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CD 2009 | Gears of Sand 049
8 tracks, 42 minutes
$12 ($18 international, $5 download (256 kbps, ~75 megs))
So, this one is interesting.
Remora (Brian John Mitchell) has come up with an idea that is now committed
to record on Derivative: play a short line from someone else’s song, loop
it, and play over top of it. Thus the album name. Some of the derived segments
you’ll recognize, some you probably won’t, but that’s OK. The music doesn’t
depend on the samples as much as it builds on and departs from them.
“All Our Times Have Come” takes the signature melody from Blue Oyster Cult’s “Don’t Fear the Reaper” and opens with it. It’s played so slowly that you might mistake it for an accidental choice of notes if you didn’t get the memo on the album’s theme. (Seems also that Remora’s song titles come from the lyrics of the songs whose melodies have been appropriated.) After the intro, though, the song meanders way out into Flying Saucer Attack’s territory: droning, phased guitar chords. That’s how the album works generally. There are no percussive elements, save those created from sampled loops of guitar. The playing is expansive and modal. There’s a lot of reverb going on. Massive compression and sustain, too. The notes and chords go on forever.
Other sampled bits have reportedly been taken from songs by Pere Ubu, Journey, and Hefner, but you’d have to pay close attention to pick them out. There’s the sharp, repetitive melody that begins “Love Corrupt” that sounds vaguely familiar and the slow motion build of “Death Planes.” The latter might be from Journey? Not sure… The most recognizable melody to fans of early post-punk will be “What Did You See There?” — which cribs the bassline from Joy Division’s awesome “Wilderness.”
Everything on Derivative gets spacey and spaced out, smeared against its own backdrop until the notes and chords set up point and counterpoint waves of sound. From cut to cut the songs don’t sound terribly different from one another. You’d have to take some time with the record to get its full depth. The point here isn’t to come away humming these tunes but rather to let the sounds resonate around you until they slowly fade away (“Highway Run”). Whatever drugs Blue Oyster Cult was into, I’m sure they didn’t imagine a re-working of their big hit to be so much like an opium dream.
~ David Smith, Delusions of Adequacy
Our old friend Brian John
Mitchell is obviously a very busy man, as well as running the excellent
Silber Records, he finds time to draw wonderful cartoons and record music
in several different guises. Under the name Remora he produces swirling
guitar drones which, on this disc, use riffs from other (favourite) songs
as their inspiration. This explains the title of the album, although, unless
you are very familiar with the song used, it is very hard to spot the riff
in question, which makes the list inside the cover very useful indeed.
Opening with “Every Prince” ( “I Stole a Bride” – Hefner), the listener is immediately plunged into a sea of swirling possibilities, the distorted and heavily treated guitar sounds creating a rich and ever-swelling drone that is deeply rewarding. On “Highway Run” the sounds of Journey (“Faithfully”) are recognisable, at least briefly, as the riff is swallowed by a destructive wall of noise that crackles and rumbles with bad intent. As you may noticed, the titles given to the tracks are lifted from the lyrics of the song they take inspiration from, hence “Misdirection” being sparked into life by “Final Solution” (Pere Ubu), the resulting sound as heavy as a meteorite heading straight for your planet, delicious and menacing in equal measure.
Lighter in touch “Death Planes” (a Dylan song) is an atmospheric drone that creeps under your skin like a virus, absorbing and possibly addictive, whilst “What Did You See There” (Joy Division), uses its seven and a half minutes to slowly creep into your life, a pulsing, almost electronic feel giving the piece a malevolent and lonely air. Sounding almost like a conventional rock song, at least during its opening sequence, “All Our Times Have Come” (Blue Oyster Cult, you know which one!), slowly morphs into a floating drone, clouds drifting over mountains, a time to relax. This pattern is repeated on the wonderful “Into the Light” (Joe Jackson), a piece that has a delicate heart, one that is slowly buried by a glorious guitar sound, distorted and oh so loud, threatening to destroy all the furniture in the house, a song that should be played on a mountaintop, blasted across the valley floor. Finally “Love Corrupt” (Warrior Soul), has a spring in its step, ending the album with a jaunty grin, drone with a funk sheen, returning you to the normal world with a huge grin on your face.
