On first listen this new single from Art Department blew my mind. The duo are better known for their dark techno production, and to a certain extent that is audible here, but the main radio edit suggests they could be priming themselves up for some cross-over production action.
This EP is based around a cover version of The xx's beautiful but somewhat over-familiar "Crystalised". Rather than just remix the original though Art Department have some serious talent involved to re-imagine it. The single edit is this re-imagininng in its most original form - a loose and fuzzy track with vocals from Martina Topley Bird and Mark Lanegan.
The vocals feel sultry and bluesy were the originals were nervous and exposed - it sounds like you'd expect The xx to sound once they've played this song on tour for another 25-years, in a good way, like Fleetwood Mac's tense over-familiarity simmering over into the music. Topping it off is some typically moody instrumentation from Warpaint. Something about their sound always feels like it deserves to be heard drenched in the pissing rain with boots full of mud. This is no different. It reeks of bitterness. In a good way.
Alongside this stark reimagining are five dance remixes and following in such footsteps it is inevitable that none of them are quite as exciting... It would have been much more interesting if Art Department had instead included an extended version of that radio edit.
Art Department themselves provide two mixes - a Director's Cut Signature and Director's Cut Unmarked Dub. The former sounds pretty much like you would expect a tech-house version of "Crystalised" to sound - its swirling FX and synthesised take on the original's delicate melody is impressive, yet it still feels a little overly plastic. The dub is similar but light on vocals, replacing them with a gradual build that combined with the memorable melody will prove a great track to drop into deeper sets.
Additional mixes come from Agoria, Deniz Kurtel and Tone of Arc. Agoria's mix is played slow, with plenty of feeling, bass forming a wall-like barrier against lots of distortion. Kurtel plays it straighter but darker - throbbing bass creating a sinister feel whilst Synths and echo provide a sense of isolation. Finally Tone of Arc's mix is full of eighties electro-swagger, fuzz and clicks combining with robotic bassline to create am industrial feel.
This is an intriguing release - I just can't wait to hear what comes next...
Crystalised is released on No. 19 Music.