Glenn Murawski – Alternate Versions: Volume 1 – EP Review
We now return to our regularly scheduled programming…
I’m just saying that it’s not story time like it was in reviewing Glenn Murawski’s record Fractured yesterday, that’s all. He’s shifted his gears for the Alternate Versions: Volume 1 EP and it’s only fair that I play this one a bit more straight & narrow and give ya comments on the actual music, not just where it takes me in my brainwaves. Though I’ll admit, writing the review on Fractured is some of the most fun I’ve had in a while…I might have to take a look at writing a few more like those in the future to come.
So here we are, some million reviews deep into the music of Glenn Murawski at this point. We’ve heard originals, we’ve heard revisions, we’ve heard remasters…and now he’s all up into remixing his tunes as well. Ultimately I get it…I mean, I spend a ton of time in Murawski-music-land…I understand why you’d want to stick around with these songs for a little longer and revisit them time & again in different ways; Glenn’s created himself a world of sound that’s fairly all-encompassing at this point, and if you built yourself a home, admit it, you’d wanna live there. And so I suspect the man does, given his high level of continuous output & creativity…he’s given himself every reason to want to stay invested in his music, and the rest of us listening as well. To know what Glenn’s really been doing all along is to understand he makes music like people keep a journal…he has been documenting his journey as a musician over time.
Anyhow…like Playdoh, there are so many ways you can mold it yourself…and Glenn’s chosen all but one major route still to go…and that’s to start handing these songs of his over to multiple other artists/producers like say, the band Bloc Party tends to do. Believe me when I say, that’ll open a whole new dimension for the music he’s making; and the collaborative opportunity is not only enticing, it establishes contacts that are supremely handy to have on file, in addition to a whole universe of different twists & perspectives to be explored. And no – that’s not to say that he hasn’t done more than enough here on his own in these new remixes of his past material – he indeed has on many accounts; it’s just yet another option available to Glenn, and to you all, to expand your own universe of sound.
Even on a visual level you’ll see most of these tunes have changed quite a bit in length, save for “Cataplexy” I think, which is only a couple of seconds different time-wise. Everything else, like “Bastion Of Hope” that starts this record out on absolutely beautiful solid ground, has shrunken by about a couple minutes. And I suppose, if there’s one ocular difference that can be seen without pushing play, it’s that Murawski’s version of a remix, is pretty much guaranteed to be shorter in length than the originals were…and I’m sure a quick look in your own collections and out there online will immediately confirm that’s already a different route than most tend to take in this situation. 99% of the time, a remix tends to expand on the ideas or draw things out with immense loops & repetition; there are no rules mind you, but this tends to be the case. Murawski’s clearly taken this opportunity to switch things up not just sound-wise, but structurally as well – and in most cases, it’s arguable that he’s used this moment to tighten a few corners too. That last part’s harder to say 100% for sure…the man’s great at what he does and these songs all had their own appeal too…but I felt like in listening to Alternate Versions: Volume 1, the biggest takeaway I ended up having was that the length of these songs always seemed to have me wanting just a tiny bit more. Not in the bad way, no – more like when you get a meal you love to devour and simply wish there were a few more bites to go…the kind that says you’ve still got room for dessert or an entire second round, you dig? “Bastion Of Hope” was almost all the proof I needed of that on its own alone…I felt like the changes in sound here were quite remarkable in comparison to the original…it’s like the difference between finding a song with that despairing & desolate vibe of an immaculate track like “A Warm Place” by Nine Inch Nails, and then somehow filling it or replacing it with the warmth of the Lion King Soundtrack instead. Alright…I get it…reading that back, I can recognize myself that I’ve just told you everything while telling you nothing at the same ol’ time – what I’m saying is that you’ll feel the coldness of the original song replaced by a nearly tribal & highly natural atmosphere that leans on tremendously smart percussion & melody to lead the way. You compare this four-minute cut against its six-plus minute original and it’s now easy to spot the opportunity to continue this audible story like Glenn has found; there were no drums at all within the first version of “Bastion Of Hope,” and you’ll likely find they make all the difference in the world when it comes to the appeal of this remix. We get what we loved before – but enhanced, like a great remix should provide in my opinion – and so yep, green lights to the changes he’s choosing to make from me.
