21 December 2015

Moonbabies - Wizards on the Beach (Deluxe Edition)

Earlier this year, I was introduced to the wonderful Moonbabies and reviewed their album 'Wizards on the Beach' (cleverly linked here).  Ever since that review I have had a great response to the review and Moonbabies have also been in touch with some beautiful words.  A few weeks ago as we were about to kick into album of the year/single of the year mode, they got back in touch and advised they were releasing a Deluxe Edition of 'Wizards on the Beach' and I promised to review it.  Sadly, this promise has been slightly broken and I am sorry for that, but after a slight delay we are ready to have a look at the album.  Now I am not going to look at the original album, you can read the review on the link above and read me wax lyrical about that wonderful record; but the second disc will be placed under the musical microscope.  Now this is a mixture of new songs, reinterpretations and remixes of tracks from the original album; I am glad that they waited a while before releasing it, when artists release a Deluxe version at the same time as the standard release it feels a bit cheap.  I'm also glad that there is a mixes of remixes and new accounts; but this review is not about my own militant views on records and companies, it is about new music from Ola Frick and Carina Johansson and now it is time to find out if the companion piece to the main album....

Starting the second disc is “Leaving Shadows” which is a gentle number that has gentle guitar strumming/plucking, the odd piece of piano and a reflective set of lyrics which are designed to take the listener on a journey within the number.  It is a really beautiful song, full of little dips and turns that hook you straight in and if it had had been added to the original release I have a feeling (in fact, I know) it would have been the track of the album.  It is a beautiful number that instantly has you wanting more from the very first moment and it is beckons for further plays straight away.  The second song is a remix of “Wizards on the Beach” titled “The Watermark High Remix" created by Paul Philip van der Walt; being a reinterpretation of an original song, you get fleeting glimpses of the original every now and then and it give a new slant on that song.  This one feels like the song is being shone through a complicated prism and the light is hitting of a broken mirror, sending the reflections and lights in strange and different directions which adds a new side to the tune.  As remixes go, it does bring something new to a familiar song, creating a new interest in something that was already very good – I do not think you can ask for anything more from a remix really.  The third track is a “The Ocean Kill Retake”, it adds more high end and high energy to the original.  It changes the dynamic from an alternative Kate Bush - Cloud Bursting era to a club track that would be good on either chill out album or getting the floor into another euphoric moment.  As the year has gone by, the original it is one of the tracks that has matured in my mind and this one is a good deconstruction/reassemble version which does what all good remixes do; keeps enough of the original to make it familiar and adds a different view on the song.  The fourth track is the second remix of "Wizards on the Beach" with the extra tile "The Land Below Remix" which was created by Erik Lindestad.  Compared to the original, the energy that was brought from the guitar in the track is replaced with an electronica melancholy that adds a new layer of reflection to the song.  It another decent mix that not exactly hitting the right mark for me, but it does not do anything wrong either and in the right setting will probably come to life in front of you.

"Playground Dropouts Retake" follows on and is given a new set of clothes - now I was very fond of the original version of the song, with its strange Lemon Jelly/Psychedelic daydream feeling.  Much like the original it is a sub three-minute tune, it still has that strange mixture of sounds and quirks going on which feel like a dream slightly out of context; it has a new noise in the mix and the drums have a different feeling to them.  It does all of this and work really well, then the goes all haunted with voices swirling in the wind as a guitar accompanies the people like a new age Pied Piper take you away from your village to the new home.  Much like the other mixes, I love the way that it still has the familiar and is at the same time new; I will be honest I say I prefer the way the original feels, but I do love the way this version ends.  "24" is the next song to get a fresh coat of paint with "The Glass Children Remix" which came from Daniella Kleovoulou & David Fairweather; this was my favourite song on the original album and a track which made our recent best songs of 2015 list, this remix is just as beautiful but in a different way.  Whilst the original had that dream-pop quality which comes from the band, this one digs within a different vein of the song and pulls out the trance element to the song that were always there in the song and adds a few beats to the tune.  It is the best of the remixes on this record, hands down one of those moments where something that was already great is further elevated; well played Ms Kleovoulou & Mr Fairweather, well played.  "Head Cleaner" is a strange little number, sounding like a counterpart to some of the bizarre moments from NIN 'Ghost: I-IV' meets "Widowlicker" era Aphex Twin, it is both relaxing and on edge at the same time.  It is over in under two minutes, so it does not give all too much away and could have been expanded.  However, it is still interesting, just a little short.  "Chorus Retake" is next, with a happier edge to the music on this take compared to the original.  It makes me smile when I try to focus on both this version and the original - they both have merit and they are both have a fair level of reflection to the music.  This one takes me back to the 80's in some ways and that is something I am not sure was the intention of the band; but the result is still one that is making me grin from ear to ear on the Winter solstice here in the Northern Hemisphere.

