So many rnb remixes/refixes/edits from people that don’t even like rnb.
— Mr Mitch
It must be easy to take apart a track that means nothing to you, chopping up lyrics and ad libs until they become little more than empty signifiers; Cassie’s heavy breathing little more than a hint at sensuality, an Ashanti hook a play at longing. Why is that sampling these hooks became so prevalent? From Jacques Greene and James Blake’s refixes to Disclosure’s early work, ‘Love Cry’-era Four Tet and even Tony Lionni’s ‘Found A Place’, the cannibalisation of early-00s r&b hits has been a major theme across the world of dance music for some years, and, of course, featured quite often on these pages. It’s easy enough to tell when someone genuinely loves a genre — see the contributors to this Local Action comp, for example — but there are so many cynical hack jobs that it goes deeper than fashion; there are no #deepbrandyalbumcuts here. It’s thus a relief to learn there’s still some life left in the idea.
What’s surprising though, is seeing a Kate Bush song feature on a pack of r&b-type edits, least of all an inarguable classic like “Running Up That Hill” (rockist tendencies notwithstanding). That’s not to say that Kate’s not been sampled or remixed over the years — from Utah Saints to Ashley Beedle, to Young Edits and (forgive me) Coldplay, her work has evidently been inspirational and influential. With ‘Kate’, Loom provides an interesting point of entry for Peace Edits, a four-track release on Mr Mitch’s Gobstopper Recordings. Loom takes a re-sung version of the 1985 song and utterly eviscerates it, a true digital shred. High-pitched bleeps lend 21st-Century emotion, a synthetic crunch making any beauty inaccessible in a true volte face. An unrelated intro and bridge theme leads into a truly heart-rending swoop that appears after 27 seconds, and again at 4.06. It’s the high point of the track, a sign that Loom is capable of conveying deep and unexpected emotion. A similar brand of emotion runs high in Strict Face’s “Alice”, which takes the still familiar riff from (DJ Jurgen presents) Alice Deejay’s “Better Off Alone” and reformulates it as a sort of plaintive lullaby. Not for nothing did Mr Mitch himself use the track to close out his Anti-Valentine’s Day mix for Dazed, while the track also featured at the close of Logos’ recent Resident Advisor podcast. It’s fraught with tension, empty space and stately chords suggesting real longing. Not only does he replay the main theme, he reformulates it, improvising slightly as the piece moves forward, even dropping out notes as if he’s too caught up to play each one.
Released just before his debut album Parallel Memories, “Don’t Leave” saw Mr Mitch revisit Blackstreet’s “Don’t Leave Me”, the follow-up to “No Diggity”, plucking its vocodered intro and chorus cry, repitching both and reframing them in a similarly anguished yet entirely reconstructed mood. For “Dru”, he takes a different approach. Sampling another all-male r&b group, this time Sisqó’s Dru Hill, he takes a series of words and lines from 1998’s “How Deep Is Your Love”, layering and modulating them to form something new, while retaining their recognisable identity in a manner that’s both respectful and loving. While bass and accompaniment abound, it’s not until the final minute when Mr Mitch’s own synth harmony joins in, gracefully timed against the newly formed chorus line. Things close with bittersweet celebration in “T”, from Silk Road Assassins. Opening with some choral ebullience snatched from T-Pain’s “I’m Sprung”, its vocals give way to grime-laden bleeps and an overpowering bass theme, just as emotive as that moment in “Kate”. It’s the kind of track you imagine playing when you fall to your knees in tears as the rain begins to pour. An electronic horn redolent of Vangelis or Kuedo or whatever in between sends the emotion even further, the cascading trap beats rattling gently but not without fire. While many seemed shocked that, wow, T-Pain can really sing when they saw his Tiny Desk Concert for NPR last year, this notion denies him any artistry, so it’s a joy to hear that approach embellished and foregrounded.
Mr Mitch’s Peace operation began in October 2013, when he opted to make “spaced out versions of other grime tunes” rather than go on the attack. Taking that approach and applying it to tracks outside of this world has proven that for every hackneyed take on a radio heater, there are still artists out there who can build something fresh from such samples.
VA – Peace Edits is out now on Gobstopper Records. Buy here.