The more I play this album the more I like it, the different textures that reveal themselves each time, dependant on your mood, listening circumstances or drunkenness, mean it stays fresh and vital, something that means it will stay on the top of the pile for a long time.
~ Simon Lewis, Terrascope
Being a pretty marginal fan
of both metal and hip hop, I nevertheless get pretty giddy when I hear
stuff by Girl Talk and Birchville Cat Motel. When my brother puts on Girl
Talk in the car we begin a tag-team dissection of cultural/musical references.
He is all over the hip-hop tracks like, "this is the Ying-Yang Twins, duh"
and I've got the "Dude! That is The Band! or Yo! He is sampling Rainbow
on this track!". I also get chills up my spine when I hear Birchville Cat
Motel's thirty minute long dismantle of a single Iron Maiden riff on "Drawn
Towards Chanting Chords". Not that I have any past with Iron Maiden, I
don't think I have ever listened to a full album, BCM's meditation on that
riff is just so heavy and beautiful it makes me want to do something with
my life. So when I read that ambient/drone guitar pioneer Brian John Mitchell's
project Remora would be releasing Derivative, which would follow suit in
crafting guitar drones around cherished pop hooks I knew I had something
amazing on my hands. Creating solo guitar drones in the style of a noisier
Aidan Baker solo project, Remora tackles musical passages by Bob Dylan,
Journey, Pere Ubu, Warrior Soul and Hefner. Not that you would be able
to pick any of these songs out by any sort of compositional familiarity,
not by a long shot. I still can't really figure them out. But with or without
this knowledge going into this album, Derivative is a drone masterpiece.
I wouldn't ever call drone piece catchy per say, but the album opener "Every
Prince" has a gorgeous guitar upswell that nearly takes my breath away
every time. If anything comes close to a drone single, this is it. A type
of shoegazy beauty that defies categorization. Layer upon layer upon layer
of hypnotic, swirling guitar parts stretch any pop tendencies into a meditative
sea of clairvoyant noise. I know I am not using clairvoyant in the right
sense of the word but it felt nice to write. Derivative is a stunnigly
gorgeous album and stands on its own regardless of maybe, just maybe being
able to pick out a Pere Ubu bass line. But Warrior Soul, I've never heard
them before. Remora just made me a huge fan. Serious.
~ Ryan Hall, Tome to the Weather Machine
Remora is a project of Brian
John Mitchell of Silber Records fame in which he employs the guitar as
the sole instrument / sound source. Earlier works ventured into drones
(Ensoulment), noisy soundscapes (Clear Field) or more conventional songs
(Songs I Sing). "Derivative", which was released on the Gears Of Sand label,
is a diverse album showcasing elements of all these styles. It also seems
to be a concept album of sorts in that short pieces of Brian John's favourite
songs formed the basis of the repetitive loops around which the tracks
here have been built.
"Derivative" is clearly less drones and more music. A track like "Every Prince" is simply beautiful and will please fans of shoegazer. "Death Planes" manages to mix drones and guitar rhythms in a special way and "Love Corrupt" opens with a hypnotising guitar plucking reminiscent of the recently reviewed album of Moodring. Considering the guitar is the only source, the music is all the more impressive for the varied palette it manages to paint, and a song like "What Did You See There?" is an excellent example. A surprisingly good album that will appeal to fans of for example Aidan Baker (Nadja).
