In the summer of this year I discussed remixing a song by Artgruppe. I met Roy Thirlwall on a nice mid September summer afternoon (not been many of them this year) in a beach cafe in Southend. We spoke of David Bowies “Low” album, Brian Eno’s classic ambient albums, Ligetis “Lontano” (a personal favourite of mine) indie rock, guitars, struggling with 4 track cassette recorders in the 80s and 90s, synthesizers, analogue and digital, and why mainstream songwriting has become dull.
A couple of weeks later I got the track to remix “Neither Nor”which is all about being stuck in the no-mans land of indecision.
I downloaded the stems and assembled them in my DAW. The first thing I did was to do a rough arragement and mix of how I thought it should hang together as a rock song. This was my approach to finding a way-in to the song; and the first thing that really lept out at me was the lyrics were all about being alienated and being unable to commit yet the music in many ways the opposite- lively, bouncy, with a really happy pop feel.
So having listened a couple of times I firstly slowed it down to 80BPM, this invovled cutting up all the stems especially the lead vocal lines and altering the spaces between the lines to both fit the new time structure and a more uncertain feel. If it didnt work the singer had agreed in principle to come round and dub some new vocals. In the end some subtle tweaking did the job.
The next thing to change was the harmony; the original structure I complety dispensed with, leaving the melodic line; all the drums, percussion and bass were deleted, same applies for most of the guitar parts, with the exception of the power chords, which I reversed and stuck through a comb filter.
Now left with one acoustic guitar, one reversed electric guitar, a cello and two Ebows, and the backing vocals I started over. I re-sampled many of the backing vocals, changing the pitch, comb filtering and often reversing. These then got arranged into a form of choir with them overlaying each other, with some interesting effects.
I then set about the main harmony, got rid of the tonal structure and replaced with symmetical chords based around D ,G, E imitating the original structure to fit with the melody line, which I further broke up into smaller motifs then spread across several synths. The middle 8 had a nice change, which i kept the feel of but added more depth.
In the original song the final bit is another repeated chorus, which i got rid off and added a coda, based on material from the verses, partly the idea being to give a sense of contrast and explore the alienation more. So this now has a very different feel and structure, but for me fulfils the content of what the lyrics are saying.
You can hear the track here