2 CD (ltd. 300)
"The Owls Are Not What They Seem: David Lynch Tribute Remixes" is the continuation of the project "Now It's Dark: David Lynch Tribute" dedicated to the work of the filmmaker and musician David Lynch. The new release contains a double-CD collection of remixes of original compositions included in the first album.
Like on the previous disc, new remixed versions were created by the musicians from different directions of the Russian dark scene: from ambient, noise and pure experimentalism to sharp rhythmic dark techno and post-industrial. The participants are: Arcuation, Regulär, Uhushuhu, Notum, Wunderblock, Neznamo, Sal Solaris, Mortart, Bionoid, Light Collapse, Reutoff, Mira Drevo, Riddika, Svetlo111, Alex Schultz, Lokodepo, Majdanek Waltz, Relic Radiation, Zima23, Lunar Abyss, Kshatriy.
Each disc starts with a special "intro" written by the St. Petersburg-based project Anthesteria and the theremin player Peter Theremin - the great-grandson of the famous inventor who continues the popularization of his ancestor's instrument.
Overall sound mastering was done by Arnold_pR (Reutoff). Artwork features images created by Barrett Biggers (barrettbiggers.com). The edition is limited to 300 copies.
This particular trip starts with something I never like to review, which are compilations. Here the subject is David Lynch. I did see some of his movies, surely. There are more that I didn’t see of his, actually. I know that makes me like a barbarian as of course it’s better to write that all of his films are masterpieces and very dear to my heart. When “Twin Peaks” was on the idiot box in the 90s he lost me after three episodes; I couldn’t remember what I saw in the last episode, a week earlier. But a few years I watched them in a short period of time and enjoyed it. That didn’t make me rush out to watch the third season, but as someone remarked at a fantasy convention I attended recently, Lynch intends this third season as an 18 hour movie, so I was thinking to save it up for Christmas day and, as I remarked jokingly, to use the bathroom whenever a band comes on to do their bit. That works well as a start for a review of a double CD compilation dedicated to David Lynch, his films and his music? Probably not. This is more or less a remix of an earlier tribute (see Vital Weekly 1040) of Russia’s finest reworking the previous compilation and Reutoff, Light Collapse, Dvory, Skripp, Wunderblock, Relic Radiation, Kryptogen Rundfunk, Arcuation, Povarovo, DMT and Sal Solaris. Notum, Uhushuhu, Acruation, Alex Schultz, Lokodepo and many more take on the duties of remixing. Can’t particular picture David Lynch dancing to some/many of the more techno inspired songs here, but then I was surprised to see Nine Inch Nailes being part of an episode. There are quite some moody textures to be spotted here, but I must say that I think the emphasis is on the rhythm a bit too much. It seems like a good excuse was needed to come up with a bunch of dance/rhythm based remixes and it’s not easy to see the David Lynch connection in this lot, nicely dark and bouncing as I thought the music was.
The Russian label Zhelezobeton, famous for its brilliant ambient albums, has reached back on its own publication history. In honor of the return of Twin Peaks, the label has selected its David Lynch tribute album Now It’s Dark (2016) for re-mixing. The result is, simply put, magnificent. The Owls Are Not What They Seem extends from soft soundscaping to absolutely great rhythmic noise without any flaws. It also sounds very different on differing equipment, which sort of fits the Lynch-inspiration very much. For example, Reutoff’s remix of Kryptogen Rundfunk’s “Mind in Motion” simply pulls its listener to the dance floor. Whereas the original album was what I would call “just interesting” at best, this new double remix album is simply awesome.
You might recall Zhelezobeton's 'Now It's Dark' the David Lynch Tribute album by 11 Russian ambient/industrial/electronic artists last year. 'The Owls Are Not What They Seem' is a remix of that album, and it's a double album, so maybe Zhelezobeton figured that would make it twice as good. Participants here include: Arcuation, Regular, Uhushuhu, Notum, Wunderblock, Neznamo, Sal Solaris, Mortart, Bionoid, Light Collapse, Reutoff, Mira Drevo, Riddika, Svetlo111, Alex Schultz, Lokodepo, Majdanek Waltz, Relic Radiation, Zima23, Lunar Abyss, Kshatriy, and Anthesteria, featuring Peter Theremin, on what else but a theremin! Well, he is the great-grandson of Lev Sergeyevich Termen (aka Léon Theremin) so that obviously makes sense. The latter contributes two new tracks - "Green Is Its Color" and "Silencio" in addition to the 23 remixes for a whopping total of 25 tracks. If the first David Lynch tribute album explored the darkest, most sinister side of Lynch's oeuvre, then this one is even farther afield. I don't see it as much of a Lynch tribute as a remix album, and well, those that have followed my reviews know how I feel about remixes in general. But that sort of applies more to dark dancefloor goth-industrial than it does to this kind of stuff. If you start with abstraction, exponential abstraction isn't going to make much of a difference. Hence, you won't find me saying for example that Arcuation absolutely massacred Skripp's
"Lynch Law," or the Relic Radiation Remix of Wunderblock's "U-Turn to Lost Highway" is a sublime take on the original. (None of that is true by the way.) In fact, I'm not going back and listening to any of those tracks on 'Now It's Dark' to compare because it's too much work and likely won't sound much like the original, so what difference would it really make?
Overall, 'The Owls Are Not What They Seem' seems to have more rhythm to it than 'Now It's Dark' incorporating a more techno-industrial atmosphere where the first one was predominantly dark/ambient/industrial ambient. That's not to say those aspects have been replaced; they've just been remixed with some rhythm in many cases. Some (purists) who really liked 'Now It's Dark' are likely to be turned off by this, but there may be plenty of others who are really going to enjoy it. I'm kind of on the fence about it as some tracks really work well in remix mode while others others... not so much. Say for example, Alex Schultz's remix of Relic Radiation's "Arrakis Cinnamon" turns it into a hypnotic techno-tribal dark space ambient delight. The very next track that follows, Lokodepo's remix of Povarovo's "Prelost" is just a techno headache screamin' for some heavy-duty pain relievers to me. As with any compilation, and especially one this large, there are tracks you're going to really like, and ones that will leave you cold, even for Lynch fans. One thing though that I think of as a missed opportunity was for one of these remixers to try a quasi-Angelo Badalamenti take on at least one of these tracks. Badalamenti's noir jazz and somber orchestral work was a vital component of the vast majority of Lynch's filmography. Maybe it's out of their comfort zone, but I don't think it would have been unappreciated here. Be that as it may, Lynch fans are still going to eat this up as they do with nearly everything with his name attached to it. The first one sold out, and this one, limited to 300 copies, likely will too. For the latecomers there's always the digital album, but you won't get the cool owl-oriented artwork by Barrett Biggers.