~ songsoverruins, IkEcht Gothic Reviews
Latest from US artist Brian
John Mitchell’s pursuit, basically amounting to a collection of shapeshifting
‘n’ kaleidoscopic guitar-drone-led pieces that have all taken their cues
from looped hooks lifted by favourite songs of his by, amongst others,
Journey, Blue Oyster Cult, Pere Ubu, Bob Dylan, Joy Division and Warrior
Soul. Whilst at least two of these sourced artists/groups may well leave
you either cold or reaching for someone to hit (but let’s not forget he’s
American, so don’t be too hasty), the songs themselves are more akin to
some of the scorched-ambient works of early Kranky releases or even Fripp
& Eno’s classic (No Pussyfooting) and Evening Star albums and, in turn,
actually work for their being a homage that’s then teased into shapes the
originals would never have imagined. Whether that’s a good thing in itself
or not is something for the listener to decide, but I can appreciate the
sensibilities and earnestness only too apparent here. And, in a day and
age where most bands/artists blatantly display their influences through
sheer unoriginality, such homages themselves are precisely the opposite.
~ Richard Johnson, Adverse Effect
In music, as in life, hard
work is not necessarily a bad thing. Derivate is not always an easy album
to listen to. Featuring slow building sounds, often drenched with feedback,
interspersed with occasionally jarring rhythms, and totally lacking in
vocal hooks. Said by creator Brian John Mitchell to be based on chart hits,
Remora's focus is resolutely not on selling millions of singles.
Yet despite the dense and leaden tone, the album has an oblique appeal. The organ-esq tones of 'every prince' that drip with atmosphere could never be called ethereal, but they do possess a solemn majesty. The doomy paranoia of 'what did you see there?' and 'all of our times have come' create a near hypnotic web, ever if the pairing becomes a little too much towards the end. The wavering unease of 'into the light' is such that the listener barely notices that they've been listening to what amounts to not much more than eight minutes of low-level noises. The pieces have a powerful resonance that goes beyond the sum of the sounds heard.
Let us be clear, this is not necessarily an album that you might want to play repeatedly. Getting the most out of its subtle atmospheres requires an effort on behalf of the listener that is not always enjoyable, at least not in the traditional sense of the word. But it does feel like an album with something to say, despite the lack of words. Time spent on it is certainly not time wasted, and is ultimately rewarded.
~ Richard Wheelhouse, Sea of Tranquility
For pure guitar craft, there
are few more interesting batches of character and experimentation than
Remora. Haven’t heard of them? That’s not terribly surprising.
But it is quite a shame.
Remora has been one of Brian John Mitchell’s many masks since 1996 when the jolly costume party began (Mitchell is also an avid cartoonist and ‘zine publisher, as well as experimental/electro-label scion). The albums he produces under the name Remora (something characterized as “guitar terrorism” yet also, soothing) are stark expressions of tone, bursts of guitar and mechanized loops. The results are controlled mayhem. Previous albums have lavished an aesthetic that is poetically repetitive and minimalist (brilliantly drone on the loop driven, Ambient Tones For One Guitar and Amerse) and while it may seem absurd, they focus almost thematically. Mitchell says with his guitar and studio prowess what so many others fail to do armed with pen, paper and a vocal mike.
Forward to Remora’s newest effort, Derivative, eight tracks in all (relatively small number, considering Mitchell’s propensity for numerous, fractured tracks) with song titles all descriptive of time (“All Our Times Have Come”) place (“Highway Run”) or emotions (“Death Planes” or “Love Corrupt”). The album is filled from beginning to end with resplendent song craft, like “Every Prince” which shimmers and cascades, or “Misdirection” which muddles in the proverbial mire. The tracks on Derivative are all pulled from Mitchell’s favorite tracks, such familiar bands as Journey and Blue Oyster Cult, Pere Ubu and Warrior Soul. The results are mysterious and familiar pulling the listener in so many directions it’s a perfectly tiring exercise. Like wandering a museum at night, appreciating by feel what during the day seems painfully overt and forgettable.