As we start the last third of this disc, "The Ocean Kill" is remixed by Jan Hertz and the bass is the focus here from the beginning.  It is not immediate, but it is the power behind this version of the song; as is the ability of the remixer to add this back together very slowly.  It is very minimal in its approach here and has shades of the remix of "You've Got the Love" by Candi Staton by The Source, but with the very high energy end removed and placed to the side.  Again I am not finding anything here that I do not like yet it is not to my tastes in a way, but I still enjoy the new angle of the song.  "Divine" is the last new track of the album, starting with the acoustic guitar looping around in a slow fashion that suggests a reflective edge to the number, a gentle drum beat joins in with the guitar as the song discusses the void, being old enough to know what you are doing and you are having to leave on a journey which you have once took but will take you much longer to get to your destination.  There are keyboards on this gentle number that accompany the rest of the instruments beautifully and it is a beautiful song, seriously I would love to hear a full album of this type of number by Moonbabies as it compliments their dream pop style so well; another gem which I has me under its spell from the start.  The penultimate song to be remixed on this album is "Bird Laid Frue" and the remix is called "Orange Crate Art Mix" and was created by Toby Bernsand, it takes the original idea of the song and embellishes it with an extension and more sounds which a mixture of Mercury Rev, Groove Armada (especially the song "At The River") and those strange moments between being awake and asleep (to paraphrase the song "Hercules" by Mercury Rev) when all is one and all is dream.  It is another remix that is coming to you as if it was created in another place and you are only receiving glimpse of it, it is also another mix which does not improve on the original for me; but once again it is not a bad version by any means, but at seven minutes it could have lost a minute to be honest.  Ending the album is a remix of "Eli in the Woods" called "Cantaloupe Remix" by John Christopher Simson; now the original hit the ground running from the beginning and it had a positive energy from the beginning, this mix takes the song and gives it a gentler introduction.  Everything is there, but it is slowed down and very mellow as if you are swimming in a lake in the middle of the forest; then just after the first minute and a half you can hear things being added and the pace quickens and the chase is on for this song.  It feels as if you are breaking out of a dream when it all kicks in and there is a joyful moment to it that I can get lost in.  It extends the songs in ways that I had hoped for as I did find the original a little short and makes this man smile as if the sun was shining at midnight, as the music fades and the drums drift to the background I cannot this of a more fitting end to this album.

As a musical coda to one of my favourite albums of 2015, I really enjoyed this and found a lot of the remixes and reinterpretation to be really well crafted and beautiful.  Even the mixes that were not to my tastes where at the very least of interest and did not detract from the song.  The new songs on the album were the highlights of this disc for me though, if they were recorded at the same time I can see why they were left of the album, but they were all brilliant in their own right (especially "Leaving Shadows").  I am hoping I can still afford the vinyl version of this album as it is so beautiful, this deluxe version is also a great edition as well.

8.5 out of ten - Oh, now you have my attention and maybe my money, time and heart

Top track - Leaving Shadows

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