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XI Versions of Black Noise
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  • A year on from the release of Black Noise, one of 2010's most masterful and celebrated electronic releases, Hamburg techno maven Hendrik Weber issued this straightforwardly titled revisitation, boasting an enviable roster of A-list remixers that reflects his unique position straddling both the mainstream of European minimal electronica (Basic Channel pioneer Moritz von Oswald; Weber's erstwhile Dial labelmates Efdemin, Lawrence, and Carsten Jost) and the wider well of broadly indie-friendly acts (Four Tet, Animal Collective). Fully eight of these "versions" are based on a mere two of Black Noise's 11 cuts, with "Stick to My Side" alone accounting for five. Still, even though these are largely respectful reworkings, altering musical content but rarely the underlying emotional tone --ÿnobody effects a transformation nearly as striking, for instance, as the shift from the picturesque painted landscape on the original album cover to the stark, elegant, abstraction adorning XI Versions -- the resulting collection manages to be just as pleasantly varied and cohesively listenable as Black Noise, while distinct enough to be worth investigating on its own right. The three renderings of "Welt Am Draht" -- not necessarily a highlight of the original album, but nevertheless a lovely specimen of Pantha's fluidly floating yet rigorously rhythmic style -- are an illustrative example. Von Oswald turns in a typically entrancing, atmospheric dub, stripping the track down and refitting it with an airier, gently syncopated pulse and reams of open space. Animal Collective preserve Pantha's ever-twinkling bells and chimes but sub in more basic "tribal" drumming for the rhythm and add a wash of their familiarly fractured, woozy vocals. And Hamburg-based duo Die V”gel, in the most remarkable mutation here, offer up a pulsating, densely layered live-brass-and-flutes opus recalling the oompah-flavored experiments of N“ze or Ricardo Villalobos, which shares only its basic rhythmic undercarriage with Weber's original (and only after a full two minutes of stuttered, harmonically rich brass chorale). None of these three tracks sounds anything alike, but they work remarkably well together since each in its own way picks up on Pantha's predominant aesthetic cues, by and large remaining elegantly smooth and subdued, yet subtly, sinuously propulsive. The same goes for the five "Stick" remixes, although they tend to be less adventurous and, save for the endlessly spiraling synths and cheerful thump of Four Tet's version and Walls' beatless, lushly reverberant take, can feel somewhat formalist and occasionally overly static. Hieroglyphic Being's unrecognizable, incongruously mechanical mix of "Satellite Sniper" is the only real misstep (albeit a minor one), and all told this is one of the most rewarding remix albums in recent memory. ~ K. Ross Hoffman
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