How James Murphy Radically Overhauled David Bowie’s ‘Love Is Lost’


A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of hearing the new David Bowie tracks which will appear on ‘The Next Day Extra’ on 4 November. You can read some first impressions in this week’s all-new, relaunched magazine, but otherwise the songs are staying under wraps for a little while longer.

All except for ‘Love Is Lost (Hello Steve Reich Mix by James Murphy for the DFA)’. It was played this morning on BBC 6Music, and as an introduction to the new stuff it’s both a blinder and a curveball, hardly representative but mesmeric and adventurous, a radical overhaul that sits somewhere between Primal Scream’s ‘Screamadelica’ single or Underworld’s ‘M.E.’ James Murphy has done what he always wanted and got involved with a Bowie track – Arcade Fire’s ‘Reflektor’, with the Dame’s vocals, was close but not close enough – and he hasn’t the least intention of wasting the opportunity.

Over 10 slow-burn, slow-build minutes, Murphy exploits ‘Love Is Lost’ for its phases of warped synth and Bowie’s despairing lyric, but rejects pretty much everything else. What he starts from is a round of applause which, after 15 seconds, becomes a syncopated clapping rhythm. It’s a knowing wink. ‘Hello Steve Reich’ is a message for the converted, for anyone who’s aware of the minimalist composer’s ‘Clapping Music’ from 1972, a piece for two performers clapping.

Reichisms aren’t new with Murphy. There’s something of his ‘You Are Wherever Your Thoughts Are’ in the choppy piano of LCD Soundsystem’s ‘All My Friends’, and here the approximation of ‘Clapping Music’ is an undercurrent for a track that’s soon finding a not-so-unlikely mix of Balearic beats and ‘Shine On Your Crazy Diamond’ synths. Later Murphy’s directing his hero worship back to Bowie, with the cheekiest of ‘Ashes To Ashes’ samples peppering the party halfway through. Listener and – yeah, let’s face it – Murphy himself have their hands in the air by this stage.

Bowie might be wailing, “Oh, what have you done?” as if we’re on an HS1 to Hell, but with the lion’s share of the odyssey done, the mix settles into an Orb-like techno skank, a sign of acid-fried good times. Murphy’s taken us on a journey through all the great things he wanted to do with a David Bowie track, and we’re mighty pleased he had the chance.

If you missed hearing the track on the radio this morning you can hear it on David Bowie’s official site at midnight tonight