Miles Davis,
Panthalassa: The Remixes
(Columbia, 1999)

Panthalassa: The Remixes is a collection of Miles Davis tracks from the late '60s and early '70s, heavily remixed and reinterpreted by some of today's best producers of electronic music. And, believe me, there couldn't be a better illustration of how the music Davis was making 30 years ago is still relevant today.

The five tracks here contain varying amounts of original Davis source material, fleshed out by electronic beats, some of which are actually reworked drum samples from the original tracks.

Bill Laswell stays truest to Davis' vision with his 16-minute version of "On the Corner." Unless you're pretty familiar with the original, it's hard to tell what's looped, sampled and altered, and what's just the polyrhythmic weirdness of the Davis classic. On the other end of the spectrum, the two versions of "Rated X" mess around with the master tapes until they become unrecognizable, mutating into dark, drum-and-bass excursions that still manage to recapture the frantic kinetic energy of the original track from Davis' Get Up With It LP.

The two other tracks tread a middle ground. DJ Cam loops a lovely line from Miles' "In a Silent Way" solo and drops a pulsing hip-hop beat under it to surprisingly good effect. And King Britt and Philip Charles turn "Shhh" into a dreamy 11-minute ambient soundscape.

It's easy to make a remix album that doesn't work, but this one holds together remarkably well. That's largely because this deconstructionist take on Davis possesses many of the same qualities as the original -- like a focus on rhythm above melody and an awareness of the power of trancelike repetition.

And just as Davis' records from the Pangaea era weren't easy listens, neither is this. But it's just as rewarding for those who are willing to check their expectations at the door.

[ by Paddy O'Furniture ]



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