~ Erick Mertz, Kevchino
imagine a hundred roy montgomery’s
exploding at the same time and yr somewhere near the geetar sound on this.
it’s kindof unrock (although there is an almost arpeggio in all our times
have come). a similar epic six (and twelve probably) string drone
loop and post-whatever sonic violence as aidan baker or justin broadrick
peddle. it’s a huge bloody wall of electrikal whooomph and glacial
tones. apparently he’s jiggered about with a buncha tracks by hefner
and pere ubu (misdirection maybe?) and warrior soul among others to produce
this oddly listenable beast. not that i can recognise anything of
the sort among the wet bursts of ambient noise and pop-doomerry.
and hell any fella with the big brass balls to cover coil deserves yr uninhibited
~ cows are just food
Brian John Mitchell’s Remora
is a foundation stone in guitar based drone music and rightly so, what
with being active now since 1996. While not busy running the greatly underrated
Silber record label, Mitchell has been gracious enough to produce yet another
slice of looped drone distortion this time taking the loops from small
moments from songs ranging from the likes of Journey to Pere Ubu.
Rather than try and decipher where each hook originates from like some secret code Derivative will instead wash away conscious thought in a wave of emotive experimentations, beginning with the soft and bittersweet movement ‘Every Prince’ and continuing through with ‘Highway Run’ which is crying out for cinematic accompaniment to its rhythmic and strangely uplifting tone.
‘Misdirection’ finds a more confident sound than previous tracks, its bold and secure movements balancing a fine line between harsh noise and space rock. ‘Death Planes’ achieves a similar feat, though with much more of a sober quality to its heart; a tone and feeling that makes it a stand out track on the album.
‘All Our Times Have Come’ combines both the grandiose scale of ‘Misdirection’ with the relaxed and sombre themes of ‘Every Prince’, making a beautifully alien soundscape, a combination that ‘Into the Light continues in a darker, slower requiem than previously heard, each twisted sound soaking in character and atmosphere.
From the simplest of abstract ideas Mitchell has produced a mind bending album with Derivative and one that will surely be lapping up praise in the drone scene and beyond. With output as constantly strong as Derivative more people will soon learn to hrt [sic] Silber records as much as the rest of us already do!
~ Michael Byrne, Left Hip
“Derivative” isn’t a label
most artists would enjoy being attached to their work; as one would imagine,
a quick Googling of some of the Web’s more prominent album review sites
demonstrates a notably negative correlation between use of the word and
score. It isn’t likely, then, that many musicians would claim ownership
of the term, especially to the degree of allowing it to name a record.
But, for Remora–a solo ambient/noise project from Brian John Mitchell, operator of the respectable Silber record label– “derivative” isn’t an admission of guilt but a statement of intent. Each track on Derivative finds source in an assortment of hooks from Mitchell’s favorite artists. “What Did You See There?”, for instance, lifts the bass line from Joy Division’s “Wilderness” and envelopes it in a gauzy haze of looped guitar drones. Other artists featured across Derivative’s eight tracks include Bob Dylan, Pere Ubu, Journey, and more. And, yes, Journey being appropriated for a work of this sort is quite possibly the year’s least expected act.
The compositions are far from cover versions, however. The experience is more akin to quaffing a bottle of cough syrup and falling asleep while a beloved record skips across a few particular riffs. An element of discovery is manifested, like recognizing a familiar face in a dream or a cognate in a foreign language. Often, though, these referents wash out completely, Mitchell being content to allow his loops to blur into amorphous textures. Once the ancestral hooks fade, the tracks become then odes to space instead, expanding outward and to no place in particular.
In the past, I’ve found issue with guitar-based drone for lacking many distinguishing characteristics, but Derivative’s theme (gimmick?) is enough to grant Remora some individuality.
~ Jacob Price, Delusions of Adequacy
Behind this Remora is one
Brian John Mitchell, who has been inspired by Tom Verlaine, Roy Montgomery,
David Pearce and Hayden. Apparently his last record was from 2005, which
I didn't hear, nor the ones before that. Mitchell uses the loop device
and his guitar, and he feeds to the device, short hooks from his favorite
songs, but the likes of Journey, Blue Oyster Cult, Pere Ubu, Hefner and
Warrior Soul. I must admit I fail to hear these hooks, except for Joy Division's
'Wilderness' but somehow I am glad. Or perhaps I wouldn't need this information
at all? This label is best known for ambient and drone music (see also
elsewhere), and somehow it seems that the music of Mitchell only fits in
there partially. With some good will one could call this ambient, but of
a more 'aggressive' kind. The guitar comes in 'loud', piercing perhaps
through the use of reverb. Like John Fahey going electric, or perhaps Michel
Henritzi's take on blues music. Slide like, ebow like, and endless solo.
