By Arthur Machado
I have a complicated relationship with song remixes; oftentimes they come out in periods when you’re craving new content and you end up being disappointed by the lack of original changes the guest artist has made to the song. While these remixes and covers had an opportunity to completely reimagine the original tune to their own musical identity, it usually sounds like the band decided to release a simple karaoke session. But on the other side there are cases where the rehashes of the original songs breathe new life onto the original band, allowing for rising artists to unleash their imagination and bring magical new arrangements to songs you already loved. Californian band glass beach’s new release alchemist rats beg bashful (remix) was released earlier this month without much promotion, and it’s a complete rehashing of the bands debut LP, 2019’s the first glass beach album. And believe me, this album falls upon the latter category of remix records, as each song on their emo rock masterpiece is reimagined by several emerging artists into completely different genres and vibes.
The album’s opener “jhariah dies and goes to hell” starts the LP with my personal favorite song released. Jahriah is a Bronx musician that blends elements of hyperpop, jazz and broadway-esque vocal techniques on his own tracks, and he brings all these elements to the forefront of his cover. The addition of big band horns and the arrangement of traditional four-part harmonies throughout the track give it a grandiose feel, to an already ‘Disneyesque’ banger.
Among some of the other album highlights we have the hyperpop inspired “(FOREVER!!!!!!!!!) [WOW OK Remix]” and “yoshis island (world 7×7 mix)” by WOW OK and Clover & Sealife respectively. Run For Cover records gave the visibility necessary for both of these extremely small artists . The two tracks are produced immaculately, and stand by themselves as chaotic upbeat gems of the album.
On the less electronic side we have tracks like “Calico (Emo Rocksteady Cover)” by Skatune Network (Who is amazing in his own right! I’ve spent countless hours streaming his ska versions of midwest emo on YouTube.) The YouTube musician infuses the song with rocksteady’s traditional staccato chords, upbeat horns and overlapping vocals, making it a worthy contender to what you’d listen to in a House of Blues ska-punk concert in 1998. Similarly, math-rock lofi guitarist Shalfi presents a display of technical excellence with his cover of glass beach’s “Planetarium.” The multi-layered guitar arrangements alongside the genre’s traditional harmonics and tapping style chords results in an amazing interlude, reminiscent of the Earthbound games that inspired the song’s composers in the first place.
The 18 track album is not free of a few shortcomings and let-downs. And surprisingly these come from some of the most famous collaborators. Art-pop powerhouse NNAMDÏ produces an over complicated watered down version of glass beach’s debut album closer, stripping the track from all of the heavy emotional load its original counterpart had. Riot grrrl act Pinkshift’s cover of “bedroom community” and the midwest emocore Dogleg’s verision of “Neon Glow ” do not showcase the artistic potential these bands have. While both of these acts could have adapted the original jazzy guitar arrangements to sound more original the songs disappoint, as they are essentially carbon copies of Jay McLendon’s emo anthems.
At its core alchemist rats beg bashful (remixes) is far from replacing the original versions of the songs adapted. While some are beautiful re-imaginings of glass beach’s intricate compositions who are definitely worth listening to, the album should still be approached as simple extra content from the band, not as a main release. The Californian band’s quirkiness, wide array of influences, and captivating personalities is what originally hooked me onto them, up to the point where they became my most streamed band for 2020. This remix album is a solid compliment to the masterpiece that the first glass beach album truly is, and much of its charm derives from the fact the original work is so wonderful. That being said, if you are already a fan of the band (which you should definitely be by now) this quenches your thirst for new content until Jay decides to drop more surprise singles. All of the artists featured are extremely talented on their own right as well, and this initiative is fantastic to provide them with some much needed visibility. I’ve been constantly streaming Jahriah, Selfie and Pinkshift since I discovered them through the remix album. And this is the true beauty of the record, it may not be as good as the original, but the collaborative nature it brings to the table ultimately sets it as an enjoyable listen!