Of course, I’m not gonna pick up on every change being made…heck, there was one that I wasn’t even sure I’d heard at all before…”In Trying Times” – I’d have to go back and scour through something like a full twenty reviews and all the archives to be sure…and of course it bears similarities to a few other tunes by Glenn as well…so it’s harder to say. Usually I can pinpoint that stuff from the first couple spins if I’m lucky, but by a third or fourth, I never remember if it’s the other songs it’s reminding me of, or the one I’m currently spinning on repeat anymore…but hey, I’m old. As always, what I’m capable of telling you most is what I hear – and once again the verdict is good – I think if anything I might advise Glenn on looking to the concept at its most gigantic level and dialing right in on it, but I like what I hear so far.
Let me explain… Think of it like…I mean…this is Glenn – we almost have to assume he’s gonna go and do this with EVERY one of his million songs out there…and that’s a tall order. I’m not even getting into how much effort that would take or whether or not it’s ‘worth it’ to do this – if it’s worth it to him, that’s all that’s ever gonna matter to me & right on. But in terms of how to package it all up & put it out there, I’d recommend holding back a little through the process and really looking at how these songs & remixes will fit together. As in, something like “In Trying Times” fits on a conceptual level for sure – it is indeed, a remix – but if we’re talking sound-wise & atmospheres & cohesion & all that…I’d probably notice that he’s got “Bastion Of Hope,” “Tranquil,” and “Dreaming” that all fit perfectly together, and then two other tracks in here to liven-up & diversify the set-list a little bit. And while this all depends on who you are & how you listen to music in the first place…I’d still probably recommend sitting on the material that gets remixed until that strong set of four or five comes along that completely has that similar magic to it. “In Trying Times” is a good tune, don’t get me wrong…but it’s in a tough spot surrounded by the golden hue of the updated take on “Bastion Of Hope” and the absolutely spellbinding take on “Tranquil” after.
I try always look at just enough, but never too much when I write these reviews. I’ll look at information all day long, but the last thing you’ll ever likely catch me doing is checking out another review on the same record by someone else beforehand, even my own. In a sincere effort to preserve what uniqueness I can in what I would type or have to say, it’s just better not to taint the process by an old perspective I had, or even worse, someone else’s. So while I don’t know exactly what I had to say about “Tranquil” beforehand…in my heart of hearts, I can only hope I praised it as much as I should have; the original was amazing to start, and this remix is another stellar victory that changes it in a wonderful way. In that regard, you can tell somewhat where Glenn is starting out in these remixes he’s creating, and of course that skillset & palette & range & scope of what he can do in this sense will continue to evolve, expand, and develop – right now you can hear it’s the space for added percussion, structural changes, and instrument sounds that he’s focused on most…which seems like pretty much everything when you list it out like that, but you get it – in the world of remixes, there are no rules and they could go anywhere. One of my favorite artists of all-time, the almighty Aphex Twin whom I’ve referenced countless times…check out a couple of his remixes…sometimes you’d never even believe they came from the same song! I’ll readily admit, it’s not the route I’d nearly recommend taking most of the time, but it’s further proof of the limitless directions a remix can take an artist or band in. I probably lean much more towards what Glenn is doing here, which is taking a song like “Tranquil” and tightening it up just enough on a structural level to get it moving a bit quicker in how it reveals itself, and adding that extra layer of percussion here has that same wonderfully warm effect we experience on “Bastion Of Hope” as the EP began. All-in-all though, what speaks to me perhaps more than anything else in a remix, a rehash, a revision, a remaster, etc. etc. – is whether or not it works across the board, no matter what it is that you do to it – when you can see & hear how universal that is between every version, you know you’ve really got something special. To me, “Tranquil” has such an extraordinary & beautifully powerful theme at its core, that no matter what way Glenn serves it up, it’s gonna come out shining – the writing of the melody is just that incredible, that in all forms you’ll ever hear it in, it’ll amaze you.
