Music Reviews

Artist: Winter North Atlantic (@)
Title: A Memento for Dr. Mori Remixes
Format: CD
Label: Boltfish Recordings (@)
Distributor: Boltfish Recordings
Rated: *****
Winter North Atlantic is the music of Ed Carter (of Newcastle, U.K.), self-described as the utilization of live acoustic instruments, analogue synths, stumbling rhythms and dissonant melodies. This is the 4th release from WNA; lots more if you count collaborations and compilations. I am at somewhat of a disadvantage having never heard WNA before, and more importantly, not the original 'A Memento for Dr. Mori' album, so a full comparison with the source from which this remix album was taken is virtually impossible. The best I could come up with is listening to the few tracks form the artist's (original) album on his MySpace site and those pitifully short song samples in iTunes. Still, I got a pretty good (if not complete) perspective of what is going on here.

From what I've heard, the original tracks are more fully realized and solidly structured musical compositions; quite eclectic and hard to pin down genre-wise, but not necessarily ambient. What this remix CD does is bring them into the realm of ambient. There is a somewhat downtempo jazz feel to the original tracks, as far as I can tell, with a bit of folktronica flavoring the mood. The treatment given the tracks here is as if a bunch of hotshot IDM and Gitch Electronica producers had been given full reign to slice and dice as they wished in order to reformat the music to electro-acoustic ambient. First track, 'The Maid," remixed by Fieldhead (Home Assembly, Static Caravan) is virtually unrecognizable from the solidity of the original. All the acoustic guitar-work of the original (which reminds me of Bert Jansch) has been removed, but the little bell tones remain and are amplified in the remix as they play lightly against glitchy string scrapes.

'Cuts and Tears' (Dextro Remix) is a busy little piece with a lot of musical elements sounding as if Brian Eno, Laraaji, Dan Lanois and Michael Brook got together to record 'Music For Films IV'. 'Occam's Razor' is given a very subtle ambient remix treatment by The Gentleman Losers. I especially like the tremolous electric guitar chords that give this piece a lot of atmosphere. Although there is rhythm, it is downplayed giving the piece a free-flowing, laconic mood. 'Fallen Fruit' is only a scant 43 seconds of female vocal and electronic atmospherics on the original, and here it is expanded to 3:36 by the remixing of Paul Sleaze. 'He gets a lot of mileage out of the phrase, 'The apple tree'¦it fell from your window'¦' twisting around the words over a glitchy beat, interspersed with organ bits and other electronics. It's a tasty stew of mildly funky electronica and stands quite nicely on its own.

'Bokor,' remixed by Damien Shingleton sounded like Middle Eastern flavored nu-jazz in the original, and Shingleton retains a bit of the flavor but glitches up the beat and adds a wobbly heavy sub-bass. This was one of my least favorite tracks on the album. From what I can tell, 'The Flute Player' seemed to have a lot of acoustic guitar in the original, but it is not present on Mint's Loner Remix. It does have a very mysterious meditative Eastern sound, enhanced with effective background strings and crisp, simple beat work. The original 'Fall of Stone' (one other full track I was able to hear of the original on the artist's MySpace site) sounded like a quirky New Age Jazz guitar piece for the most part. Cheju's Remix of it removes the guitar and the drums and replaces the melody with xylo-glock-vibe synth and more muted percussion. The overall effect is somewhere between Pentangle (sans vocals) and something delicately Japanese. Bracken's Remix of 'Kinay 816' may just be the most interesting thing on the entire album. Spacey voices replace the fuzzy electric piano of the original, and the well-placed bass, brushed drums and ambient aural vibe makes this a pleasurable trip that could have gone on a lot longer.

The brief clip of the original of 'Guidonian Hand,' although predominantly acoustic guitar, seemed a bit heavy-handed to me. Animat's Can of Worms Remix eliminates any sign of heavy-handedness and turns the piece into a gorgeous ambient chill journey, doubling its length. Good music for the hookah bar. John Ashton's Remix of 'Opportunity Mist' may just be the strangest thing on the album. It is odd ambience to be sure. If John Cale were to do an ambient album, it might sound something like this track. The slow, repetitive harmonium riff with the drum machine that comes towards the end is something else. Makes me think of a march of dead pirates. The little clip I heard of the original of 'Barrel Organ' had a lively Circus-like flavor. The Declining Winter Remix gives it a bit more of a demented carnival atmosphere removing the vocal entirely. Perfect.

You can appreciate 'A Memento for Dr. Mori Remixes' all on its own without having the slightest idea of what the original sounds like. In fact, the Remixes are more like what a good segment of Chain D.L.K. listeners enjoy; ambience music with eclectic elements. A surprisingly good album, and recommended.

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