Andrew Weatherall: Heavenly Remixes Volume 3 & 4 – album review
Out 28th Jan 2021
CD | LP | DL
Volumes 3 & 4 of Andrew Weatherall’s Heavenly Remixes are reason enough to revel in his rebellious attitude. Ryan Walker explores Weatherall’s powers as an in-house mix master for Heavenly Records on their recent remix series.
Sex Pistol-Shaped Miracles: Fucking Destroy It.
Andrew Weatherall didn’t just turn things upside down. He turned them inside and out. The song as a lump of meat on his sonic chopping board.
His name was one that did, and still does, something that perhaps no other remix could ever: overpower the rest of the album, the rest of the single it appears on.
Obviously, this wasn’t his intention when he turned songs inside out and presented them as ostensibly new tracks entirely; shining new lights into new zones of musical forces of life like some sonic biologist discovering something alien, something other, something half-imagined and half-whatever else, details always within reach at the core of the Earth, at the depths of the dark oceanic abyss.
And the abyss is what he aimed for. What he fell into.
The inversive treasures contained within it is what he achieved.
The abyss is what he scraped the bottom of and ripped upward to the surface like a musical mage operating at nothing but his own magnitude, his own deconstructive mindset.
With Weatherall in mind, his mindset was one able to be conducted through his mixing abilities. Echoing as channelled through this album the notions proposed by Spivak’s preface in his translation of Derrida’s Of Grammatology in 1976. A preface that states ‘the fall into the abyss of deconstruction inspires us with as much pleasure as fear…intoxicated with the prospect of never hitting bottom’.
His mixes (not, remixes but…new mixes, new compositions, new ways, to present old bones), are exactly that – inexhaustive intoxication, addicted to the spirit of a mix, the living antithesis to what a DJ ought to do.
A lot like, back in 1976, when The Sex Pistols came to Manchester’s Lesser Free Trade Hall and represented a new way of thinking about pop music, by burning Steppin’ Stone by the Monkees from the inside out by feeding it poison pellets rather than peanuts. Weatherall, obviously, wasn’t one of the mythological 40 in attendance. But Weatherall still felt the ripples that shook up everything in that moment, an essential commixture of magic and energy that Tony Wilson, in his part-fact, part-fiction, always serious, autobiography expressed as to ‘go forth and perform wonderous deeds’.
Weatherall was a traveller on the same path as thousands of others once acid house spiked the veins of the UK, in the good way that swept up so many. A boy in the office, in the queue, with a brain too big for his skull, a piece of his heart attending soul-weekenders. That same boy who became a man, that same brain piece ripped to pieces and put back together by the Sex Pistols. Rock ‘n’ roll suicide resplendent in his fourteen-year-old eyes now buzzing, all revitalized. The world carried in his cassette recorder, colouring in the silent lines of his life with tremendous heights of wonderful noise.
It’s also possible to view the resulting sonic mixes that Weatherall provided as a series of statements adhering to Deleuze-Guatarrian ideas of Assemblage… a putting-together procedure, an act of arranging, alternative cycles of perceiving, once piercing the song’s rhythmic skin, the inside and externalising it as an outsider, a creative, compositional gesture, ‘a wide range of disparate forms and realms of life, technologies, sensibilities, bodily states, modes of attention and ways of experiencing time and space’, theorises Kathleen Stewart from her book Ordinary Effects. All of which could be embodied in Weatherall’s anti-audio agendas, dealing with broad forms of music with a penchant for noticing what others perhaps do not notice enough… ‘touching the imperfections’ (see Confidence Man, Toy and Orielles mixes, shaking the originals into new shapes).
Imperfections, now re-contextualised. Like the scratches and scars of an old rockabilly 45, alien silences and otherworldly sonic atmospheres, ambulance ambience captured in the studio, the riff fluffs and erroneous vocal takes, the background ambiance captured by a mic bleed, certain sonic snippets and audible glimpses perched on the forefront of the song’s landscape.
What of these Imperfections?
They are contained within the original piece pf music, the band’s prided ideal, which injects new life into the remix for all to experience as a unique, often entirely different, but somehow, fascinatingly familiar, entity, is one idea.
Always one who went a surface deeper, into treacherous territories, imaginary motifs in his music, a consistent undercurrent embellishing work, Weatherall stood for the erasure of clichés, the eradication of doxa (commonly-accepted beliefs about…a remix with an extra thousand bars of the same fucking beat and bassline with a trendy ’12-inch’ mix attached). Although, his unwitting conception of the Loaded mix would state otherwise via brass and sample.
An advocate and exponent of the underground economies that have come to influence so much, that have some to inspire so many, he was always the lad who walked around Windsor in some tartan punk gear in 1976, that around there would be susceptible to ‘puff’ barbs by the local, parochial, louts. A DJ who did what he wanted because of how taste can be transmitted via turntables, but truth is something that twists on the insides. A manifesto, a mindset, written in the pages of his brain that renounces being fickle for leaping from one style to the next by the stylus, but rather being able to ride the great waves that music he comes into contact with, regardless of what system of rules breeds what system of new rules that in turn breeds another system compiled of another set of rules: ‘It’s not that I get bored. It’s just there’s so much good stuff to explore’, he explained to Mixmag in 1992, additionally professing that ‘music comes in waves, and whatever I play, is just a reflection of what I think is good at the time’.
Joyous noise that would subjectively nourish his far-reaching spectrum of tastes, a symbiosis of strange worlds, a brilliant transformation of oddities when stewed and stirred in the same sonic pot, a deliberate undoing and segueing back together in the name of groove and dub, punk and post, a possibly rebellious display of unforeseen ways, ‘an expansion of new possibilities, an invention of new methods, an active ‘entertainment’ of things’ (Shaviro, 2009).
This is about how he, did/does all that.
This isn’t his first mix (Nine O’clock Drop on Nuphonic regularly stopped me in my tracks at two o’clock when I worked in a record shop in Bolton a thousand and one delayed trains and a million moons ago).
But it’s his first, and last, greatest hits.
Hybrid Beat Street Preacher
Heavenly was the label he had a history with more than any other due to his remixing debut appearing when the label was pre-Heavenly, operating out of an office he would visit run by press head, label founder, and later manager, Jeff Barrett; with double importance being the location of the very moment Weatherall stumbled upon the Scream’s Loaded by liking something unloved (I’m Losing More Than I’ll Ever Have) from their second album.
Weatherall liked that runt of their next litter it enough that with enough attention and manipulative magic ability on his mothership, would soon be able to blow a hole bigger in the flowered-up indie-dance scene during the 1990s than Andrew Innes instructed him to do or the dancefloors of culture could have prepared itself to withstand, to destroy, to do better, to think bigger.
Here, it was the moment the hand of God touched Adam’s with acid house in the place of planet Earth and the limitless constellation of ideas about how and why to express yourself that surround it. The creation of mankind supplanted by a connection of energies from all worlds, all zones, all genres, all overlapping posters as the wallpaper of a modern city, an influx of identities converging when day disappears and night begins and night dissolves into the following morning and growing something sublime in those delightful, divine gardens with a chemical undercurrent and a constant, cosmic hum pumping throughout its wide, iridescent, irreverent radius.
It’s amazing then that Heavenly has compiled the remaining volumes (3 & 4 following 1 & 2 non-Weatherall volumes in December respectively), which contain that specific remix and more. An extensive spread of those compositional curios and indie-oddities, shocked into supercharged, scene-shaking hits instrumental to the diverse connectivity of scenes when the ’90s was primed to dominate everything: 1) Loaded from Screamadelica that assisted in connecting indie-rock and acid-house, released on Creation in ’91 that Weatherall produced along with Hugo Nicolson engineering; 2) Only Love Can Break Your Heart (A Mix of Two Halves) by the ever-sardonic odd-pop bunch of boffins Saint Etienne; and, although not on Heavenly, 3) Hallelujah by Happy Mondays on the ’93 EP, will always be revered and remembered throughout the ages of pop music according to their Weatherall mix.
And it’s a fabulous series of selections that raise hell and unleash heaven on offer here. Demonstrations on every corner turned reveals another aspect of Weatherall’s bottomless barrel of inspirations, influences suffused together, cutting open and coating, conjuring up and coaxing out the essence of a song and, out of that act of studio voodoo, Weatherall at the controls, slicing into the skin of the song’s surface to expose its intricate innards. Experiments with accidents and accuracy, everything as a justifiable reference, flipping the musical iceberg, showing us the underbelly of the song’s subconscious mind with originality that borders on the anarchic, the genius.
