The remix album is so often a sham, a lazy way to please the public by presenting them with a product they didn’t even know they wanted. There is a slightly more legitimate side to this process, wherein electronic musicians/producers build an extra cushion into their trust funds through remixing by commission (see Aphex Twin’s perfectly titled 26 Mixes for Cash). Does the listener benefit from these business transactions? Usually the answer is no, though we’re occasionally blessed with gems like Matthew Herbert’s house-hopping Secondhand Sounds.
Germany’s Schneider TM (aka Dirk Dresselhaus) is generally lumped into the organic post-rock/glitch group occupied by countrymen Mouse on Mars, Oval and Pole. But his breakthrough track was an unlikely cover of the Smiths’s “There is a Light that Never Goes Out”; his last album, 2002’s Zoomer, prominently featured his own pop vocals; and he shows a clear interest in what can only be described as nerdish funk. Reconfigures spotlights his focus on unusual pop remix projects, ignoring the ponderous instrumentals so often produced by his genre-mates. The most interesting anomaly is his glitch treatment of American country rockers Lambchop, which says something about the nature of this collection: blip beats running loops around acoustic guitars. The track sequence is uneven, and the album doesn’t work as a cohesive whole, but it does have some interesting ideas.
Opener “Suck or Run” shows the album’s main defect: a lack of quality source material. The two-chord atonal song by Pulseprogramming has strong beats but reminds one of Bran Van 3000’s tremendously annoying “Drinking in L.A.” After this initial misstep, the album hits its apex with Schneider’s take on “Wonder” by second string trip-hoppers Lamb, an orchestral torch song that amazingly sounds nothing like frequently pillaged genre-founders Portishead. Also strong are Rechenzentrum’s “Ephe Kicks in, Feel like Kevin,” where German indie-rocker Marc Marcovic channels a space-age Prince, and Ruby’s kinky dance number “Grace, Space-Mix.”
Schneider’s remix of Lambchop’s “The New Cobweb Summer” is a solid example of classic balladry given the electro treatment, but it is overshadowed by the generic dub-hop of Turtle Bay Country Club’s “Heaven TM” and the high school drama-club atrocity that is the Faint. “The Conductor” is a horrible slice of emotional gothic torture, with Clark Baechle’s Trent Reznor-lite yelps flying like bloody nails through one’s headphones. Perhaps the most baffling track here is Boss Hog’s instrumental “Switched On,” where the remains of indie rock kingpins Pussy Galore are rendered completely unrecognizable through their electronic experiments.
Schneider TM is undoubtedly a talented producer with a unique ear for strange laptop congregations, and his unlikely remix victims are certainly challenging choices, but I can’t help wondering if he would be more successful adding his unique vocal twist to artists more within his range. Schneider remixing Richard D. James or Squarepusher might make for a tedious hour of IDM drudgery, but it might just work as an alternative to this collection.