I thought about five songs were fine enough, still not great, but then
boredom leaped in. A repetition of an idea gone too far. You know the drill
after five pieces, and wish for something out of the ordinary to happen,
but it doesn't come. Turn off that reverb, would be one advise to start
with. That would make a difference by itself.
~ Frans de Waard, Vital Weekly
Instrumental post-rock music
that would likely be those who listen to Mogwai, Clione-Index, 8mmSky or
Explosions in the Sky. These songs are reworkings of the likes of Joy Division,
Warrior Soul and Pere Ubu. Not something I'd reach for but it's not bad.
The final song Love Corrupt strikes me as the strongest song with the audible
loops in the background and and the guitar sounds taking foreground.
~ Small Takeover
Affection. Not every release
elicits this rare blush or its companion emotion. So it’s even less frequent
when the entire catalog from a particular label brings forth the feeling
of joy and discovery.
Silber Records is that label for me and it has been for some time (I’ve even forgotten how I discovered them). Their collective aesthetic isn’t for everyone. It is subtle, often deliberately obscure, their releases without much fanfare beyond an organic groundswell. The Silber Records artists are largely local to North Carolina and purveyors of experimental, electro/anti-rock.
My favorite Silber incarnation is Remora (an imprint of the label’s leader, Brian John Mitchell). There are a half-dozen or more “records” under the name Remora (many of them available on archive.org for free download). As a whole band, Remora is almost indescribable. There is a better chance at talking about each release as a distinct work of electronic/drone rock.
The newest release from Remora is called Derivative. It’s a studio marvel. A few weeks after first listening to it, there are still uncharted places the songs take me.
~ Semi-Urban Cartography
Seit 1996 veröffentlicht
Brain John Mitchell, seines Zeichens Gründer von Silber Records und
der Ein-Mann-Kapelle Remora, nunmehr seine Gitarrenexperimente. Die Lernkurve
hin zur jüngsten Veröffentlichung „Derivative“ bei Drone- und
Ambient-Vertreiber Gears of Sand ist spürbar. Wünschte man dem
guten Mann bei den Frühwerken noch von Herzen eine Band, werden inzwischen
per Loop bis zu drei Stimmen übereinandergelegt, was deutlich mehr
Klangfülle ergibt. Ausgangspunkt bildet dabei jedesmal ein kurzes
Versatzstück aus Liedern von Joy Division, Warrior Soul oder auch
Blue Oyster Cult, also viel Spaß beim Raten. Geboten werden acht
Instrumentals, die deutlich in Richtung Postrock schlagen und dabei Natur
der Sache relativ gradlinig, also ohne große Melodie- oder Tempowechsel
verlaufen. Es wird nicht gegeizt mit Verzerrer-Rauschen, teilweise recht
orgeligen Delays, Hall, Gedröhne und darüber gelegten, aus ein
paar Tönen bestehenden Melodien. Das kann überraschend gut funktionieren
wie bei „every prince“ oder auch schrecklich in die Hose gehen wie bei
„what did you see there?“. Was man da sieht, weiß ich nicht. Würde
man den Song jedoch als, hüstel, „erweiterte Verhörmethode“ einsetzen,
würde man es bestimmt bald herausfinden. Über sieben Minuten
wird auf der hohen E-Saite eine sehr nervige Abfolge von G und A angeschlagen.
Zu allem Überfluss noch ins Quiekende verzerrt und verzögert,
damit es auch richtig auf die Nerven geht. Ich zumindest hatte Mühe,
die Fassung zu bewahren, als der Nachfolgesong zu Beginn ähnliche
Töne anschlug. Wer mal reinhören möchte, ist gut beraten,
sich auf unten genannter Internetseite umzusehen, wo es noch eine Fülle
älterer Veröffentlichungen zum (legalen) herunterladen gibt.