Vol.3 is riddled with immense mixes.
It begins with The World According to Sly & Lovechild (Son of Europe Mix); Simon Lovechild was also in Flowered Up. The Audrey Is A Little Bit More Partial Mix from Weatherall’s Weekender from 1992 gets an outing on this comp here; a few years later though, THIS song was what that year looked like, and and who it was according to- an unstoppable ritualistic extravaganza by the duo. One that reduces warehouses to a withered pile of bricks in the wheelbarrow. A palpitating charge of speed and machines encircling the same cosmic spot.
Brimming with a feast of gut-punching, spine-shattering percussion and expanding with partly-progressive, partly-psychedelic, but mostly dark, house and soul-on-fire grooves plugged into the same tribal climax, it was one Weatherall saw fit to remix.
Although the term ‘indie-dance’ is a term Weatherall was a key component in creating, it was one he was quick to disown, meditating in 1994 on its uncontrollable inflation that ‘the monster got out of control. The villagers are surrounding the castle and demanding I release him. So I’m going to let the villagers have him’.
Two years prior to the maker sacrificing the monster in favour of something more minimal and quick, ’90s indie-dance group Flowered-Up’s 13-minute epic was…epic in its own right (and reissued on vinyl). But when it falls on Weatherall’s boxes on the calendar, as featured on the Audrey Is A Little Bit More Partial mix, it makes it a weekender to remember.
Moving on, the aforementioned Etienne’s classic mix of Only Love is a ghost fed into the melodica; endlessly echoing into the sophisticated, smoky ethers of a dream, assisted in being, thanks to this remix, this deconstruction (there’s that word again) of the original, ‘to disclose the undecidable moment’, or ‘to dismantle in order to reconstitute what is already inscribed’ (Spivak, 1976).
And what’s already inscribed is what Weatherall marvellously mines for when creating these mixes. Something hidden, something buried, something broken, and he masters the craft at metamorphosing it before our very eyes.
Mark Lanegan’s Beehive from 2017s Gargoyle album hollows out the hive and, with every fresh brushstroke, paints the dark, crumbling honeycomb, retrofitting it to resemble a dance floor and to shove your headphones into – the vapor trails and solar flares of the original chorus used as a surface upon which all crackling, static guitar slide upon. Lanegan’s trademark grizzly bear vocals delightfully take charge atop all the shuffling, late-night noise exoticism of insect hisses in neon fields, stripping the skin to reveal a network of exposed veins and white, wires below. Light coming out of the speakers, a sumptuous reaching of the deep – to recount Lanegan’s mantra ‘I wanna hear that sound some more’.
His mix of Gwenno’s Chwyldro is a double-dosed darkwave dub with roving, kaleidoscopic techno combined in the same trip. Outer-space ambiance suffused to loose-screw grooves and live-wire post-punk interplay between bass and drums like Weatherall remixing a Peel Session in the late ’70s, spellbinding and endless, raw and warped. A sexy, sparkling performance of cosmic disco, confident in creating small hurricanes on the dance floor with one delicate exhaling of butterflies fluttering to thuds of atomic bass and trippy, illuminating awakenings that happen in the twilight of an imaginary reptile house.
The Song As A Problem
Vol 4. is equally a goodie bag replete with Weatherall mixes.
Audiobooks with their fast flashes and stabs of erratic, unremitting post-punk energy are here given a haunted, lysergic dub injection with an electroshock aftertaste. Late ’80s Rough Trade, Ruddy’s Supreme and Rotter’s Golf Club all comingling in the same space. An exploration of some far-off cosmic forest with added neuroses and disorder. Eerie incantations of distant keyboard squeals. A mad broadcast with that deranged Banshee bark and Killing Joke bass walk.
The album illuminates Eduardo Navas’ theory around dub from his 2016 Remioxology book, as the means of extracting the nucleus of a tune and perching it in the centre of our curious vision, to enunciate what he finds essential to stimulate to identifiable, sensory degrees: ‘in dub, we find the roots of remix’. And that ‘dub compositions, privilege the pre-recorded tracks as the starting point of creativity’, of entertaining a composite of raw material and making it do things, say things, a constantly buzzing, monstrous drop.
