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Remix Romance Vol. 1

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Album Review

Following their North American reissue/revamp of Sally Shapiro's debut, Disco Romance, Toronto-based Paper Bag Records worked with the album's creators (producer Johan Agebjörn and the eponymous/pseudonymous singer) to put together not one but two sets of remixes, collecting several, though not all, previously existing mixes of the material and amassing a bounty of newly solicited versions. Given the recent emergence of 1980s electronic Italo disco as a newly hip commodity in the late 2000s, and Disco Romance's superlative and uncannily accurate re-creation of that style, it's not surprising that plenty of artists would jump at the chance to get involved and pay their respects, nor that a majority of them would turn in renditions that hew fairly close to the original templates. Most of the bigger names on Remix Romance, Vol. 1, including the Juan Maclean, Junior Boys, Lindstrøm, and the hotly tipped German producer Tensnake, offer remixes that carry their distinct fingerprints while upholding the sense of reverent allegiance to vintage electronic disco — in other words, mixes that aren't too far removed from their own work; likewise Norway's Skatebård, whose relatively slight revision of album standout "He Keeps Me Alive" was apparently the inspiration for the whole project. Of these, Lindstrøm's typically excellent, typically epic, spacy take on "Time to Let Go" travels the farthest distance from its source material, gradually coaxing a loop of Shapiro cooing the song's title phrase into his swirling sea of popping, clavinet-like synths until her voice dominates the mix for several beatless, floating minutes, before the drums kick in again and the words become hopelessly muffled and indistinct.

Otherwise, most of the contributors smartly leave her vocals intact — unassuming but markedly poignant, they prove satisfyingly versatile and malleable — although Tensnake does take his time ushering them in, slowing down her signature "I'll Be by Your Side" to a percolating, dubby groove and narrowing its harmonic content to a single-chord vamp — that is, until the chorus progression finally breaks through in a transcendent moment nearly five minutes in. On the less electronic side of things, Canadians Woodhands, Holy F**k, and the Cansecos each add some amount of live instrumentation, edging Shapiro's electro closer to danceable indie pop territory; the best of these might be the Cansecos' percussion-heavy reading of "Hold Me So Tight," which is strikingly reminiscent of Annie's "Heartbeat." The only real wild card is Jon Brooks' (of Advisory Circle and King of Woolworths) stately, Air-ish reworking of "Skating in the Moonshine," which eschews percussion and all but the most atmospheric electronics in favor of understated electric piano, acoustic guitar, and mournful, oddly archaic-sounding flutes. It would probably flow more naturally if Shapiro had re-recorded her vocals with this stripped-down approach in mind, but it's still an effective reminder of how much strong songwriting contributed to the original album's success. Needless to say, Remix Romance lacks the coherence and conceptual singularity of Disco Romance, but for a remix album it delivers impressively, both in terms of track-for-track hit rate and overall listenability. Considering its welcome but not gratuitously overabundant variety, it's just possible that some listeners will find themselves preferring this version of Romance. ~ K. Ross Hoffman, Rovi

Biography

Born: Sweden

Genre: Electronic

Years Active: '00s, '10s

In a sense, Sally Shapiro is both the recording pseudonym of an anonymous Swedish singer and also the name of a duo consisting of that singer and producer/writer Johan Agebjörn, who are together responsible for the music released under the moniker "Sally Shapiro." That music, combining Shapiro's delicate, silvery vocals with Agebjörn's vintage-styled synthesizer dance tracks, is a deliberate and meticulous replication of the...
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Remix Romance Vol. 1, Sally Shapiro
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