Easier isn’t always better. Shoelaces, for instance — the little fuckers make walking a whole lot easier. No slip-sliddin’ around. Everything fits snug. But who the hell has time to tie shoelaces. I’m on the go, cuz. Dial me up some slip-ons.
Remix compilations run the same route, collecting the best (or all) of a group’s hard-to-find, twelve-inch- or digital-only re-tweakings into one package that triumphs for the sake of convenience but falls off with extended listens. Route de la Slack compiles a disc of Swayzak’s remixes (limited to ten from the immense catalog of reworked tracks) and a disc of rarities that trek as far back as the group’s eggling years in 1994. And as somewhat expected, the compilation is a scattershot of moments that barely conveys the typical consistency of Swayzak’s James Taylor and David “Brun” Brown.
After opening with a spacey remix of Quark’s “Acoustiques Paralleles,” the disc gains momentum on “Tic Toc,” a glitchy, stuttered reworking of Will Saul’s track featuring Ursula Rucker, which slowly gains its four-on-the-floor form despite the click-clackery that feverously attempts to pull the arrangement apart. Disappointingly, “Tic Toc” is frequently without match on the disc. The other tracks either wallow in the way-too-standard house routine (Swayzak vs. Theorem’s “Devil of Rotations”) or the aural equivalent to down pillows and an overstuffed duvet (George Sarah’s “Sonata For Petra”). Only Señor Coconut’s “Smoke on the Water,” with its sinister, up-tempo bass and stabbing horn-play, and Bergheim 34’s “Random Access Memory,” with it pricelessly assembled amalgam of mismatched electro styles (think LCD meets Kompakt meets Fennesz meets, meets, meets…), fill the trick-or-treat basket higher with delicious ear candy.
The true grit of the compilation arises with the rarities disc, which, through ten tracks, isn’t entirely solid itself but showcases some of the group’s strongest moments. Swayzak succeeds with the most panache when its songs aren’t floating around in an abysmal open canvas. Solid grounding is necessary so such tracks as the free-floating “Ease My Mind” or the poor attempt at Eno “If I Didn’t Care” play like a waste of space. But elsewhere “Wavemail” hits like standard Kompakt — slow build, delay, surprise twist, drop to floor in convulsions, someone put a wooden spoon in my mouth, return to original theme. Complementally, “Saints” strikes like down-tempo Chemical Brothers (the good stuff, not the bad), and “Mike Up Your Mind” tunnels though its bubbling bass like the perfect set-up track for the aggressive banger next on your deejay set list.
Although compilation discs such as Route de la Slack are endlessly convenient (see The DFA Remixes Chapter One), it might serve your electro-listening needs better to scour eBay, dig through crates or simply search for the digital files, because if anything can ruin a sequence of tracks, it’s inconsistency, and Route de la Slack is full of it.