I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, rework/remix albums are a tricky thing. Get it right and the songs take on a life of their own; get it wrong and you are pining for the original and questioning what the point was? Luckily for classical pianist and composer James Heather this isn’t really a worry. The second volume of his Reworks series does a fantastic job of reminding us of what we loved about the originals, while letting the artists put their twist on it.
The album starts with the KMRU rework of ‘Ancestral Future Now’. This is a masterstroke. KMRU is one of the brightest lights in the electronic scene at the moment and his rejiggling showcases this. At times, listening to this version you are pressed remember the original at all, but this is the point of the album, to present you something you already know but in a new and exciting way.
Mogwai’s remix of ‘In Your Spirit’ is melodic, as you’d expect, but has a searing edge to it that original couldn’t have. Coldcut’s rework of ‘Passing Soul’ is understated and, at times, breath-taking. Here are the masters at work. The people who re-defined what a remix could, and should, do have done it again. It’s not brash and in your face, as that wouldn’t be in keeping with the original. Instead, they’ve layered Heather’s playing and given it a totally different feel entirely.
The star of the show is the Hackney Road Studio Session version of ‘Hidden Angel’. Roger Robinson’s spoken word leaps out of the speakers. Partly because the words are devastating. As Robinson talks about illness, love and the hereafter, you are transfixed. At first you barely notice the music bubbling along behind. It’s so subtle if melts into the background, but the piano playing is full of life and love. Abul Mogard’s rework of ‘Balance’, on the other hand, is all fuzzy tones and darkness. Around the halfway mark you can start to hear some cascading notes breaking through the gloom until its our sole focus. Voce8’s rework of ‘Meant to Be’ reminds me of Carlo Gesualdo at his pompy best. The vocals rise and fall in flawless harmony whilst sounding celestial.
While listening to ‘Reworks: Vol. 2’ its hard to remember at times that these are all covers and remixes of James Heather’s original songs. The spirit of love and togetherness, for better or worse, that courses through them is here. Yes, some of that has been diluted being seething electronics and breakbeats, but it’s there at its core. ‘Reworks: Vol. 2’ is a solid album. The new versions all add something different to the tracks. Sometimes this works and other times it doesn’t, but it is always entertaining. When it does work, though, the songs are elevated somewhere new. Which is the point, isn’t it?
Words: Nick Roseblade