First, it was just scattered websites here and there offering a bunch of early remixes in MP3 format, including the famous Triad MP3z, and the famous Bluenine collection did the same in the various MOD formats. Then came Chris Abbott with his Back In Time series and c64audio.com website, followed by more and more CDs remixing old Commodore-64 game (or SID) tunes. Then came http://remix.kwed.org, or R.K.O. as it is affectionately called by its fans (yours truly included) - it did to the remix scene almost what HVSC did to SID tunes. Then came the excellent Remix64 site built on top of RKO - and the SID remix scene has exploded into one of the biggest underground music scenes out there.
Remix64 - The CD was produced by Neil Carr and is basically a sampling of the best of the many freely available remixes this underground scene has produced. Except you won't find any of the tracks of the CD online - all 17 tracks are brand new, created by respected and famous remixers exclusively for this album. Oh, and there's an interesting twist to them, too: they were all done in the style of the 80's, the same era in which the Commodore-64 lived its renaissance!
Take the CD in your hands and you immediately get a feeling for how great the Remix64 website looks - the back cover is basically a printed replica of the site with the CD's tracklisting. The front cover is a bit less impressive: it's a somewhat chaotic montage of everything the artist could think of about the C64. Which actually makes it look very 80's like.
The booklet contains short notes by the producers and the performers for every single track, and as a nice touch, each has neat little hand-drawn graphics above or under it, too. My only gripe is that the order of the tracks inside the booklet is not the same as on the CD, requiring some flipping around when trying to read about the tracks being heard - this can be fixed quickly by taking out the inside page and flipping it inside out before putting the booklet back together (although even this way some tracks will be slightly out of order).
The CD will satisfy everybody's taste, as there's something here for everyone: a variety of tunes from 9 different SID composers, and a variety of styles ranging from Vangelis to Moroder, from Oldfield to the Pet Shop Boys. All of them do a rather good job of capturing not only the original SID tunes, but also fitting them to the style of the given 80's musicians. It is a very impressive collection of remixes! Let me talk in detail about some of them.
Green Beret is one of the most impressive "in the style of" tracks - it captures the many nuances and details of the diverse styles of Vangelis. You can hear everything from Blade Runner to 1492 - Conquest of Paradise merged into one grandiose track that also does justice to the original SID. It would've been even better if Thomas Detert - who was an established SID composer himself and in fact, he remixed one of his own SID tunes for this album, too - used a real Yamaha CS80 for the leads, a la Vangelis.
Ark Pandora by Mike Gommans is listed to be done in the style of Mike Oldfield, but the presence of guitars alone won't make a tune sound like Mike Oldfield. From this point of view, this track is somewhat disappointing (the only one on the CD), but it is still a very good remix by itself.
Jarre would've been very proud himself to make a track like Ocean Loader v1 (arranged by Marcel Donné) which matches the rhythm of his Magnetic Fields album to the SID tune - and it's a perfect match!
I'm sure many people are familiar with the famous tune 19 by Paul Hardcastle. On this album, the 19 speech sample is replaced by "Red Max" and the melody also matches that of Red Max - otherwise it's an almost exact replica of Hardcastle's classic by Fabian Del Priore. Another great remix job!
I admit, I am not familiar with The Killing Fields at all (or at least, I am not aware of it), but Platoon by Trace is another high quality remix on the CD which takes Jonathan Dunn's original composition and turns it into a rather good electro-pop remix. I am also not familiar with the SID tune of Storm, but Glyn R. Brown definitely mastered the uptempo Pet Shop Boys feel in his remix.
Panther by Carlo Demichelis is a great tour de force of synthesizer technology that appeared in the 80's: FM synthesis, synthy lead sounds, etc. Plus it's also a darn good remix done in one of the many styles of Giorgio Moroder.
If you want to hear a very romantic love song, go no further than LMan's version of one of the short tunes from Defender of the Crown. Infuse some orchestral flavor, stir, mix - and enjoy!
Hyper Aggressive is a very unique remix, not only because it is done in the style of Art of Noise (think of their popular In Visible Silence album), and not only because the original tune is slowed down drastically here to fit the chosen style, but also because the person who remixed this tune is Thomas Detert, the composer of the original SID himself.
The next to last track is one of the best remixes of Thrust ever. According to the track description, it was done in the state of "alcoholic relaxation" by Slow Poison. Imagine what these guys can do when they're sober (or more drunk)! The advertised Human League/New Order touch is very evident on this track - but so is Hubbard's Thrust. A great fusion of two styles.
The album closes with a track that could've been lifted from one of Depeche Mode's albums - except it was arranged by LMan & Wobbler while staying faithful to Nemesis the Warlock. The most impressive part of this track is the presence of vocals that make the remix sound eerily close to Depeche Mode.
All in all, if you used to enjoy or still enjoy some of the above mentioned famous musicians of the 1980's, you will love this album. Even if you are not familiar with them, I think you'll enjoy the electro-pop style of many of its tracks. And if you buy this CD only because you are a SID fan, you'll be treated to some exemplary remixes by some of the best arrangers out there.
URL: Remix64 website