November 19, 2013

Max Bell is one third Babylonian.

Classixx’s Hanging Gardens is my pick for dance album of the year. It’s pop, disco, and nearly anything else you want it to be. There’s a mystical, almost magical quality to the record. At times it sounds as if there’s a massive disco ball descending on the place where beach sand meets forest foliage.  And there are other moments where seemingly overwrought declarations of love and other touchy-feely sentiments are imbued with a near uncomfortable level of emotional resonance — this is a good thing. Really, aside from DJ Rashad,  there are few other artists that as immediately pop into my head when I’m looking to make a 2013 dance playlist.

Last week Classixx released the second Hanging Gardens remix package, Santa Domino. With only three tracks (below the jump) — each a remix of Classixx’s “Dominoes” — the project still has a running time over twenty minutes. Jas Shaw — one half of Simian Mobile Disco — handles the first of the three tracks, and The Revenge adds his touch to the other two. Regardless of who’s behind the boards, all three remixes prove that it’s difficult to re-imagine the already near perfectly conceived.

On “Santa Domino (Jas Shaw Remix)” Shaw starts by playing Classixx’s  “Rhythm Santa Clara.” To the best of my knowledge, he’s hardly changed anything at all. The real remix comes when Shaw mixes in bits of “Dominoes” and “Stranger Love.” The song is more an amalgamation of three Classixx tracks than a true remix of any. It’s as if Shaw was so enamored with the source material he wanted to stay as close to it as possible. I’m not exactly enchanted with the result, but I definitely sympathize.

The Revenge offers more in the way of actually remixing “Dominoes.”  Here he takes the song straight to the beach, thus the name “The Revenge Summer Dub.” The song starts with sunny guitar strumming and the light jangle of the tambourine, builds to a warm and subdued climax, and then ends with a few minutes of atmospheric rhythm that borders on afro-beat. Summer is long since past, but if you live in Los Angeles you’ll undoubtedly have cause to play this when the sun comes out today, tomorrow, or the next day.

“The Revenge Live Dub” is the only track of the three on Santa Domino that’s markedly different from its source material. Here The Revenge turns “Dominoes” into a soft, hypnotic house/jungle cut, gradually and judiciously adding shades of industrial funk. This is what Classixx would sound like if they played for Neo in The Matrix. I don’t prefer it to the original, but I’m willing to follow the white rabbit and swallow the red pill. I suggest you open your mind and do the same.

Though I enjoy Santa Domino, the songs leave me wanting more. Classixx are phenomenal remixers themselves. It almost seems strange to have someone touch their production. And while Jas Shaw and The Revenge do an admirable job, you can’t help but hope  Classixx will one day remix their own work.

Listen: