Harmless Records’ new Mixology series is only on its sec­ond vol­ume but it has already tak­en a dras­tic change in approach.  The first vol­ume of Mixology (reviewed here) was devot­ed to Salsoul Records and dished up three discs’ worth of clas­sic remix­es and album-length ver­sions of clas­sics from that sto­ried label’s dis­co reper­toire.  Mixology: SAM Records Extended Play takes a dif­fer­ent tack: it offers a set of all-new remix­es of SAM Records mate­ri­al designed to fit mod­ern club stan­dards.  The results are dance­floor-ready but the sound of the orig­i­nal record­ings tends to get lost in the mix.

How much you like Mixology: SAM Records Extended Play depends on your dance music remix phi­los­o­phy.  If you’re of the “any­thing goes” mind­set that favors pil­ing on scads of audio effects and don’t mind a remix rad­i­cal­ly stray­ing from the ele­ments of an orig­i­nal record­ing, you’ll be fine with this set.  The team of remix­ers and edi­tors, which include notable names as Maxxi Soundsystem and Jacques Renault (who com­piled this set, are all skilled at the bar­rage of mix­ing and fil­ter­ing tech­niques that are expect­ed by many lis­ten­ers from dance music today.

However, if you favor a more Tom Moulton-style approach where the remix is dri­ven by what is in the grooves of the orig­i­nal then you won’t find much to enjoy in Mixology: SAM Records Extended Play.  The ten­den­cy here is to pick apart the lay­ers of a song’s arrange­ment, iso­late frag­ments of it and bury them in a lot of dub-style echo while rework­ing the rhythms towards a more metro­nom­ic, jack­ham­mer house-music approach.  The fin­ished remix­es and re-edits are pro­fes­sion­al enough in qual­i­ty to fit into any au courant club’s playlist but they fre­quent­ly throw out the vocals, much of the arrange­ment and some­times the entire main melody alto­geth­er.

A par­tic­u­lar­ly alarm­ing exam­ple is the Catz N’ Dogz Remix of “Bourgie Bourgie” by John Davis & The Monster Orchestra.  The orig­i­nal track is clas­sic Philly Soul-derived dis­co, with a tight back­beat, exu­ber­ant group vocals and soar­ing orches­tra­tions.  The remix is a sparse, chilly tech­no track where every­thing is elec­tron­ic, the exu­ber­ant vocals are stripped back to a robot­ic hum, the main melody is jet­ti­soned until the last few moments and there is nary a vio­lin in earshot.  If you’re going to take such a rad­i­cal, scorched-earth approach in remix­ing a song, then you might as well just re-record it because what you are doing is no longer a remix.  As the­se com­ments should make clear, Your Humble Reviewer favors the Moulton-derived clas­sic approach to remix­ing so the appeal of much of this album is lost on him.

However, to be fair it should be not­ed that a few of the tracks did shine through the rad­i­cal-remix approach to stand out.  Todd Terje’s take on “Keep On Dancing” by Gary’s Gang retools the song into a dri­ving, tech­no sound­scape but it finds those ele­ments in the for­ward-think­ing orig­i­nal and retains enough of its orig­i­nal arrange­ment to find a har­mo­nious mix of the old and the new.  Jacque Renault’s take on anoth­er Gary’s Gang track, “Let’s Lovedance Tonight,” clev­er­ly applies its ebb-and-flow loop­ing tech­niques to cre­ate some­thing that dis­tills the old-school appeal of the orig­i­nal into a new shape that sounds like a lat­ter-day Daft Punk record.  Elsewhere, Prince Language’s re-edit of “Let’s Do It” by Convertion does pleas­ing things with the syn­th-boo­gie of the orig­i­nal and Soul Clap’s remix of “This Beat Is Mine” by Vicky D trans­forms anoth­er syn­th-boo­gie item into a roller­coast­er that uses its hooks in a sparse but sat­is­fy­ing man­ner.

In short, how much you get out of Mixology: SAM Records Extended Play depends on your dance-remix tastes.  Those who favor today’s high-tech approach will get a pro­fes­sion­al excur­sion in that style but those who like to hear the orig­i­nal melody and arrange­ment dis­tilled or extend­ed in a remix won’t find many mix­es uti­liz­ing that method here.  The omis­sion of any orig­i­nal record­ings or clas­sic remix­es also feels like a missed oppor­tu­ni­ty.  Perhaps the Mixology series pro­duc­ers should con­sid­er includ­ing a disc of vin­tage 12-inch mix­es and album-length cuts on the next vol­ume along with the mod­ern mix­es: that way, there would be some­thing to please every­one.

(Reviewer’s Note: this review was done using an MP3 down­load pro­vid­ed by Harmless Records.  The actu­al 2-disc set includes a mul­ti-song mix by Jacques Renault that was not includ­ed in the down­load and that is why said megamix is not dis­cussed in this review.)