It isn't really for a lack of decent tracks - just maybe the lack of one cross-over smash. Eighty One was originally released back in 2005 to some acclaim. Roll on five years and it is now seeing a deluxe re-release with a second disc featuring remixes of Soul Mekanik tracks, some of which are originally from Eighty One and some of which aren't.
The album shows it's age a little yet because Soul Mekanik never really go after the specific fad or trend of the time it actually doesn't sound as out of place as other albums might. Opening track '81 Intro' captures Soul Mekanik at their best - clicks and thuds form a cold, metallic rhythm offset by a warm string section. It's just a shame it's only a couple of minutes long (there is a longer version on the bonus disc, but it is still little over three minutes).
'Wanna Get Wet' remains Soul Mekanik's most liberated pop moment - deserving of a summer re-release and covered on these pages a long time ago it remains a short-skirted irresistible joy of a record. 'High On Hope Street' is as slow, soulful and dub heavy as '27/5/81' is pacey, cold and efficient. The acid-tinged 'Serobotik' and 'Elektrik Elefant' both stand out, demonstrating Soul Mekanik's ability to make more dance floor focused tracks (as well as their desire to fuck around with stuttering vocals a lot). Occasionally things feel formulaic - particularly on the penultimate track 'Robots' (how many tracks about robots do we need) but on the whole there are enough ideas here to enjoy.
The remixes are mixed. Maurice Faulton adds a bit of space to 'Go Upstairs' and not much else, but to be honest that works. Less successful is Freeform Five's over-egged take on 'Don't' which frankly should have taken the name of the song as advice. There is just too much going on. 'High On Hope Street' gets the baseline pushed forwards in the mix and loses the vocal on the 'Rubber Dub', giving the song a much more upbeat feel. Greg Wilson's Re-Edit of 'Wanna Get Wet' is typically restrained and frankly just feels like a wasted opportunity, like an ice cream sundae without chocolate sauce.
On their own the remixes here really do not justify the package, but if you haven't ever given Eighty One a listen and you are a fan of dubby, electronic soul then this re-release may be worthy for the original release itself.
Eighty One (Deluxe Edition) is out now on Wonk, available from Amazon.co.uk on CD [affiliate link].
UPDATE: As a taster download the non-album track 'Beam Me Up' on MP3 for free here [right click, save as].