~ Electric Magic
Scrivere che "Derivative"
sia un disco dal facile ascolto sarebbe un'emerita stupidata da parte mia.
"Derivative" è, invece, duro come un macigno e pesante come le nuvole
colme di pioggia. E' altamente logorroico (come un po' il sottoscritto),
finchè il rumore non lo separerà dal pentagramma nessuno
potrà levarselo dalla mente. Il clangore dei brani contenuti in
questo cd sono opprimenti, le note girano in loop cercando una vana via
di redenzione. Niente da fare, in quanto "Derivative" corre per la sua
strada senza lasciare prigionieri. Remora è lo pseudonimo dietro
il quale si cela il musicista (nonchè l'artista a 360 gradi) Brian
John Mitchell. Egli vuole dare, ancora una volta, una sua personale interpretazione
della cosidetta cultura musicale rock, masturbando sogni di chitarre distorte,
fulmini e saette che colpiscono il bersaglio molto facilmente. Tanto per
capirci questo è un lavoro (come per tanti altri catalogati sotto
questo genere) che o lo si ama o lo si odia. Senza mezzi termini, o dentro
o fuori. Questo è il bello dei fraintendimenti linguistici nella
musica. Si sperimenta, si provano nuove soluzioni psichedeliche per poi
testarle sull'ignaro ascoltatore.
~ Claudio Baroni, Musica Popalare
Con i Remora e il loro album
Derivative sono invece entrato nella terra del drone, musica nata da una
costola del Doom Metal, e che rappresenta un genere che spesso confina
e sconfina nel Post Rock menzionato nella premessa.
A farla da padrone qui è la lentezza e il ronzio del bordone ovvero quell’effetto battente che viene generato dall’ossessiva ripetizione di un unico accordo o di una nota per quasi tutto il pezzo.
Quindi non aspettatevi gran dinamismo: questo è un genere di musica che potete mettere sul piatto (si vabbè) e continuare a fare dell’altro. Potreste anche restare colpiti da qualche passo, ma se non gli prestate attenzione dopo un po’ non vi accorgerete nemmeno di averlo messo su. E non è nemmeno detto che la cosa possa essere negativa.
C’è una musica adatta per ogni particolare momento della nostra vita, un po’ come il vino che accompagna il cibo. Ora che ci penso non sarebbe male fare una bella selezione di accostamenti.
Un album del genere va benissimo come colonna sonora di qualche mattina fredda, ma assolata, con il fumo che ti esce dalla bocca mentre il pendolone si rattrappisce e chiede un po’ di ospitalità allo scroto e senti le orecchie vibrare sotto gli impulsi proveniente dagli auricolari bianchi.
~ Black Milk
Il progetto Remora è
attivo fin dal 1996, ma era dal 2005 che l'eclettico Brian John Mitchell
non pubblicava un full lenght.
La band, nel corso degli anni, si è cimentata in vari generi e sperimentazioni – compreso un EP a cappella, “Songs I Sing” -, ma questo nuovo lavoro – interamente strumentale - presenta un mood nettamente unidirezionale, incentrato su ipnotici loop dalle spiccate venature ambient, drone e psichedeliche, molto suggestivi, anche se a tratti alquanto statici.
“Derivative” è come un viaggio a senso unico in una landa desolata e onirica di suoni lenti e cadenzati, dai tratti oscuri ed evocativi, di piacevole ascolto, pur se caratterizzato da una certa piattezza di fondo, nella quale nessun brano prevale sull'altro, ma tutti si snodano, eterei, come un'unica, lunga traccia di suggestiva monotonia.
Alcuni brani sanno davvero ipnotizzare, come l'allucinata “Why Did You See There?”, i cui robotici loop chitarristici conducono per mano l'ascoltatore in una dimensione parallela di tetri, lisergici incubi. In definitiva, un buon ascolto.
~ Alone Music