Music Remixes

Movement – Us (Shmallen Remix)

Both Sydney-based trio Movement and East Coast bedroom producer Shmallen were total unknowns to me until recently. Movement is one of the smaller names on the Modular label (Tame Impala, Presets, Klaxons, Darkside, Robyn etc.), while Shmallen remains unsigned and grinding hard to make a name for himself in a crowded space.

Shamallen’s downtempo-house remix preserves the breathy falsetto vocals of the original, along with its melancholic plea: “Did you believe in us? Did you believe in trust?” But here, what was a fairly empty soundspace is activated with a light tough: reverbed highhats, a soft arppegiator and brief but effective piano stabs.

The idea that an artist could become “big” based solely on remixes is troubling to me. Someone poured themselves into writing those lyrics and crafting that song, and the final product was the way they, the artist, meant it to be. What gives some rando in a basement the right to completely alter that artistic vision in pursuit of personal enrichment and notoriety?

And yet, there is significant artistry involved in remixing (at least, in good remixing). Artistic appropriation is hailed in other mediums…why not in music? The key is in the degree of “remixing.” Adding a 4/4 beat to a slow song takes no thought or effort. Adding a DROP doesn’t either. But when cutting and pasting bits and pieces while adding your personal nuance leads to a fully realized, new piece of art, there is some commendation deserved.

In the case of “Us,” I vastly prefer the remix to the original, which I find extremely boring. That is not to say I discredit the artist, because that was his (their) vision and I respect it in that capacity. Putting your art out there is a big step, and you can’t care whether people like it or not.

But we at EMPT care about you, dear readers, and that’s why I’m posting the remix,  fraught with questions of artistic integrity, paradoxical reasoning and all the other philosophical junk I’ve piled on top of it. The track is hot, and these artists deserve a deeper dive.

Movement – Us (Shmallen Remix)


Junior Boys – So This Is Goodbye


In an era of overnight celebrity, we tend to take the difficult road for granted. It’s easy to listen to a track on Spotify and never know who the artist is, let alone their story. How many nights did they sleep in a dingy van, schlepping from town to town, trying to make ends meet while they slaved away producing new music that almost no one heard?

The Internet has offered aspiring artists an avenue to larger listenership, but our listening and sharing culture prioritizes the music over the artist (which may not be wrong) and generates little to know actual income for the tired hands behind the scenes. If someone gets big overnight, even through virality, you can almost assume that some serious money is behind them. Think Lorde was an organic hit? Think again. She was signed to Universal before anyone in the US had heard of her, and blew up once Sean Parker (of Facebook fame) shared “Royals” with his social media networks.

Junior Boys is a duo from Canada that originally formed in 1999, before going through some lineup changes and years of minor recognition. Eventually, they started getting some larger festival bookings and even had a successful solo tour (they’ve also toured in support of fellow Canadian Caribou). The last I heard of them was two years ago.

This is how it happens. A band bubbles up for a few moments, before fading away for good. It is at once inspiring and crushing; the dream is attainable, but not sustainable. And if you don’t have corporate backing, good luck. Every small band that bubbles up and eventually makes it to the big time gained that backing along the way. At least these days.

“So This Is Goodbye” came out in’08, the title track to an LP of the same name. When I hear it now, it sounds infinitely dated. The Internet is awash in music like this, bedroom beats with mediocre vocals. None of it gets me.

But this track does, because I know the story and care about the journey of not only this band, but of every artist. The plastic plucks of Junior Boys take on a new life, as I imagine them sitting in a dark studio in dark Canada, shaving in a truck stop bathroom, or playing to a constantly talking crowd. To succeed in art, you have to grind. Sure, connections help, but what really matters is the product. Junior Boys simply weren’t good enough or special enough to stand out.

And neither are 99% of the artists on this earth. That doesn’t me we shouldn’t celebrate them and their work. In fact, that work is often better and more personal than “successful” art. “So This Is Goodbye” will strike a cord with anyone who gave it a go before saying “fuck it” and filling out a W9.

Junior Boys – So This Is Goodbye

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