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Austra – Sparkle (Remixes)

on August 04, 2011, 7:58am

When the tracklist came out for Sparkle, an album of remixes from electronic goth duo Austra’s debut, Feel It Break, it seemed like the prize would go to either superproducer Mark Ronson’s signee MNDR or one of the collection’s substantial DFA representatives. In fact, the album’s most affecting remixes come not from established names in techno and electronica—though MNDR truly does magic with its echoing, ghostly “Nighttime Remix” of “Spellwork”— but from lesser-known artists still building their remix resumes.

Legendary producer Mark Pistel of Hercules and Love Affair produced “Dub”, “Vocal”, and “Funk Bass” versions of “Lose It” where one would have sufficed. Fellow DFA signee Still Going produces a slightly more interesting circular, rave-like “Beat and the Pulse”, arguably Feel It Break’s most danceable track. Its version eventually builds to an urgent climax, which loses momentum with Dutch producer and DJ Steffi’s lackluster 1980’s Detroit house remix of the same song. Fortunately, Berlin duo Kool Thing fulfills “Beat”’s potential with its eclectic remix, starting out like a Blow Poor Aim love song before moving through whimsical whistles and easy-listening saxophone blasts, ending with crunk music synth pads.

Norway foursome 120 Days follows that act with a lethargic trip-hop version of “Lose It” that captures the M83-like youthfulness of Katie Stelmanis’ voice; at the same time, the layered, mechanical synths and occasionally robotic “don’t want to lose you” highlight the cold fear of loss. Planningtorock’s version of the same song orchestrates harps and violins with Stelmanis’ deeply distorted voice, warming the distance between her isolated, sparse beats. Credit for the most charming, if not necessarily the most challenging, “Lose It” remix goes to Canadian power couple Young Galaxy: Peruvian flutes and a reggae beat give Stelmanis’ original call-and-response vocals a tropical, easygoing vibe. The artists with nothing to lose gained the most from this remix collection, earning gold stars for themselves and a wider audience for Austra.

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