Updates; Tiger Style

Since the release of last years' Know by Heart, the members of The American Analog Set have been on hiatus from their usually busy touring schedule. They are still going strong however, as bassist Lee Gilespie assured me via E-mail, and have merely been on sabbatical from the routine of tour-promote-record, ad nauseum. In the interim, an EP has been issued of re-mixes by Tiger Style label-mate, Her Space Holiday, and some guy who goes by the unfortunate name of Styrofoam. Listeners familiar with the aforementioned Know by Heart will recognize re-mixes of 'Aaron & Maria,' 'The Postman,' 'Know by Heart,' and 'We're Computerizing and 'We Just don't Need you Anymore.' Also included are a re-working of an AAS single-only release, 'Desert Eagle,' and a cover of Her Space Holiday's 'These Days.' Aside from introducing interesting beats into these songs, these re-mixers use layers and layers of keyboards to tracks to add a new dramatic dimension to the way the song develops as it moves from beginning to end. Just think about the techno music you hear in clubs-how stuff drops in and out, zooms in, creeps in, seeps in, cross fades, all that cool stuff.

The disc begins with the wispy, barely-there synthesizers of 'Desert Eagle' chiming-in like the distant cathedral bells of Notre Dame. Once this pattern is established, distorted samples of bass drum, snare drum, hi-hat, and crash symbols impose themselves violently and over-slowly onto the serene French villa in whose streets you were just walking. The slowness of these samples is so instinctively wrong, that I think it would be really hard for a human being sitting at a drum-kit to replicate them. Being bipeds (well some of us are quadrupeds), our natural rhythm is, at worst, too good. The track is then gone as quickly as it came.

The cover of 'These Days' is a real highlight of the EP. Singer Andrew Kenny purrs most femininely over drummer Mark Smiths techno-accurate playing in a such way that most red-blooded fellas would be uncomfortable with. I like it anyway though. The music itself consists of rich, dark, mysterious chords on open-tuned acoustic guitars and tremolo-soaked keyboards. While none of these chords particularly match, they all seem to be in the same family. The placement of the melodies, including melodies on the electric guitars at the end, work together to produce a zig zag effect, so that everything is not piled-up and heard at the same time. Very pretty and modal.

'Aaron and Maria' is glitched up with dentist drills, speed typists, pierced balloons, vibrating ball bearing and all kinds of ugly sounds that dudes like Richard James would be most proud of. The actual placement of the beats and the lush, orchestral synths almost do a pretty good job of redeeming the track, which reminds me very much of some of the Pastel remixes on Illuminati.

Track 4, 'Know by Heart,' is a fiasco from start to finish. Beginning with some old school Hip- hop beats, and music cut to fit that scene, the beat soon comes to a halt with 'Baba O'Riley'-esque synths, and vocal shrapnel that sounds a little too 'Alt-space-delete' if you know what I'm saying. When the beat finally comes back in, it is the 'muy rapido' techno-dance beat fiesta of the century. I personally think it's a laugh, but I've never been to a rave in my life. Some people like this kinda stuff, but it seems to me as if they're saying, 'look, I'm hip! I can party all around the block!'

With a balance of pretty keyboards, no apparent guitars, cut and paste beats, and glitchy IDM hi-jinx, Styrofoam's re-mix of 'The Postman' is probably the best example of the modern re-mix style. The original lyrics still show through with some irony, as sung in the first person: 'I walk the streets for hours like some kind of jerk/ With my grey clip tie and my pressed blue shirt.' I think the irony is that we are the mailmen now, not the old men, but indie rock guys wearing headphones listening to AAS. While the track itself is fairly blasé and monotone, the million-fold of vibrations at the end of the song are like a welcome warm shower of gamma rays that hover and swarm like buzzing spacecraft made of pure light particles.

Likewise, similar enjoyment will be found in 'and 'We're Computerizing and 'We Just don't Need you Anymore,' also remixed by Saran Wrap, er, I mean Styrofoam.

All said, it's hard to say who the winner is here. American Analog Set's music is pretty lost on most of these tunes, except for tracks 2 and 6. Not a lot can be said for melodic or harmonic variety in the songs either, which strike me mostly as being the same chord through-out the whole album. Let's just say that AAS do not set out to jar you. The strength of the EP is that these songs are really new creations, because the complexity of the rhythm and the IDM style of building an arrangement up slowly, are so different from what AAS. These stylistic differences are very imposing, and the possibilities, when this kind of stuff is fused with the rock idiom, are pretty promising from a rhythmic and compositional perspective.

© 2002 Jonathan Donaldson