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Spectres
Dead Brendan Telford , March 16th, 2016 08:20

Covering another artist's work is an age-old concern, either riding on coattails or bastardising a standard composition and wrestling it into a unique form. Sometimes it can be a wonderful exercise; at others it can be a cathartic re-imagining. Many covers are timid, afraid to break a mould that has been lauded by millions as a masterpieces; others are insipid, a timorous, bland cut-rate screenprint, designed to cash in but invariably fade with time and derision.

Then there is the remix album, where an artist willingly offers their own work for reinterpretation. It is under this guise of indirect digital collaboration that true hybridisation works – the overlaid aesthesis and artifice of one artist over another’s established effort, to create something supposedly new. This is in part what Dead, the remix album of Bristol noiseniks Spectres’ brilliant LP of last year Dying, is. But it is also a purging of the soul, a flaying of the carcass, a wretched, retching phoenix from the ashes.

There are many reasons why Dead was always destined to at least pique my interest. Firstly, Dying was/is a fucking carpet-bomb of a record, a headily anticipated and scurrilously whitewashed debut that obliterated all in its path, a piano-wire around the neck and blood-flecked lips caressing the ear. The four-piece have been unwaveringly uncompromising from the opening of the gates, willing to push the limits of abrasion, atonality and apathy to beyond breaking point. Fan or foe, they always tell it straight, with not so much "fuck the consequences" as a "that’s just how it is” fatalism – but also with a double-take smirk that lets you know that they might – might – just be fucking with you. So when a band throws their newborn onto the pyre and says “kill our songs”, you sit up and take notice.

Secondly, the lurkers in the shadows that came forth to douse themselves in these sacrificial eviscerations are themselves masters of the darker realms of sound. I was always going to be drawn to Mogwai's Stuart Braithwaite doing anything – his spatial outlier synth swathe coating 'This Purgatory' signs off this monolithic double album. And of course it is a highlight, harking back to his band's own 'Kicking A Dead Pig' as it scours the white-fuzz clean and raises its splayed hands to the celestial skies. Ride's Andy Bell takes the slow-burn breathy squall of 'Sea Of Trees' and gives it a Beta Band-meets-Cornelius-meets-Animal Collective hypercolour ice-cream splice. Loop's Robert Hampson scuffs up 'Mirror' with a high-octane paint-stripper, somehow making the track even more dissonant and febrile. Richard Fearless (Death In Vegas) climbs all over his version of 'Sea Of Trees', making a disco doom gloaming, the beats clapped out, the synth line both orchestral and broken, an agitated fever dream.

Then of course there are the upstarts – and they play-torture their prey before going in for the kill. White-heat pedal fiends Giant Swan cut-and-paste 'Mirror' into a metallic mortar-and-pestle industrial clusterfuck; electronic maven Blood Music infuses his 'This Purgatory' with a sonar techno sine-wave, with skittish drumpads and fraying synapses, ratcheting up to a teeth-grating anticlimax. Vision Fortune open up proceedings with oscillating white noise, all but masking 'Drag'; Oliver Wilde drops a fistful of pills and breaks off the dials, melody and mayhem melding in the appropriately titled 'Family'. Factory Floor, Hookworms, Gramcry and Velcro Hooks all lend a hand in the seismic decimation, all to devastating effect.

Dead strips away the elements that make Spectres such a scabrous punishment to show the deceit underneath – that is, they write good songs, apocryphal frameworks that can hold a epiphanous shroud as formidably as a cacophonous storm. And leave it to the band's own Joe Hatt to take one of their own tracks, 'Where Flies Sleep', and pour so much grit, gravel and grime over the top that the original thread is buried alive in a screed of abrasion. Dead doesn't so much kill Spectres' songs with these remixes as reanimate them and turn them loose on their creators, and the world.

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