If the album is a showcase of Weatherall’s explorations and experiments that could transform one thing into another, a feat of alchemical procedures around production, then it makes sense to consider them along the lines of Navas’ terms as ‘a cultural variable’. A remix, a dub, a deconstruction, that can impact art, influence how it moves, informing the corners of communities in cosmically-communicative, culturally-innovative methods and transmogrify a small slice, into a full-blown banger of a tune.
Etienne’s Heart Failed (In The Back of A Taxi)(Two Lone Swordsmen Dub) shoots through the silence of the city centre. All moody, mysterious atmospherics. All dark, vapor trail synth experiments. All cosmic drapes and waves. Bedazzling, wrapping themselves around the bones. Dove’s Compulsion from Kingdom Of Rust, a personal favourite album by them, is a fine example here. A compelling, endless emanation of psychedelic spaghetti westerns as one enters Shoom, ends up at Hurrah, then upon exiting, suddenly stumbles into the Sahara desert.
The Espiritu mixes are shared on both sides: Bonita Manana on three, Conquistador on four, both by Sabres Of Paradise. The former retains the downtown, downtempo slow-motion jungle-city bustle of the original Bonita Manana, but given a madman’s makeover. It’s slutty, strutting bosa nova, designer stride, levitates and leaves Earth when faced with a horizon set alight by Weatherall’s spliff into a collage of colliding atmospheres and fantastic situations. Those fluid, flamboyant, light, Latin licks lifted to planes of painlessness, perforated by adrenalised, disgruntled snarls of bass-synth, acid rumble, and infectious, fluorescent, melodies.
Conquistador is a million miles removed from its infectious, original Latin-American-inspired self. Retaining that mischievous sense of finesse, that uncaring air and attack of pizzazz, smoothness, and intimacy, but with a spike in the side of its neck. Instead of a rose between the teeth, we are presented with the Sabres No.3 remix with a pill on the tongue, plus the vast banquets the night can offer with its own defiant tech-kinesis vibe, its own distinct robo-reflexes.
Lastly, Devils Angels by Unloved which features producer David Holmes turns into Devils Angels remix once Weatherall realised there was enough sonic space, enough room to groove and electrify in order to enchant the ghosts from below. Holmes contributed a mix to Smokebelch II on Weatherall’s still unparalleled, indelible Sabres of Paradise album Sabresonic II from ’95, as well as a Two Lone Swordsman mix of Holme’s tune Gone (with partner Keith Tenniswoode) a year later, so a mix by Weatherall on these conclusive volumes is fitting to find a place here amongst his equally, inalienable mix work.
The mix is a cool, cosmic collage of fierce spirits, whistles, and industrial drums, culling everything in its path. Blasts of ominous church bell chimes. Endlessly echoing, resonating infinitely throughout the valleys, in the basements of space, cracking mountains to piles of granulated powder. Dark, heavy, steamroller basslines straighten the spine. Frenzied, pinball melodies dart back and forth. Something big about to plunge its dark fangs into some lonesome antelope and enjoy what comes after like the best cubicle fuck you’ve ever had under a single eye of hot, neon light.
Sequence and Rhythm
Although the automatic spotlights would gaze upon the mixes we know the most, there is plenty of amazement, plentiful new amusements to be found in a fair share of both volumes throughout. Weatherall’s remixes as delectable demonstrations of how songs can be Deconstructed as if by dub, in all their assorted facets, their Assembled figments, and furnish the negative spaces of what we hear, manifestations of flashback and footnotes exposed in moments of divine acid-rapture.
Weatherall’s mixes will, regardless of how things unfold, stand the test of time. This LP is a tangible, testament to that. The clubs no longer stand, regardless of the jeans that don’t fit as well as they used to, regardless of the fact the drugs don’t speak to you as strongly as they used to. But the reality that hits you in the teeth is cut with something caustic and poisonous, whilst electrified with inner lines of flight through the haunted dancehalls of the clock factory, plentifully demonstrating his own wondrous deeds.
Ryan Walker is a writer from Louder Than War. His online archive can be found here.
Photos by John Barrett