Bark Psychosis: 400 Winters EP (Fire Records, 2005)
As a lad who came of age in the early 1990’s, I am very familiar with the dreaded “remix release”. Those of similar age as I will not fondly remember artists such as Paula Abdul, Bell Biv Devoe, and others shamelessly releasing tired sounding alternate versions of their hits to capitalize on their popularity. It seemed every pop act eventually fell prey to recycling their hits with “new” beats that provided no inspiration to their songs. So, with this bitter taste STILL in my mouth after all these years, it was with a bit of trepidation that I anticipated 400 Winters, a four-track EP release from one of my favourite bands ever, Bark Psychosis. Last year, Bark Psychosis released the stunning ///Codename: Dustsucker, an incredible full-length masterpiece of brooding post-rock music. After shelving the Bark Psychosis label for a number of years and working on other projects, the band’s front-man and main visionary Graham Sutton orchestrated a remarkable comeback with ///Codename: Dustsucker, delivering a CD that floored listeners all across the globe. So after hearing that Bark Psychosis’ newest release was to be largely a remix CD containing alternate versions of songs off of the perfect ///Codename: Dustsucker, I was hesitant to believe that anyone could improve or even give a just reinterpretation of the band’s work.
400 Winters, though, is not a remix album in the vein of those pathetic early 90’s schmaltz-pop works. Rather, through the talents of Colin Bradley, a.k.a. Dual, Bark Psychosis’ songs are recast in a provocative and exciting light. Dual, on his three remixes, does not try to remake the songs, necessarily. Rather, he sheds new light on the musical ideas found on the songs, and turns the songs on their heads while keeping much of the same mood as found on ///Codename: Dustsucker. The end result is an experimental and abstract take on favourites from ///Codename: Dustsucker that ultimately satisfies the listener.
400 Winters opens with the title track, which also appeared on the band’s full-length last year. This version is called an “edit”, which basically means that the song’s last few minutes of piano noodling and atmospherics have been lopped off in favour of presenting a more radio-friendly track. The edit achieves this aim nicely, while retaining all of the charm and beauty of this light, jazzy, female-sung track. For the next three tracks, though, the familiar sounds of ///Codename: Dustsucker are buried, manipulated, effected, and warped, as Dual takes over. “INQB8TR”, that slow-burning dark track off of the full-length, is rendered even more suffocating here. A Spanish phone operator recording opens the track, as metallic atmospherics cover over the beeping phone. The familiar drum beat of Lee Harris, heavily processed and buried in the layers of droning sounds, slowly slithers it way up in the mix. Other elements of the track appear for a moment, only to be smothered by the gleaming sounds. Sutton’s voice emerges, naked and unaffected, hypnotically crooning the lines of this morose song while guitar lines battle with keyboards and samples for notice. The middle part of the song, rather than evolving into the hazy guitars of the original version, is instead given a lighter feel, with keyboards, moaning female background vocals, and electronic percussion taking over. The song slowly concludes in a blur of soft-pitched drones and noise. “INQB8TR” is a stunning redo of an already intriguing song. Next up is “The Black Meat”, which benefits from back-tracked percussion, while retaining much of the sounds of the version on ///Codename: Dustsucker. “The Black Meat” is probably the remix on 400 Winters that sounds most like it’s original, yet this remix rewards the careful listener with dissonant buried sounds, busier percussion, and blended layers of music. As the song ends, Dual clever mixes the main beat of the first part of “The Black Meat” with the sounds that make up it’s much different conclusion, thereby showing the continuity between the two parts of the original song. “Burning the City” is the final song on the EP, and retains the intimate and stripped-down feel of the original. Dual samples Sutton’s voice initially over the solitary piano line, only to build in subtle bending keyboard lines and effected percussion from the original. As the song builds, Dual buries the whole song in a heavily reverbed piano line, scraps the percussion, and adds in strange sounds from the original version that are here back-tracked and/or manipulated to create an inhuman but comforting climax to the song. After the sounds unite to wash over the listener, the main song (as interpreted by Dual starts back up, and runs its course. The song finishes majestically with the piano line and subtle electronics warbling about.
Indeed, Bark Psychosis has again exceeded all expectations with this remix EP. Or, rather, Dual succeeds in reinterpreting the gorgeous songs of ///Codename: Dustsucker in a whole new and equally compelling light. With its wild experimentalism, attention to detail, and strange sonics, 400 Winters is a gem that will be treasured by post-rock and electronic music fans alike. Highly recommended.
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