I have never understood the thing with remixes and extended versions. I still probably don’t, but ‘Variants’ by eclectic psychedelic English duo Cobalt Chapel is the exception that proves the rule. A great album, no less.
‘Variants’ consists of the kosmische dyad’s remixes of most tracks from their self-titled debut album. Many, although not all, of these remixes are longer than the originals so the reason why some tracks are missing is probably that they simply couldn’t fit on the record.
Normally I would rather stick to the original, but when the first variant here, ‘We Come Willingly’ starts with a barrage of analogue synths – a fat analogue bottom and a howling top with lots going on in the middle – it makes me sit up an listen. It feels more like a re-imagination than a traditional remix.
Gone are the rhythmic elements of the track, and instead vintage keyboards fill the soundstage. Cecilia Fage’s beautiful voice is in the foreground, creating an an eerie twilight zone effect. There is still a lot of echo – like in most remixes – but here it serves a point, rather than just give the listener remix fatigue. And although the track is in fact almost one half longer than the original, nothing feels wasted. There is a strong presence to the music that gradually builds, and once it finishes, I almost want to listen to it right again, that’s how good it is. Better than the original version? Grudgingly, I would have to say yes.
Other variants, such as ‘Black Eyes’, keep the rhythmical component but not necessarily using drums, thus keeping the analogue electronics focused atmosphere intact. Again, some of the sounds here are just amazing! I think Jarrod has said he had 16 different vintage keyboards when recording the Mountain EP, and I believe he has picked up a couple more since then…
Interestingly, on Cobalt Chapel’s Bandcamp page there is an earlier remix of ‘Horratia’, made by MAPS. It has a more typical electronic feel and reminds me why I am really not into remixes. In comparison, I much prefer the version on ‘Variants’ which is more ominous and cacophonous.
Finally, the album ends with a ‘Positive Negative’ variant that is more than twice as long as the original. In all honesty, that is five minutes too long for me, but at this stage I am already floating in space and hardly notice!