A series of parallel-universe versions
Rob Waters
10:32 4th May 2021

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Just a year after releasing their eponymous fifth album, Manchester-based trio GoGo Penguin have realised a long-held ambition by producing an album of remixes. The simplicity of GoGo Penguin’s set-up is a huge part of their charm; drums, double bass, piano, nothing more. It is a rich fusion of jazz, classical and electronic genres with a deep and complex sound that belies the simple analogue nature of the group’s instruments. Perhaps this simplicity then, provides the perfect basis for a free-for-all collaborative re-imagining. 

‘Signal In The Noise’ is a boisterous track with layers upon layers of stunted samples and interference, carrying only the faintest essence of the original track. At points it is expansive and somewhat disorienting, but towards the tail-end, 808 State finds a melody and slowly develops it over the ebb and flow of the textured backing.

Yosi Horikawa’s spin on ‘Embers’ is a delicate intervention. Picking up on the track’s central theme of a slowly building fire, Horikawa adds layers of crackling and interference to exaggerate the texture of the track, a bassy drone gives pace to the song and helps the rhythm build to the track’s existing crescendo.

In ‘Atomised’, Machinedrum transposes the track’s signature arpeggiated piano onto a deliciously crunchy synth, lending the track an entirely new atmosphere. A few bars in, the percussion is redeployed on a drum machine, the boxy sound taking centre-stage and instantly placing the track firmly in the techno genre. This is by far the most dancefloor-friendly track on the record, exploiting the electronic sensibilities that are buried in GoGo Penguin’s work.

'F Maj Pixie' has two reimagined tracks on this record, both of which featured on the ‘F Maj Pixie’ Rone remix single released earlier this year. The Rone remix weaves a nice textural landscape but the track’s original looping melody clashes with the slowly unfurling context, creating an uncomfortable tension. The Squarepusher remix feels somewhat more successful, building again on the signature hook from the original composition with an increasingly distorted interplay between old and new.

‘Don’t Go’ receives the Portico Quartet treatment. For a band that feels so spiritually similar to GoGo Penguin this could go one of two ways; it could be a match made in heaven, or a barely-noticeable intervention. The end result leans towards the former; an accomplished piece which carries some of the more electronic essence of Portico Quartet’s work during their turn as Portico (a much more digitally-driven endeavour than their earlier work), as well as the strong musical narrative of GoGo Penguin. It doesn’t particularly sound instinctively like either group too, instead becoming more than the sum of its parts. 

Remix projects are quite often touted as mere dancefloor-ready adaptations, but this is something wholly different. The album’s rich compositions are reimagined over an expansive sonic landscape, the intricate melodies and musical progression swapped out for a cacophony of samples and distortion. It’s not altogether faster, or more beat-driven, rather it sounds like a series of parallel-universe versions of the tracklisting; some excellent, some more challenging. 

It is certainly in the spirit of jazz that such free-form experimentation and improvisation flourishes, and that is true of this project, but some of the highly-polished appeal of GoGo Penguin’s sound is lost in favour of a more experimental and sometimes arresting listening experience. At the very least, it is a well-crafted springboard into an exciting future for a band who, without a doubt, have many more tricks up their sleeve.

RMX arrives 7 May.

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Photo: Press