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HEALTH – DISCO2 May 29, 2010

Posted by gwyoung in Album Reviews, Music.
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Artist: HEALTH

Album: DISCO2

Release: Lovepump United, 2010

Genre: Electronica

RIYD: Liars, Crystal Castles, The Knife

What is it about HEALTH songs that make for such excellent remixes? Is it something inherent to their structure and sound? Or is it that their quality and uniqueness somehow attract extremely talented remix artists? Either way, remixes of HEALTH tracks seem to stand at the pinnacle of what all remixes aspire to be and all twelve tracks on DISCO2, HEALTH’s second remix compilation and fourth full-length release , may be even better than their source material on last year’s GET COLOR. And that’s saying a lot, considering that GET COLOR placed in the 10th slot of my list of top twenty from 2009.

In fact, DISCO2 has become one of my favorite releases so far this year. I generally tend to steer clear of remix albums, as usually they’re kind of horrible, but this one has a very different feel from the traditional last-ditch effort to capitalize on previous successes that characterize most others of its kind. This is because the remixes on DISCO2 are 1) very different from the originals, 2) very different from each other, and 3) sequenced in such a way as to form a cohesive whole. DISCO2 plays more like an electronic music compilation, gathering work from a group of like-minded artists that all fall within a specific scene. In this case, the “scene” consists of just friends of the band HEALTH, but all of the contributors share some special attribute that really brings it all together and the album serves as an excellent starting point for people new to the genre.

HEALTH’s first DISCO, which compiled re-imaginings of their self-titled debut, exposed the grimy techno experiments of their peers, all of which sounded like eggs from the same basket. It was good and all, but it became sort of tiring after a few listens because of the lack of variety in sound and sample material. DISCO2 improves upon every one of DISCO’s flaws. Though the album has multiple remixes of the same tracks (“Before Tigers”, “Nice Girls”, and single “Die Slow” were especially popular), no two of them sound at all similar. A lot of them sound more like entirely new material than remixes, borrowing only a few vocal samples or a few machine sounds from the original and subtly incorporating them into something completely different. And even though a lot of the remixers from DISCO are back for another spin (Cfcf, Crystal Castles, and Pictureplane), the album sports an excellent set of musical styles ranging from chillwave (Small Black, Little Loud) to psychedelic hip-hop (Tobacco) to ambient dance (Blondes) to avante-garde electronica (Salem, Blindoldfreak) with elements of sample-funk (Javelin) and minimalism (Gold Panda). With the inclusion of “USA Boys”, a brand new HEALTH original that jettisons their sound even further toward blissed-out noise-dance perfection, they’ve got all their bases covered. One listen through the album feels like a whirlwind tour through all of today’s popular electronic sub-genres, with the mechanically distorted and yet somehow still painfully emotive vocals of HEALTH’s frontman (or, if you’d rather, frontmachine) as the guide.

DISCO2 is indeed an experience, and this experience doesn’t have to end after track twelve. The album serves as a diving board into the work of a lot of unique and talented musical acts and, if you’re like me, you’ll have a lot of fun exploring them after DISCO2’s conclusion. It’s rare that a remix album can have such a powerful effect, but this time HEALTH have really outdone themselves. With their second remix album and fourth release, HEALTH have transformed themselves from a promising upstart noise-rock act into one of today’s most refreshingly innovative musical projects. Kudos to them.

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