Category: Electro / EBM
Album: Detox Static EP
Blurb: The result of an open call for remixes for “Take One,” Detox Static is a seven track set of remixes that effortlessly transports the song into 2016 without losing sight of the place the original holds in electronic music history.
On September 28, 1984, the song “Take One” was played onstage for the very first time in America. Some people will tell you it was September 20, or 21, or 29 even, if you believe YouTube (I don’t think any of us actually believe YouTube). I have a vague memory of visa problems, making the poster proudly advertising it for the September 20 to be a lie. It was the September 28 at Medusa’s, an 18-and-over juice bar in Chicago, notorious for being open until 8:00am. The stage was set to look like some apocalyptic version of the Vietnam war, with netting scattered all over, obscuring synthesizers and black-tape wrapped synthetic drums, wires and cords splayed across the front of the stage heading in a million different directions, and a wooden stand held a synth. I remember thinking that they had found just exactly the right combination of military and sports equipment to make themselves look like war-weary grunts in some exotic jungle entrenchment of the future, bulletproof and connected through tiny headset microphones to expert military strategists, building the robotic future of warfare. Green and yellow lights directed straight across the camouflaged stage into our eyes halfway through one of the greatest shows I ever remember having seen, up until then, in my 18 years of life. “This one’s called ‘Take One.’” And they played it. And compared to the cassette in my pocket, it was a mess. The drums were messy and the vocals were uneven. But the song was there – urgent and powerful. The song was great!
The cassette was given to me by a friend, and included a couple of Front 242’s songs that hadn’t come out on Geography, but sounded like they should have. “Take One” even sounded like it could be played right alongside “U-Men” or “Operating Tracks.” It lacked the steady pulsing FM synthesis keyboard riff of “No Shuffle,” or the DX-7 sounding rubber synths and arcing electronic string pads of “Don’t Crash,” the unknown (to me, at least) new song they closed with. Like most Front 242 songs, it took me a few concerts to finally put together the vocals, but their on-air military radio warning still felt deeply topical in Reagan-era America – “One day, the moon will fall. One day the ground will sway. This might be the last call of a lost world anyway.” But it was perfect in 1984; the perfect response to Reagan posturing, passionate maleness. It was powerful but sleek and silky and more real than his warrior cowboys trading weapons to the bad guys. It was sexy and subversive and it felt right.
… and remarkably right still.
The result of an open call for remixes for “Take One,” Detox Static is a seven track set of remixes that effortlessly transports the song into 2016 without losing sight of the place the original holds in electronic music history. And as a “Pay what you want” release on Bandcamp, it held the top seller position in a number of different categories for weeks. It opens with a remastered version that is crisp and big sounding. Some earlier versions of this track had possibly been tape edited, making them sometimes difficult to grid properly in DJ software like Traktor. This one sounds great and grids pretty well; there still seems to be some very slight issue around the 40 second point, but if you grid after that spot, the rest of the track will sync perfectly in DJ software. As an aside, it’s interesting to see the original track grid with Traktor at 113.64 BPM. As so many of us work with digital equipment right now, we find that it’s easy to work on a song, always, at increments of a BPM (this track is 130, this one 115, etc.). A song with a fractional BPM seems from a different time, when sync, tape locked time code, and inaccurate sequencers overruled any need for logic and refused to play by any rules.
Anyone familiar with Rene and Andrea Nowotny’s AD:Key project will not be surprised that they were able to work so well with the song. On songs like “So Fest, So Rund, So Schön,” they have, in the past, conjured up the spirit of Front 242 just as they did the spirit of D.A.F. in songs like “Elitaer.” They clearly have a passion for this period in electronic music and that drove this version, a collision between Kraftwerk-type open space and a dense moving 120 BPM EBM swirl that constantly threatens to fall out of key, reminiscent of the period, a time when analog synths would often need to be turned back on after detuning due to temperature drift of the octave interval. For a sense of how that sounds, take a listen to “A Crow and a Baby,” by the Human League off of Travelogue. At the same tempo is the sharp and modern sounding mix that follows by German electronic futurepop band Eisfabrik (Ice Factory), which definitely lives in the same world as the group’s 2015 track “Maschinen.” It shares the same Benny Benassi-like pulse bass, tight-as-a-ball kick drum, and filter sweeping synths, while still doing justice to the track. It’s hypnotic, dub-like, and aimed directly at the dancefloor. Next up is a simple execution by Kenneth Fredstie and Lars Henrik Madsen’s Kant Kino, earning its stomp from a series of rising, alarm-like tones and a spun down 107 tempo. The Norwegian duo playfully reinterprets the track without wandering too far afield, continuing the club-friendly motif of the record. Admittedly, it’s a little lower energy than I would have expected from the band, but it fits the song well. Newcomer Tefonik delivers a robotified minimal version that is lounge-like and streamlined, speeding up the track to 126 and rendering it as a tight electronic groove with some deceptively subtle nuances. It shows restraint even while demonstrating how well many of the pieces it uses survive the increased tempo. Continuing the practice of moving the track into more uptempo territory, Robert Karlgren of Sweden’s Restriction 9 gives the song a house-like execution at 120 BPM. A simplified bass line and start/stop arrangement creates a well built dancefloor track that plays a good deal of cut-and-paste games with the original parts and builds its own kind of urgency. This is every bit as good as his remix of 3TEETH’s “Final Product.” And closing out the record is Berlin’s Digital 440’s downtempo mix at 114, staying relatively true to the original while warping the groove into a CR-78 type drum machine loop that makes it probably the perfect song to drive at night to.
Is it repetitive? Sure. Every remix EP of one song ever made in history is repetitive. Anyone who needs an explanation of why probably needs some of the terms in that last sentence defined for them. That may be outside the scope of this article. The real question is “How do you stay topical 32 years after a song is released?” Here’s one way: You let your fans discover newer bands through their remixes of your songs, feed their love of a great song with great newer artists… and then, essentially, give it away.