discoDSP present: Pesto Remix Contest 2011 - the reviews pt. 1

So, the Pesto Remix Contest 2011 is closed. We have 50 contributions, among them some really great ones. What's left to say at this point? First of all, a big thank you to all artists who remixed "Aegean"! To be honest, I did not expect such a massive amount of reworks and even if I don't rate yours that high, I still appreciate you taking the time and putting some effort in finishing one (or more) mixes. That was awesome!

Also worth a mention is detailed feedback I have for all you remix artists. I went through the tunes a couple of times, made notes, changed my mind sometimes, made more notes, came up with a grade for your rework. I thought if there's a total of 10 points, both you and I would have a good scale. Since I'll also publish detailed feedback here, today starting with part 1 aka the first 10 remixes in chronological order of their submitting, I'll also need to explain some words/terms I'm using.

Here's that "glossary":

detail: Detail is used in terms of arrangement. Imagine, you have a track of 06:30 running time and from beginning to end, the same drum loop is running without any variation. That means the "detail" rate is zero - no changes, no variation. If you're using filter sweeps, mute the bassdrum or any other element for short breaks, add crash cymbals, sweep FX and the likes, you're adding detail to the tune. I know a couple of tunes that have nearly zero detail but because the main hook is so detailed by itself, the track is working. On a sidenote, you can also add too much detail which causes the tune to fall apart and make it sound confusing. Detail often goes hand in hand with...

focus: You have the beats, a bassline, a lead/hook, pads, strings, another piano line. The human ear (or the brain for that matter) can only focus on three melodies playing at the same time. A producer's task therefore is to decide which elements are important and thus will have the focus put on. If it's getting too much, you cannot focus or the tune lacks focus. This can both be an engineering issue as well as an arrangement/composing issue. If you have five different melody lines playing at once but you lead the listener's focus to just one or two of them, the other lines will be considered less important or accompany. If they're all equally prioritised, the listener feels getting lost. A listener CAN focus on one thing though and listen to just one of the melodies but since the producer is the captain, it's his/her decision on which part to put the focus on. A producer is leading the listener.

signature: Does it sound like the latest XYZ sample pack or is there some element that sets the tune apart from others? No problem with using sample packs at all but if you just utilise premade construction kits by somebody else, the outcome will sound like a tune by somebody else and not you. Signature can be very subtile or very obvious. Obvious examples are Stock/Aitken/Waterman, the producers of Kylie Minogue, Rick Astley, Bananarama and many more back in the 1980ies. Totally different artists/performers but the tracks always had the same "sound", the same feel. Or Björk: different producers, yet all her tunes share a similar quality. You can listen to a Björk tune and know immediately it's one of hers, even without hearing the voice. A good example for subtile "signature" is Trevor Horn: what does Frankie Goes To Hollywood and Seal have in common? At first sight, not much but the closer you listen, you discover similar production techniques being used.

Another thing that's important for me when it comes to remixes: I'm fully aware that "remix" in its original form stems from a different time. Usually, it was an engineer having 24 or 32 (or more) tracks from tape laid out on the console. The faders were set to certain levels and so were the equalizers and FX. A remix in the 1960ies or 1970ies simply meant a different mixdown of the same tune, just with altered levels creating an alternate version in a technical/engineering sense (very roughly speaking). During the last 20 years of Dance music, the term "remix" has more turned into "use some of the original tracks/stems and put them in a whole new context or make a completely new tune out of the remix pack". I like that more creative approach and I'm usually making remixes following that philosophy. A good example is my "Babe-A-Pella" of Soda Inc.'s "Night Fever". I was heavily involved in making the original but a few years later, I took the original stems, looked at them from a new perspective and made a remix that could be considered a "new original". The remix stayed on top of Beatport's deep charts and remained in DJ sets a couple of months during the summer of 2007 BECAUSE it was, in fact, a new tune, just making use of some of the original elements.

Today, remixers are being asked to rework a tune because of their signature. You have this tune but want it in ABC flavour? Ask ABC for a remix. What would it sound like if DEF had the same vocal to work on? Ask DEF for a remix. You get the picture.

Enough introduction, here are the reviews for the first ten Aegean remixes:



Coce Remix:
pro: nice cutting up of the stems, same sounds put into new context, nice groove
6/10

Miguel Libre Sundown Remix:
pro: completely new vibe, goes into a more organic direction, creates new harmonic context
con: Aegean hook line coming in at 02:00 doesn't fit the harmonies, arrangement a bit too linear and flat, not too many highs and lows
4/10

beaTTrate 118bpm Remix:
pro: simple but effective groove, nice chopping and re-arrangement of the original parts
con: chord stabs introduced in the second break (after 04:00) don't correspond with the other sounds that well, sound a bit alien in there, the two beaks are a bit close to each other, making the tune lose a lot of energy
4/10

beaTTrate 122bpm Remix:
pro: pretty similar setup as in the 118bpm version but the arrangement works better for me
con: chord stabs see 118bpm Remix
5/10

Trogers Liquid Housemade Deli:
pro: bandpass-filtered bassline sounds interesting, also liking the different (break)beat.
con: loops not in sync at 03:11, hats a bit too hissy, definitely lacking bass, too long or arrangement a bit too flat
5/10

GreenKloref minimal Remix:
pro: bassline sound at 03:44 is cool
con: the pitches don't match, sounds a bit like the parts were wildly thrown together, "too many ideas" for one tune, heavily lacking focus
2/10

GreenKloref down remix:
pro: definitely more focused than the minimal Remix but still sounds a bit confused
con: if you make music, get the pitch straight, some people do not notice when things don't go together (or are off by a few cents) but I do
3/10

GreenKloref Ayobaness Remix:
con: same beat as in the former two remixes, sounds nearly identical except for some exchanged patches, sounds odd again and too flat arrangement-wise
2/10

GreenKloref remix:
pro: fourth try, more focused
cons: the sounds again, you should ask yourself if you would play such a tune or if you would buy it. If the answer is "no", then start over and try once more. Rather than doing four remixes, focus on doing one fat one
2/10

Andy Moore Remix:
pro: arrangement to the point, could have a little more detail though such as risers and downers/boom-ish FX or crashes or something with a similar function
con: sounds a bit like the whole tune was recorded in a bathroom - could be Logic's Modulation Delay plug in that can be used to broaden the sound, doesn't sound good here for me as it subtracts a lot of the punch, the overall sound is very dry, too little variation in the arrangement, a bit too close to the original for my taste.
5/10