, who get a lift right to the heart of a Vauxhall sweatbox by Horse Meat Disco. It draws a line between Amsterdam and Frankfurt as Ludwig A.F. amps up the electronics on Pip Blom’s Keep It Together. It stops off in a south London studio where super producer Dan Carey plays the desk with Toy, then relocates L.A. psych rock band Fever The Ghost to an Ibizan shoreline as the sun sets on the horizon. It cements Sheffield’s reputation as the home of modern British techno with the return of true originators Forgemasters. And it pitches up in front of a renegade soundsystem late night at Glastonbury as Erol Alkan’s mighty rework of Con Man gets its third rewind of the night.
Heavenly Remixes Volume 8 opens with Space Afrika’s lush, ambient reimagining of the Orielles’ BEAM/S before Justin Robertson stretches Amber Arcades’ Turning Light into eight minutes of electronic dub. Elsewhere, Baxter Dury’s peerless Miami becomes a string-laden electro skank in the hands of French producer Pilooski; Edinburgh’s bedroom techno genius Eyes of Others’ Safehouse turns into an East End bathhouse courtesy of disco deviants Decius; Ashley Beedle’s Black Science Orchestra turns Unloved’s heart worn torch song into seven minutes of glimmering dreamlike percussive house and Katy J. Pearson’s freak flag is flown high thanks to The Umlauts’ throbbing filtered electro mix. It ends similarly to how it began as TONE takes Fran Lobo’s All I Want on a gorgeous slow motion spacewalk.
So, back to that earlier question. What’s a remix for? In Heavenly’s case, it’s a snapshot from a musical multiverse and a reminder that music doesn’t need to stop once a band leaves the studio with a track they’re happy with. Art evolves. Let’s dance.