Wednesday, April 29, 2009

I've said here before that my two favorite albums this year are DJ Koze's Reincarnations: The Remix Chapter 2001-2009 (Get Physical) and Art Brut vs. Satan (Downtown), though not in so many words. I've known it before this week, but the sunshine Seattle's mostly had lately (finally) and the relative lack of clutter in my house has made it even clearer. They play like yin and yang to me right now, bouncing off one another and getting in my head all the time; they're part of my life, the place I hoped they'd eventually get to. Loads of records sound real good and are impressive, but these two are now permanently markered on my wrists like re-entry stamps; they are April 2009, after EMP Pop Conference and before who knows what--summer, yeah, but more than that is harder to tell at the moment. (Flux is a permanent condition and one I adjust to decently, but that doesn't mean it's much fun.) If you can't identify with Art Brut's songs about, let's see here, eating sugared cereal and reading comics, taking public transportation, obsessing over pop music to the point of staying up all night and/or being unable to stop yourself from singing along to records before other people hear you, discovering bands later than you're "supposed" to, and living/partying like someone half your age when you really ought to know better, because these resolutely immature acts aren't just fun, they're totally normal, in fact you can't begin to understand why the entire world isn't doing it too--if you can't identify with these things, I envy the living hell out of you.

Art Brut's songs are my life; Koze's remixes are my ideal. They're vaporous, heady, whimsical, charmed; the tracks endlessly reinvent themselves as they spin out--never mind the ways they reinvent the source material. It grows more and more apparent with every play that his core strength is that he isn't just throwing random weirdo shit at the wall--some of the best stuff does little more than shift around the furniture that was already there. It took weeks to finally admit to myself that I didn't just want to hear Koze's remix of Heiko Voss's "I Think About You" because I like the original but because this version, which doesn't sound especially different from the original, airs it out so expertly: the vocals stretch out, the already gauzy quality turns into a fine mist. The subtlety is what gets me: he makes an attractive face that much prettier by tweaking an eyebrow's arc and daubing out a couple of freckles. (I haven't A-B'ed them, so forgive me if I sound as airy as the music I'm trying to describe.) He makes Hildegard Knef's "Ich Liebe Euch" into a 3D version of itself: throwing reverb onto the strings, dipping the backing vocals into amber and drying out the lead singer till his voice sounds like a transmission from '40s radio. In Koze's hands, Matthew Dear's "Elementary Lover" is colorful and crazy-landscaped like What's Opera, Doc?, and it ends with this sped-up sample: "Thank you! We've all enjoyed being here tonight! You've been a great audience! We're gonna close with a song for all you dreamers!" It's funny and it's big-hearted and it's tongue-in-cheek and it's devastatingly accurate. I melt every single time I hear it.