In the four years since the release of Olan Mill’s “Kimale” (d1) , the Gent based label Dauw run by Pieter Dudal with art by Femke Stijbol, has certainly gone onto stake out their own little piece of Ambient territory. With a consistent design aesthetic that has only really changed from the initial 10 releases in felt bags, the label has managed to release known artists such as Dag Rosenqvist, The Humble Bee, Benoît Pioulard alongside newer artists.
Illumine’s “#2 Reworks” is their first venture into the vinyl world, but with their typically hand-made design aesthetic still entrenched. The record, a seven track affair, contains seven remixes or reworks from the likes of Benoît Pioulard, Stijn Huwels, Message to Bears and others.
“Almost one year ago, Illuminine released “#2”, the hollow up of their highly acclaimed debut album “#1″. This second album offered listeners a consistent set of songs with a highly emotional character. Both albums clearly showed the distinctive language of their founding member, Kevin Imbrechts, who came to the fore as a master of melancholia. His interpretation of melancholia is one of coherence: often soothing and with smooth edges, but also varied in its execution, allowing for shifting temperaments and rearranged combinations of instruments. It’s almost like each song can be discovered again and again and each listen can give form to a new constellation.”
“Dualisms #2 (Studnitzky Rework)” is reworked by Berlin trumpeter and pianist Sebastian Studnitzky and focuses on multiple level instrumentation from subtle skipping percussion, beats, repetitive piano loops, radio like recordings, electronics, drones and others that are added and subtracted like layers building up and then stripping back. Hand percussion adds a different feel to it giving it an almost ethno feel with hand claps and shaker sounds. The track is quote hypnotic with the way the bass beats drop in and out and the propel the track forward alongside an instrument like a xylophone. At times it feels purely electronic, then more organic. This is best shown towards the end as the handclaps lead the track to its conclusion. Of the original recording it’s really the piano and drone elements that remain with hints of the original melody being reworked in this version.
“Atlas, Eyes ft. Will Samson (Alex Somers Rework)” Alex Somers is an American artist living in Iceland who has collaborated with his partner Jonsi of Sigur Rós. The track opens with a muted explosion, low-level humming and fractured acoustics coming through static and disrupted sound. Drones swirl around before layered vocals come in, one that sounds submerged, while another is a lot clearer. The music feels decayed and affected by being buried and dug up. It is warped, a bit gritty and grainy, but also with a certain level of beauty that you can glimpse in snatches, mainly brought about by the feel of the vocals. Musically this is quite faithful to the original track, but this reworking as mentioned before, submerges the track, which was originally clear with a warm tone to it.
“Dear, Dolores (Julien Marchal Rework)” reworked by French pianist, composer and Whales Records boss features delicate close recorded piano that features all the sounds of the piano from the keys to the pedals, the hammers being heard, but not overpowering the piano sound itself. The music has a certain feeling of reflection, but not melancholy. The pace picks up as does the intensity which transitions the piece into a more forceful one that demands of the listener’s attention. As the tone of the music changes so does the narrative before returning to the early reflective sound. The original track while it features a crystalline piano accompanying acoustic guitar, string section and drones, it’s the acoustic guitar which is the focal point. The change in instrumentation for this rework, as well as the way it was recorded, sheds new light on the track and a nice stripes back re-interpretation.
“Be Wise, Take Care (Benoît Pioulard Rework)” Pioulard who traditionally records for the Kranky label and who had the “Slow Spark, Soft Spoke” release on Dauw comes in with this epic eight plus minute reworking. A hazy constellation of drones saturated in static and sounding light like a summer rain storm, bend and twist unfurling with light and distorted tones. The original version has string drones composed of cello and violin plus horns, piano and scraping bass guitar, guitar and is a glacial ambient meets neo classical meets post rock. For this rework Pioulard has focused on the string section and distressed them.
“Wander, Rise (Message to Bears Rework)” is UK’s Jerome Alexander aka Message to Bears who is known for his organic folktronica meets electronic meets ambient. For his rework the track starts slowly with long linear drones with melodic glitches added and his trademark cut up beats alongside piano, electronics to create an organic piece of fluttering electronics that is the sum of its parts and more. The original track focuses on acoustic guitar with a slight glitch sound to it that slowly grows in texture with the addition of a thick swell of drones constructed by cello, violin, horn and trumpet that overwhelm the acoustic guitar. The drones create this symphonic sound which is the centre point of the rework.
“Wander, Rise (Wouter Dewit Rework)” Dewit, a Belgium based pianist who released the “Still” album late last year on Zeal Records. Interestingly, while he appeared on three of the tracks of the original album, he did not appear on the original version of this track. His version is piano driven, as you would expect, but has an almost jaunty feel which is coupled with a fast section of piano that provides the rhythm and in a way replicates the drones. The track utilizes multiple layers of piano which heightens the mood of the track and shows off the Dewit’s talent in construction and thought in the reworking.
“Dualisms #2 (Stijn Hüwels Rework)” is a minimalist musician from Belgium who has appeared on Dauw as well as labels such as Eilean Rec and curates the Slaapwel label. His reworking starts with long slightly discordant drones that sound like treated guitar drones that resonate with an air of, well not decay, but of the process of metal being rusted. There is a slight sharp edge to the top-level drones, while there is a horn like feel to the lower drones. Some sort of staticy field recordings infiltrate the track towards the end. This is quite the most abstract reworking on the album as it appears to have totally reduced the original elements down and reconstituted them in a completely different way.
This album is a success. For the majority of the album the reworkers have been faithful to the original works, but have also added their own touches to create utterly new pieces that work in tandem with the original works. The record comes in an edition of 200 standard copies, with a special edition of 50 copies featuring an additional cassette album “#2 Reworks Addendum” (which contains a collection of B sides, live versions and rarities) and a tote bag. The cassette can also be purchased separately as a digital download only. I recommend getting both this and the original work. Both are quite stunning.