Remix culture has, in all respects, imploded. On the one hand, you have some remixes that become international singles and reshape the ever-changing face of contemporary pop music. On the other hand, you have upward of a gazillion laptop producers roaming a vast wasteland of emulation and experimentation that often disappoints or irritates. Growing up in the 90’s I can remember an age when remixes were far less abundant due to the limitations and cost of technology. Now, anyone with a smart phone can slice and dice music however they see fit.
What ought to be a liberating new commonplace art form has become a cesspool of talentless, tasteless novelty-seekers. They put on their DJ hats and give themselves ridiculous names and don’t even bother to listen to “the classics” in the pantheon of remixes. They are cowboys; they follow their own rules, often times headlong into sonic disaster. They lift entire songs and jab them here or there with a handful of pitiful attempts at re-invigorating them. It’s self-indulgence at its most oblivious and nauseating. Surely, there must be some exception to the rule, right? Yes, there is.
Few artists I know have the massive discography of Zach Mason. Using a myriad of monikers, Mason has plumbed the depths of remixing popular music into extravagant, inventive superstructures. He’s able to take a familiar song and turn it into a living environment, full of mystery and usually confounding in its scope. He drowns old music in lush, cascading synths; his laid-back percussion loops supply adequate motion and energy. “I know,” as an example, shatters a classic into a fragmented memory, stitched together like a digital Frankenstein. Echoes careen from side-to-side, pitch and time effects scatter the root sample, dragging us into an LSD-inspired chasm.
“ॐ om ॐ” naturally emerges from a fluid transition, opening into a bubbly and dimly-lit video arcade. The looping drum-break keeps us moving through one 8-bit corridor after another, diving into water, strange lights flitting about. We surface inside “do U believe.” Here, we find ourselves within the shimmering cavern of a pop song’s interior, reverberating from without and down through little windows set high above. Layers upon layers wash over us and we empty out into the sea. The sky above is perfect blue. The water is glimmering white with the sun.
“Ηδω.” As though waking from a dream, we fall onto the floor. We get dressed. We lock the apartment door. We walk down to the street. We miss the bus. We cross the bridge. We count streetlights as we pass them. We stare at the neon beer logo through the glass. We spot a cop arguing with two homeless women. We sit down at the bar. We pay for a drink. We black out.
Like a semi-lucid dream, we wander deeper and deeper into a subconscious world of sound amalgams and mutations. “no friend” take a 90’s favorite and pitches it into a throbbing, spacey mutation, full of glinting stars and thumping bass. “acid ocean” sets us at the water’s edge, contemplating an impossible sunset. It’s a calming, mysterious track packed with textured atmospheres and subtle loops. Gradually, a rhythm begins to emerge, light percussion filtering in. At two minutes-thirty, the track switches up and incorporates a gentle whip on repeat. It’s exotic and alive – fantastically new.
The minimalist 8-bit disco of “my fantasy” builds and expands while maintaining its simplicity. Like any good RPG, it leads you right through the thick of a strange new world, this one populated with considerate melodies and shifting spaces. “patience is painful” rides a wire between electro-funk and synth-induced anxiety. “>>we will progress>>>>” splits your attention between an eloquent monologue on capitalism and a trucking, sampled-saxophone-laden track that makes me feel like I’m watching Democracy Now! on DMT.
There is absolutely an exception to the rule of the new generation of remix artists. This exception arises whenever the “art” of the remix is reinterpreted by a new generation with careful consideration and immense effort. The expansive universe of _N drew me in and electrified my brain with a whole new set of synaptic connections. That is 회사AUTO’s true power and what sets him apart from others: a total commitment to a brave, new sonic world. It’s a massive, cavernous album – and extremely ripe for exploring.