Max de Wardener - Detuned Reworks Music Album Reviews

Experimental electronic musicians including Loraine James, Rupert Clervaux, and Oliver Coates tackle the spooky, microtonal source material of last year’s Music for Detuned Pianos.

Max de Wardener’s Music for Detuned Pianos is such an exquisitely singular album that reworking it feels like deconstructing ice cream: largely unnecessary, potentially destructive, and unlikely to yield results as perfectly palatable as the original product. And yet, six short months after the release of Detuned Pianos, on which composer de Wardener used unorthodox tunings to create deliciously spooky acoustic vignettes, we have Detuned Reworks, featuring remixes by six UK producers drawn from the leftfield club scene and experimental electronic music. The results are often intriguing, sometimes exasperating, and occasionally revelatory.

Perhaps the biggest discovery to be made on Detuned Reworks is how extraordinarily potent the original album’s piano parts are when untethered from their mother album. Composed by de Wardener and performed by pianist Kit Downes, their otherworldly melodies are the musical equivalent of truffle oil: powerful sensory agents to be splashed across the mix, rather than employed in great quantities.

London bass-music whirlwind Loraine James wields piano notes like weapons in her predatory remix of “Foxtrot,” slashing snatches of waspish playing across irregular electronic beats like swords through grapefruit, while experimental polymath Rupert Clervaux sets two lines from “Deranged Landscape” against each other in rickety patterns, then feeds off the results, adding sparse but effective drums to the uncanny mix. Composer and cellist Oliver Coates’ “Blue Slime Mix” of “Blueshift,” meanwhile, takes a dribble of the original’s nautical piano wobble and uses it as a base for an excruciatingly nervy acoustic drone, which builds like the headache-inducing tension of a really bad day at the office.

It’s not so much that these reworks are improvements on de Wardener’s original songs; rather, the producers pull de Wardener’s work into their own orbits. Clervaux nudges “Deranged Landscape” from its camp on the borders of Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works Volume II toward the suggestion of a basement jazz club, while Call Super masterfully manipulates cinematic album opener “The Sky Has a Film” into a syrupy, house-indebted number that deserves to be heard on expensive speakers at the start of an adventurous night out.

The reworks that don’t succeed are those where the producer fails to stamp an identity onto the original work, leaving it in a ponderous halfway house. Coby Sey is a promising artist whose warped vision of modern music would seem to fit with Detuned Pianos’ witchy universe. But his remix of “Bismuth Dream” is a little too blandly beautiful, a betrayal of the original’s unsettling gloom rather than a transformation of it. Manchester producer Herron comes across as if intimidated by the source material, using echoing snatches of piano and an awkward electronic beat that don’t even seem on talking terms, let alone in collaboration.

If there is a whiff of regret to this generally fascinating album, it’s that de Wardener didn’t push the boat farther out, both stylistically and geographically, in his choice of remixers. It would be fascinating to see what someone like 100 gecs or Angolan producer Nazar, for example, might do with Detuned Pianos’ slippery source material. As it stands, though, Detuned Reworks is an avant cheerleader for Music for Detuned Pianos’ considerable charms, sending you back to the original album with a hungry ear and newly sharpened mind.
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Max de Wardener - Detuned Reworks Music Album Reviews Max de Wardener - Detuned Reworks Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on Thursday, August 13, 2020 Rating:

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