Minus the Bear - Interpretaciones del Oso (Cover Artwork)

Minus the Bear

Interpretaciones del Oso (2007)

Suicide Squeeze

Remix albums are a tricky proposition. They succeed when the songs are altered enough to stand as independent entities, but not so much that they rob the original of its identity. These days the industry, particularly the indie side of it, pumps out such albums at a prodigious pace (ask Bloc Party). At their crassest, labels use them as a quick cash-grab for bands taking their sweet money-draining time crafting their next opus. Suicide Squeeze appears ethical enough to privilege the artistry of the remix over the commerce.

Enter Minus the Bear. 11 artists deconstruct and rebuild the entirety of 2005's Menos el Oso. Now remember, we're dealing with a band whose guitarist (David Knudson) did for the instrument what Van Halen did two decades before. To reconfigure said finger-tapped riffing based band, and do it convincingly, is no small feat. How would "Panama" sound without Eddie? Or "Eruption" sans shred? Somehow many of the partakers in this daring project manage to achieve the impossible.

"Drilling" goes from the smooth as Land ‘o Lakes butter original version to a slow-burning booty-shimmering electro-funk stomp. Tyondai Braxton churns "Fulfill the Dream" through the glitchcore meat grinder to squeeze out an Autechre-like lump that bears no resemblance to the original. "Hooray" becomes a thumping, `80s-style dance floor bopper, and the already heavily drum ‘n bass "The Pig War" transforms into a cool, somber and clarinet-coated denouement thanks to O, Hunter.

Meanwhile, "Memphis and 53rd" sags with an overly saturnine sound. "The Fix" comes across flat with nebulous electro-noodling. Similar to "Memphis and 53rd," the remix artist converts the verve of the already electronic-sounding original to a deflated, robotic lumbering pace. In other revamped renditions, the reworking doesn't differ significantly from the original to merit inclusion.

The question must be raised whether it is creatively prudent to dispense with the tone and structure of the original song during the remix procedure. As in the case of good cover songs, it is imperative that the new rendition be lent some semblance of originality, an imprint of the artist giving the oldie a once over. Most of the remixers on Interpretaciones lather their takes on Minus the Bear with differing degrees of themselves to partly or completely change the original. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. But Interpretaciones del Oso demonstrates that musicians can bring different tools to the table to carve something new out from the old...even without a guitar.