The remix album has become less and less of anomaly over the past decade or so. Still though, releasing a double disc of remixes is a bold move. And if you’re going to do it, you have to have a sense that there is enough territory to mine for the original mixes to be re-imagined countless ways – in this case 19 times, if we’re going to be specific. You also need the right mix of artists. Such is the case with the Hymnal Remixes. It’s a double disc remix collection of Benoit Pioulard’s Hymnal album that is constantly engaging and somehow manages to feel like a cohesive journey within its own right.
To oversimplify for a moment, Hymnal is an album that thrives on a blend of skewed pop songs and more experimental, somewhat drone-y sketches. This dichotomy helps define the remixes as well. The first disc tends to be devoted towards drawing out those poppier moments, while the second disc takes on those dronier elements.
Disc 1 opens with Fieldhead taking things from ether to expansive in a matter of minutes, with a heavily distorted bass drum pummelling its way through the final minute-thirty. William Ryan Fritch offers an uptempo version of “Margin” that keeps the vocals at the forefront, but offers a quick, snapping beat that gives the song an altogether new flavour. Squanto’s excellent take on “Excave” is built on a foundation of glitchy beats and banjos. The Green Kingdom takes his time with a breathy take on “Litiya” that finds him in post-rock playful mode. Cock and Swan’s take on “Homily” is built around a big beat but has a dark, looming quality that never lets up. Brambles take on “Florid” is built around sub-bass pulses before dropping a snappy garage-y beat. Field Rotation gets things all glitchy again for “Censer”. Part Timer offers up a version of “Reliquary” that sounds like a hip hop mix tape slowed down and sped up to create a woozy effect. Zachary Grey offers a take on “Margin” that starts with some fast melodic guitar before adding layers of stuttering beats. Graveyard Tapes closes out Disc 1 with a take on “Foxtail” that somehow feels like a Jesus and Mary Chain anthem turned into something breathy and ambient – it’s big but patient.
Disc 2 opens with Remote Viewer slowing things right down for a very spare, minimal take on “Hawkeye” that feels like a collage of ideas more designed to create an effect than a linear narrative to the song. Segue takes on “Censer” in a droning, hazy mix that stretches a few phrases out into a spacious languid piece that still retains the cathartic brightness of the source material. Widesky’s take on “Knell” is a collage of hazy distortion mixed down to create something simultaneously calming and chaotic. Loscil’s take on “Florid” feels like an ambient pop piece from another planet. Radere brings the digital chaos for a noisy and enveloping take on “Foxtail”. James Murray slows things down for a take on “Gospel” that builds steam as it drifts off into the ether from whence the whole set came. Pioulard takes on “Reliquary” to turn one of Hymnal’s sparsest tracks into something outright spare. Ruhe takes a dubby approach to “Margin”. To close things out, Window Magic takes on “Gospel” for the sets most sprawling and ambient composition.
Yes, the above may read like roll call, but all the artists on here deserve credit. Hymnal Remixes feels so cohesive that it’s a wonder the chronology of musicians wasn’t set in stone from the outset with each artist sharing with the last exactly what they had done to ensure an overall momentum. Two discs worth of music can be a little daunting but the different voices at work on Hymnal Remixes are so clearly defined that the overall narrative of the collection has enough twists and turns to always keep it interesting.