ECM Records 2211
Using jazz as source material for electronica/remixing is nothing new. In addition to hip hop samples by crate-digging DJs, and several one off collaborative projects, labels have gotten aboard and opened their archives. Blue Note has released several remix albums while, for their Blue Series, Thirsty Ear frequently pairs electronica artists with avant jazzers. The former releases more or less ause jazz recordings as fodder for sampling/remixing, albeit iconic fodder. The latter are often engaging and collaborative in nature.
Re:ECM takes what I would consider to be still a third approach to jazz recorded sources. Drawing upon ECM Records’ capacious vaults of treasures, it unleashes two of today’s abundantly creative electronic musicians, Ricardo Villalobos and Max Loderbauer. Given wide latitude in their selection of material, the duo draw upon sessions by several fine jazz musicians on ECM’s roster, such as John Abercrombie, Stefano Bollani, and Paul Motian. The ECM New Series is also represented by contemporary classical composers Arvo Pärt and Alexander Knaifel.
The resulting two disc set of tracks is not made in the spirit of remixing choice ECM tracks in toto; nor is it meant to be a sample-fest that spotlights the artists rather than their sources. Instead, Villalobos and Loderbauer treat the recordings as compositional material: to be reworked and developed. Their approach is respectful; their manipulations made deftly and without the heavy-handedness one finds on some of the Blue Note remixes. Most striking here is the microscopic lens brought to details from the sources: breathy wind attacks, string noises on a harp, gently percussive articulations from a jazz drum kit. Indeed, some of Re: ECM’s best moments are accomplished via “addition by subtraction.”
While the artists themselves weren’t playing live for Villalobos and Loderbauer, there is a third presence on these recordings that bridges the gap between creators and recreators. Producer and ECM label head Manfred Eicher supervised the mastering of Re:ECM. Given his association with the source recordings the first time around, his involvement lends an air of authenticity to the proceedings. One can hear his presence as well. In virtually every respect, this sounds like an ECM disc: production values, sound world, ambience, and creative aesthetic.
Too many crossover projects end up feeling like a fish out of water. On the contrary, Re: ECM is the real deal. Here’s an idea: next time around, get Villalobos and Loderbauer into the studio with some ECM recordings artists. The possibilities are tantalizing!