Noise controller Statik and vocalist kaRIN are the dynamic Collide. Together the duo has made some of the most interesting darkwave records of the last decade. But there is more to Collide than what appears on the surface. This is a band that believes in textures, atmospheric latticework and complexly built, melody-charged songs that avoid labels and stigmatization. Collide’s sound is a hodge-podge of influences that include a smattering of Goth, ethereal ambient, trip-hop sprinkled with industrial clatter and pounding rhythms. It all comes together seamlessly, creating an amalgamation of styles.
Collide’s latest release, Vortex, is a collection of remixes, reinterpretations and cover songs. This two-disc release marks a brave departure for the band. They are taking their lavish, dark and dreamy music and handing it off to colleagues, fans and friends to add their own individual stamp. The result is a collection that crosses boundaries, narrows borders and changes the rules of established electronic darkwave music. Collide has crafted a nuanced remix album that breaks ground without sacrificing the creative core of their music, allowing the duo to move about comfortably in the night.
The CD begins with “Euphoria,” remixed by ex-NiN-er Charlie Clousser. Clousser has taken the song and added to it, creating something completely new. It builds slowly from a trip-hop beat, then cranks things up by upping the tempo with noisy feedback and Far Eastern electronics. “Feed Me To The Lions” is a cover that boldy defies the pop simplicity of the Adam & the Ants version. It is brash and snarling and noisy. “Slither Thing” remains one of Collide’s favorite songs, thanks to a remix by Amish Rake Fight’s Mike Fisher. He has taken the song’s trip-hop beat and layered it with complexly textured atmospherics. Fun Boy Three’s “The Lunatic’s Have Taken Of The Asylum” has been hijacked and re-imagined as something totally different. Collide has again taken someone else’s song and turned it inside out for their own deviant purposes. Kevin Kipnis’s Shoe Gazing Mix masterfully retools “Inside,” with added My Bloody Valentine-like waves of noise framed with Cocteau Twins fragility. The band also takes care of their own business with their Final Mix of “Predator,” which sounds like the bastard child of NiN’s “Down In It” and Curve’s “Ten Little Girls.” The beat skirts around the vocals and dances with the ascending percussion. Statik’s Chill Mix of “Frozen” closes out the first disc with a cloistered, ethereal soundscape that provides ideal closure for the first half of the album.
The second disc opens with a wonderful cover of Love & Rockets’ “Haunted When The Minutes Drag” that features kaRIN’s effervescent vocals. It is the perfect way to start the second act. The Conjure One remix of “Tempted” (by Rhys Fulber of Frontline Assembly and Delirium) births a dreamlike quality to the recording by masterfully inserting a skittish beat underneath kaRIN’s smooth vocals.
One problem that remix albums often suffer from is overkill; an artist will oftentimes add multiple mixes of the same track in order to fill out the album. Collide do this to a certain extent, but manage to sashay around the obvious pitfalls involved, having each remix be a completely different interpretation. Vortex features five diverse mixes of “Crushed.” At first this appears a bit extreme, but after listening to each respective mix it becomes apparent that Collide is letting the individual artists practice their craft with complete creative control.
Having said that, Collide has seriously overdosed with the mixes of “Crushed.” The song gets a total redux from its original version, matriculating into something more industrial, something darker and scarier, a frenzied dance floor odyssey consisting of pounding beats, industrial clanging and sultry singing. The first version, Dave Simpson’s 5AM Heavenly Mix, is not particularly innovative. It begins with an intoxicating melody and then builds a nice ethereal vibe around kaRIN’s vocals. However, the track suffers from loitering and drags on for too long. Vincent Saletto’s Fragment Mix is the peppiest interpretation of the song. He gives “Crushed” new life by fusing kaRIN’s vocals against a winding techno backdrop. Jesse Maddox’s Out of Control Mix gives the song a harder edge, by dragging out the percussion and adding some heavier guitars. “Crushed” gets more industrial with Ian Ross’s Now Forgotten Mix. His interpretation rolls the percussion and expands the sweeping background atmospherics. The final version, remixed by Shane Terpening, is a spaced-out trance escapade with plenty of adrenaline to please both gravers and ravers. Unfortunately his mix is formulaic, tedious and renders Collide’s composition almost unrecognizable.
“Like You Want To Believe” has been revamped three times. Of the mixes, Percy’s Cylab Mix is the best. It gives the song some much needed energy by muddying the vocals under layers of swirling beats. Marty Ball’s mix takes the song into trance territory by adding a distinctively thumpy humming under the vocals.
There are three similar mixes of “Wings Of Steel,” a song that is similar in sound and texture to Curve. On all three versions, kaRIN’s vocals are in fine form. Despite being mixed, she has never sounded more haunting. The best of these interpretations is Nils Schulte’s Core Mix, a plodding mix that keeps things simple by allowing the vocals to dangle freely above the music. After a set of crushing, driving beats, Collide nicely bookends the CD with the slower, distorted and more measured Tears Mix of “Euphoria.”
Taken solely as a body of remixes, Vortex is a great record that fits into a niche nowhere near the domain of mainstream pop music. However, fans of EBM, darkwave, industrial or Goth music will love the broad canvas that Collide utilizes. Those looking for a fast techno or trance fix will be left feeling somewhat wanting.
Vortex is a diverse record with something for everyone who is willing to take a stab in the dark. The album is evidence that, despite being remixed and re-tinkered, Collide continues to make fresh and innovative music without relenting artistic experimentation or yielding to staid Goth/darkwave traditions.