So case in-point…again, I’m not opposed to “Cataplexy” in its updated version, but as to whether or not it was a complete fit with the rest of these songs might be a different conversation. I felt like I might be able to justify “In Trying Times” with its atmospheric opening as to belonging here a bit more easily, but with “Cataplexy” it kinda becomes clearer that the main cohesion in this set of five is the fact that they’re remixed, not necessarily so much how they actually sound, that make any sense? What I loved about this newer version was that it does have an all-around bolder & more robust sound than its original version had…and felt like the percussion added more intensity to it than its predecessor as well. Sound-wise, we’re much more close the latter-half of “In Trying Times” and what that experience was like, and again, not to beat the point into the ground, but taking those two tracks and setting them to the side to wait for others that might have come out with a similar vibe might have been the way to go. Really just depends on the goals and how you listen to the music you listen to; think of it this way – we all have our ‘playlists’ and most of those lock into similar sounds, vibes, and atmospheres for a specific reason – it’s just how we listen. Some people like a more diverse lineup and find tremendous value in that as well…heck, sometimes I’m that guy just as much as I’m the other guy depending on the day…and for another fantastic Aphex Twin tie-in, it was the fact he had put out a promo CD that contained this exactly formula of three in one style, two in the other, that has me doing exactly ALL of what I do today. With that being said…it was a great introduction, but I ain’t gonna lie to ya – I came back to that main set of three I identified with, and left those other two in the dust when it came to what I chose to spin – but I still respect the layout & how it introduced me into a range of what the guy was capable of. I suppose that’s the difference however…it was intended as a promo in that regard…a sample… a taste of what was out there…and that might be something Glenn wants to consider. Will these remix EPs contain a dose of what he’s capable of in that promo-type smorgasbord of sound sense – or will they serve as records that will be able to fully stand on their own from start to finish? That’s the question that remains to be seen…at least for now…we might get more insight into that this very week to follow here…just sayin.’ *cough *cough *hint *hint.
Same thing…I don’t know WHAT I said long ago about hearing “Dreaming” before, but hopefully I’ve given this song the credit it was due in the past, because it’s another true highlight in Glenn’s catalog for the angelic & graceful melody at its core without a doubt. Another excellent cut that you can hear would be successful in connecting to your soul no matter what shape or form you might find it in, as long as it can maintain a grip on the tremendous beauty you’ll find in the main melodic hooks it has. Here in this updated remix, Glenn’s locked onto how to enhance this cut without any damage to its crystalline sound whatsoever – it’s very much enhanced & thickened here in all the right ways without threatening the charming innocence this whole song possesses. “Dreaming” becomes clearer, more vibrant, more enchanting…more of a great thing I’d have been sure to enjoy no matter what if I’m being completely truthful, it’s just masterful melody on display at all times & genuinely impossible not to love. The endearing sincerity of “Dreaming” is perfectly preserved, and the rest of what surrounds that main aspect of what makes this song connects has all the attention to detail in the production & atmosphere it perhaps should have had to start…mind you, it’s only in hindsight & with the addition of a second version like this that we could ever look at a song in that regard. At the time I heard it first, I’m positive that beautiful main melody would have absolutely connected with me already…but after listening to them both back-to-back here, you can really appreciate the added color & strengths this version has; it almost makes the previous original a lot thinner by comparison now. And of course, that’s always a risk; generally speaking, you’ll find most remixes tend to be a different experience to the point where you’ll always be able to separate one from the other as their own separate thing – but in a case of “Dreaming” and how Glenn’s approached this particular track, he might have very well created a full-on replacement for the original. There are no distinguishable aspects like how the percussion comes into “Bastion Of Hope” or “Cataplexy” – it’s not designed like that – it’s more subtle…the string sounds enhanced, different textures to the main piano melody…that kind of thing…and it really, really works gorgeously.
I enjoyed’em all on some level for sure…I’d probably be inclined to lean towards “Dreaming” and “Tranquil” as my main highlights…I just think these two cuts are completely mesmerizing, full-stop – but when it comes to the changes being made, the continuation of his art & music in new directions, and the ambitions he’s put into this set…you’ll find I’ve got no problem at all giving the man an A for his efforts.
And I’ll keep repeating this last part too until I’m blue in the face and your playlists are stockpiled with Murawski’s music – you realize he’s always got his records out there at no cost to you right? As in, zero risk to your pocketbook & more than worth your time? That’s what I’m sayin’ – that’s value beyond compare right there folks. Get yourself some Glenn Murawski at Bandcamp here: https://glennmurawski.bandcamp.com
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