What’s in a song?: Charlotte Gainsbourg – 5:55 (Metronomy Remix)

I’ve been making friends. I suppose that’s a statement that needs a little more qualification. A couple of months ago I left London to move to Sweden and have lived in a pretty small social bubble ever since. I don’t mind, it’s let me focus on writing these blogs and doing various other musical bits. Still, recently I’ve become a little bit more friendly with the folk at my language course, ratcheting the charm levels up just enough to get some friendly replies in return. It makes me feel just that little bit more human. Bonus of bonuses; one of these new buddies actually knows about music leading it quickly become the go to anchor of conversation when navigating the shuffling awkward of this budding friendship. We had a chat. He got me thinking about remixes. I make remixes. Well; I occasionally make remixes and I aim on making considerably more, but what exactly do I mean by ‘remix’? What makes a good remix? How many times can I say remix before the word means nothing? Why have I turned into Carrie Bradshaw with this slew of rhetorical questions? Because it’s interesting. Let us take as an example this gem.

Charlotte Gainsbourg is. Whatever superlative adjective you close that sentence with, it’ll likely be worthy. She’s just one of those people with no mental barriers; she’ll do what she wants for good or bad and just see what happens. You can almost view her latter musical output (secondary to her work as an actor) as an attempt to do something purely for the sake of doing. Almost. Her father and mother both sang so why shouldn’t she. But we’re not talking about her, nor are we talking about the album 5:55 (though I will soon, I’ve been planning). We’re taking it merely as opening subject and with it the title song as found here.

Bit different isn’t it? Nicely Gallic. Actually, now that I come to think of it, it reminds me of the water world music in Mario 64. It’s that implied triplet groove that beckons to us behind the Gitanes smoke, a cigarette balanced beside the coffee. Slowly taking our hands and holding us close, burying a head in our shoulder as we sway, gently. It’s all so organic. So freely continental. The music by Air providing a soft plateau for Gainsbourg’s fragile voice; the elements blend into a moment of cozy reflection. Very good, Charlotte; very good. Our source material is rich and bountiful. So, remix 101; what do we do now? What should we do now? You must have noticed the trends; all we need is a vocal line that we can inject dumb basslines and bland drums into. We can call it remixed and be done with as the dollars fall from the sky. I hate that type of remix. An EDM remix. I’m slightly snobbish, me; I like a bit of craft.

Metronomy have crafted this remix. Sure, they lose everything but the vocals. Sure, they they inject a bassline and drums that (through squinting vision) can be considered ‘dumb’. But instead of being an idiotic crowd pleaser; the piece is utterly restrained. That most British of characteristics. To me, for a remix to stand beyond it’s source it needs to justify it’s purpose and somehow be distinctly rememberable. Though lacking the embrace of the original; Metronomy’s remix replaces the warming flair with a cold simplicity. There are few textures beyond wobbly electro-horns and rubbery guitars. In fact the majority of warmth comes from Gainsbourg’s voice which now sounds with renewed strength against this wobbly backing. Our sepia-tinged reverie becomes uncertain. In short, the remix has a personality all its own in complete contrast with the original. That’s what a remix should aim for; not simply filling a dance floor or cashing in on someone else’s popularity.

I suppose that’s all I aim for with mine, to make something with personality. Something with purpose away from the source. A bit like upcycling. A fairly simple answer to a simple question this week, but at least we listened to a good tune along the way. Now if you’ll forgive me, I’ve got to go dust off my N64. For research.

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