In many cases, EPs of new material from bands who have released prolific albums in the last couple of years are enfuriating teases and rehashes that offer the faithful listener little new material if any at all. It's also difficult to accept an artist's re-rendering of some of your favorite songs. In most cases, tracks are placed in unfamiliar hands and the results are unpredictable, and usually unsatisfactory. The Notwist have done the same with Neon Golden, except this time the tracks are given to familiar bands such as Four Tet, Manitoba, and The Notwist themselves. That doesn't suggest, however, that actual members of the Notwist crew don't do more damage to their tracks than the artists to whom songs that aren't theirs are entrusted.
The best part about 2002's Neon Golden is The Notwist's ability to make catchy electronic songs while still staying in control of the original material. In an era where bands like The Faint and The Postal Service retain the indie dance crown via unconscious retrorehashes or densely-programmed iMac beatz, respectively, Neon Golden brought something completely new to the table. One of the best tracks from the album and possibly the best song of that year, "Pilot," is a great example of this experiment in subdued danceability. While the guitar, drums, bass, and simple break beats create the backbone of the song, which is definitely a catchy one, the electronics serve the secondary role of creating the perfect ambient backdrop for the basic material. Their lo-fi-sounding material from the album is just as strong, however. The best example, "Neon Golden" uses simple banjos and winds to create a pleasant minimalist accomodation for Markus Archer's vocals.
The remixes of both these songs kind of take away what was so special about them in the first place. "Neon Golden" is basically given a techno/disco makeover and you'd need dental records to remember what song it borrowed from. On the remix of "Pilot," the electronic ambience becomes the backbone, and the outcome is unfamiliar and unpleasantly unbalanced. The original's simple guitar line, which is the sound that clicks immediately with the listener during any given listen, is replaced with a mindless break beats and the break beats from the original are replaced with randomly-selected instrument loops.
The only new song, "Red Room" is more of a Notwist track than the Notwist-remixed Notwist tracks. It starts with a couple loops of oboes and flutes, then transitions gracefully into a lovely electronic soundscape, and the song goes out the same way it came in. It's a nice enough track, but it can't really compete with the two remixes that follow it. It feels like an ok track that separates the good second half with the mediocre first.
"Hey listener, you know those really boring Notwist remixes you just listened to? Well wake the fuck up! This next shit is good." The opening of the remix of "This Room" (done by members of Four Tet and Manitoba) is appropriate, in that it jars the listener awake from "Red Room"'s sleep with some atonal electronic samples, and gradually changes into an exaggeration of the electronic bridge of the original version of "This Room." Markus's cutup vocals from the original nicely sit atop layered keyboards and drum beats, and again, the electronics function to create the backdrop. Loopspool's remix of "Pilot," renamed "Different Cars and Trains," taken from a lyric from the original song, is a much better reworking of this song. The soft electronic beats create the image of sparsely-populated highway or train station, and then slowly brings in the traffic. The song is barely recognizable as a remix of "Pilot," which is why it was renamed, I guess, but it still barely hangs on to the original material by retaining a few very tiny samples from the original and extending it into an entire song. Their ability to do this is quite impressive, and the payoff in the song is even better. These two tracks make the album worth buying.
This EP, which is a maddening follow-up to their brilliant 2002 effort, the second half at least, is nonetheless a nice reminder of the band's original sound, and is something that will barely tide you over until their next full-length. The album would be perfect as a record because you could just play the second side, which is all that really matters. The first side is barely passable. Ironically, the bands that are missing the bigger picture on this album are reworking an entire song rather than magnifying certain parts.
6.0 / 10
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