I’ll admit I have something of a mental block against music that emerges from so-called production and remix teams. Maybe it’s because I dislike remixes with such a pointless passion. But that’s just me and my bias towards song–I find music that’s so blatantly constructed (and re-constructed) to be odd and artificial at its core. And yet, here are Soulsavers, a production and remix duo from England, and I like this one quite a lot.
Then again, this is not just a laptop creation. “Sunrise” began life as a real song–it was written by Mark Lanegan and was first heard back on his 1994 album Whiskey For The Holy Ghost–and in this incarnation features new performances by, among others, Will Oldham, who does the singing here. (Lanegan, it should be noted, has been Soulsavers’ chief vocalist for the past two albums–2007’s It’s Not How Far You Fall, It’s the Way You Land, and this year’s Broken.) In Soulsavers’ hands, “Sunrise” has become atmospheric in a gratifyingly swampy sort of way–we get a piano vamp, washes of cymbals, and a dirty-sounding harmonica, all rinsed through with reverb. And front and center we get Oldham singing with more rough-edged gravitas than he gives us in his more fragile Bonnie “Prince” Billy mode. He seems in fact to be doing an homage to Lanegan; this version of “Sunrise” sounds almost more Lanegan-y than the original, somehow, with its dark echoey groove and that killer harmonica, which replaces the sax heard in the original, to great effect.
Broken was released back in August, without a lot of fanfare, on Columbia. (Note how even now the big labels don’t know how to promote off-kilter projects.) “Sunrise” is actually a non-album single, released just prior to the CD.