The voice of Hrishikesh Hirway is a fragile thing. Even on the most sparsely arranged tracks from last year's A Name Writ in Water, Hirway's second full-length as the One AM Radio, that voice threatened to be overwhelmed by its surroundings, swept away by gently pulsing guitar lines or sucked into the undertow of subtle electronic washes. Of course, that never happened. Part of the album's magic was the delicate balance it struck between its organic and electronic elements, allowing Hirway's patient, unadorned baritone to float atop the music's surface like a message in a bottle.[more:]
It is a strange prospect, then, to risk upsetting the equilibrium of Hirway's vision by making an A Name Writ in Water remix album. Unsurprisingly, the interpretations from On the Shore of the Wide World that hew closest to the emotional scope of their predecessors are most successful. Anticon producer Alias bathes "What You Gave Away" in reverb and icy Massive Attack beats, ramping up the spectral power of the original. Ninja Tune/Mush knob-twiddler Daedalus, who helped mix A Name Writ, wisely preserves the gorgeous acoustic-guitar figure and vocal melody of "Under Thunder and Gale." He adds a growling bass line and a bed of white noise that gets louder and louder, as if to underscore the dread in the lyric "We'll just keep drifting, hoping the waves won't pull us down.'
Unfortunately, too many of the EP's other tracks fail to enhance the originals or make aesthetic statements of their own. The tepid John Tejada remix of "Witness" is an uninspired and repetitive Postal Service knockoff, and Hirway's own unrecognizable recast of "Buried Below" aimlessly cuts and pastes vocal harmonies and shards of violin. It sounds like the Books without any of that bandï¿½s dynamism.
When done right, a remix album can simultaneously remind the listener of the power of the originals and cast them in a new light; Bjork's Telegram, a track-for-track remix of her album Post, is an example of that. But where Post was brimming with so many ideas that it seemed to demand interpretation, A Name Writ in Water does not. Hirway is a great singer-songwriter who tastefully dresses up his songs in electronics -- in a sense, the songs from the original album already seem like remixes. Several tracks on On the Shore are compelling and expertly crafted, but ultimately this project seems unnecessary.
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