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LISTEN: Clint Mansell Remixes The Membranes
The Quietus , October 4th, 2016 14:45

Producer reworks a track from The Membranes as part of new remix album

The Membranes' John Robb has been working on putting together a remix album of the band's material and calling on a number of friends to help him out in the process, and now tQ is proud to premiere a track taken from the soon to be released remix project, by Clint Mansell, which reworks material from their Dark Matter / Dark Energy album.

The album also features reworks and remixes from the Manic Street Preachers, Mark Lanegan, Einstürzende Neubauten, Godflesh and many more. While including some grand names of European alternative music, there is also a remix by the fairly unknown Iranian post-metal band Barfak.

“We wanted people to experiment [so that] in a sense the music would reflect the state of flux of the universe where nothing is permanent and in a constant state of flux,” says John Robb of the idea for the album. Since the band's reunion in 2009 that culminated in the release of last year's Dark Matter, the band's first album in 26 years, Robb has been influenced by work in contemporary particle physics, even going so far as to perform scientific experiments on stage for 2013's The Universe: Explained gig. However, as he explains below, it is not only the “big” questions that are important to him.

Clint Mansell, whose remix you can stream above, is an acclaimed composer of music and film scores. Of his take on 'The Universe Explodes Into A Billion Photons Of Pure White Light', Robb enthusiastically states that Mansell “somehow kept the feel of the original and changed it into a dark piece of neo classical soundtrack - a split reality like when you fall into a black hole.” Read more of Robb's own ideas about the album and Manic Street Preachers doing prog below.

Inner Space / Outer Space is release via Picadilly Records on October 7. More info can be found here. Keep up with The Membranes' current activity here.

What have you been up to since the release of last year's Dark Matter / Dark Energy?

John Robb: It’s been very busy. Our own personal universe expanded and the album has taken us all over the world - we toured the USA, Europe, the UK - played loads of festivals and people have been very open to what we are doing. We've have now started putting the next album together which is pretty exciting - so many ideas!

How did the idea for the remix album form?

JR: There were so many different bands and artists who were expressing some warmth for our Dark Matter/Dark Energy album, many people like mark Lanegan calling it one of the albums of the year that I thought it might be quite interesting to deconstruct and unzip the whole thing inside out, like a black hole by getting people to remix tracks from the album. It’s like an interesting experiment to see how far we could take these pieces of music and it was an open palate - we wanted people to experiment and in a sense the music would reflect the state of flux of the universe where nothing is permanent and in a constant state of flux.

The list of contributors admittedly reads like a who's who of alternative music history. Where you in contact with most of these people before you had the idea about the album or did you contact them specifically for it?

JR: Once I had started asking people who already really liked our albums I then carried on asking people I respected or people who I knew would do something really interesting even if they were from a different musical world. There were a few others who nearly did mixes but were just too busy and who would have been great. I’m in touch with a lot of people a lot of the time - we all know each other!

We didn’t pick people because they were ‘famous’ but because they would bring something interesting to the album - a group like Barfak, who are from Iran, really fit the bill. They play this haunting spectral post metal - all drones and sparse space - they are amazing and I had to have them on the record - I also got them a gig at Tallin Music Week in Estonia last year and it was the first time they had even played public gig with their woman singer because back home they are just not allowed to do that. It’s amazing how they can make such progressive music in such difficult circumstance and yet still embrace their culture in their music with an eastern drone embedded in the rock drones and once I heard them I had to have them mix a track for us which was about bigots trying to repress scientific innovation - so quite ironic really.

The Manic Street Preachers said they had bought our album and really liked it. Two days later James rang up for the lyrics of the song, which I thought was unusual for a remix. Then he sent me the track and what he had done was basically cover the song and just keep my vocals on and duet with me! Very cool. He said it was the most prog they had ever been but somehow it still sounds like the biggest stadium anthem he has done since [1996's] 'A Design For Life'! They can’t help their natural melodic touch from pouring out.

In what way do Dark Matter / Dark Energy and Inner Space / Outer Space relate to your fascination with particle physics and other interests of yours?

JR: It was in the John Doran interview in the Quietus where he suspected the whole Dark Matter/Dark Energy album was not actually about the universe at all and I liked that idea! Even if the universe themes are all through both records and it’s something that is deeply fascinating and gets progressively stranger the more you read about it, the songs are also very personal and emotive and I liked the idea of the album being about everything else apart from the Universe, although the universe is threaded through everything.

We are interested in everything - science is just a puny human attempt to understand the immense, it doesn’t have to be on such a massive, ahem universal scale - we are also fascinated by the micro as well - a slug is as equally fascinating, when we tour we get up early and visit stone circles, deep dark woodlands, wild mountain tops, puffin infested cliff faces... I liked the idea of the album being both external and all the way to furthest multiverse, but also deeply personal in terms of inner space - so in a sense the title of the remix album is an explanation of the Dark Matter / Dark Energy album.

What about the album art? It references Michelangelo's depiction of divine creation.

JR: The album cover is another Fuseli painting - a paint and brushes remix in a sense of the Dark Matter album cover! Like a cover version of the Michelangelo painting you mention…pretty fitting really. It’s Fuseli’s 'The Vision of Catherine of Aragon' which is actually kept in an art gallery near Blackpool where I grew up – what a bizarre place for the painting to end up! Michelangelo and Catherine were contemporaries as well living in the paint spattered flux of history - I wonder if that was what Fuseli was hinting at 200 years later? Fuseli was big fan of Michelangelo and studied him intensely and they shared love of the exaggerated nudity and dark scowling semi-realities without the religious baggage.

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