The path that Chris Madak’s music as Bee Mask has taken to the world of dance music is somewhat different from the now-common narrative of a noise or experimental musician consciously starting to make house or techno. While the work that he released over a period of several years was “a sort of after-afterhours chamber music” rather than anything intended to make people dance, through a few adventurous DJs it started to seep into a club setting. Trying to understand what it was about his work that functioned in that context in part informed the Philadelphia-based musician’s past year and provided the germ of an idea for an imprint and this pair of remixes. It is clear that Madak is someone who gives much thought to the creation of music, how it functions and other related discourses, and this release (and the label in general) is an attempt to examine his own music through the perspective of other artists.
This is a second instance in a relatively short period of time that Bee Mask’s experimental drones and abstract compositions have been reinterpreted. While Donato Dozzy’s stellar collection of reworkings of Vaporware (the track originally part of a wonderful 12″ on the excellent Room40 label) took Madak’s music in a more ambient direction, Surgeon and Abdulla Rashim go towards the the dance floor by delivering two different takes on techno using tracks from the album When We Were Eating Unripe Pears, released last year on Spectrum Spools, as their source material.
Surgeon compliments the gorgeous rising and falling lush synths and subtle propulsive pulse of the original with breakbeat percussion and this euphoric, hypnotic roller-coaster of off-kilter drums, bleeps and synths is followed by an extended droning outro that in its texture is reminiscent of moments on Bee Mask’s noisier ‘Elegy For Beach Friday’ compilation. Both remixes channels and amplify the dominant characteristics of the originals, so while ‘The Story of Keys and Locks’ and Surgeon’s remix are highly emotive and lush, Abdulla Rashim’s rework of ‘Unripe Pears’ is a more understated, eyes-down affair. The original piece’s measured ambience is transformed into stark, deeply focused techno through Rashim’s application of a tight 4/4 rhythm and subtle yet trippy atmospherics that are in line with many of the Swede’s own records.
Madak describes his fondness for “really bonkers DJ tools” and this description is absolutely apt here. Although the term “DJ tool” may in some cases communicate a certain degree of disposability of the music – the “tool” as a sort of fungible piece that a DJ can use to glue together more outstanding selections, the tracks here offer much more. Surgeon’s remix in particular would be a highlight of any set – one can imagine that in his own supremely capable hands it has the potential to really stand out (even in the context of his Rinse show, where he admits to playing things in a relatively straight-forward manner, the track sounded exhilarating).