One thing any music fan worth their weight in salt can acknowledge is Damon Albarn's forward thinking mentality, and his seemingly effortless ability to keep his music interesting, if not downright challenging. After word spread like wildfire that Gorillaz had finally risen from the ashes with new material from their forthcoming fifth studio album Humanz (due April 28th), the general public were treated to a batch of four new songs all released simultaneously.
The general reaction to this new material that this writer has seen online so far has been very....well, mixed. Anything released under the Gorillaz moniker will always get mixed reactions (that Albarn and his artistic itch strikes again!), but this go ‘round has some fan circles treating the new material with utter contempt.
However, this contempt slightly waned when remixes for the initial four singles were released a short time later. Remix tracks are a historically mixed bag, and these cuts are no exception. While some moments in these remixes are superior to their original companions, other moments fall flat on their faces.
The "Saturnz Barz" remix by Banx & Ranx contains a much more refined atmosphere than its predecessor, with much more subtlety than the bombastic original. But let's not kid ourselves: "Saturnz Barz" is the weakest link amongst the initial singles released, and this remix does the original no favors in terms of finding something of strength the original might have missed.
On a positive note, though, Claptone’s remix for "We Got the Power" simply shines. An absolutely contagious groove, this remix is destined to make EDM festival tents float along the ether. Amazingly enough, Bonobo’s outstanding remix to the best song of the initial four, "Andromeda" is head and shoulders above the other remixes, simply due to the sheer power and strength of the original's composition. Bonobo successfully concocts a track that rivals its original in terms of quality and matches it in sheer creativity.
In regards to Nic Fanciulli’s remix of "Ascension", its original counterpart received the most backlash amongst Gorillaz fans. The presence of Vince Staples has really soured some in the Gorillaz community, the general consensus being Staples as an artist is just simply a downgrade in terms of the overly eclectic, clever choices Damon Albarn makes in terms of whom he wishes to reach out to for collaboration.
The good news behind all this hostility toward Staples is that the remix does an admirable job in producing something of undeniable effectiveness from the pieces of a generally frowned upon song. The overall vibe is an incredibly dense, dark, and outrageously funky soundscape universe in which its groove is impossible to escape. Instead of the bludgeoning vocal word play by Staples in the original, Fanciulli scales back Staples' performance, and uses certain parts to magnificent effect. This remix has the potential to be looked at as superior than its original, and for absolute good reason.
While nobody should ever judge an album based on a four-track sample, Gorillaz are well-known for the multiple remix albums released under their name. But you know what just might be the difference between the new remixes and the older remixes from albums past? The students may have somehow finally surpassed the teacher, and the other artists called upon to create the re-imaginings of Albarn's new music could have quite possibly taken the man's vision and made it better than his.
Nevertheless, this bold declaration will be in limbo until Gorillaz' fifth long player is fully released. Just keep that initial thought a dirty secret for now.
Listen to each of the remixes and their respective original versions below, and be sure to let us know what you think!