Oh, the remix album. There are scores of them out there, but let’s be honest, most of them… just aren’t very good? More often than not they’re rushed out, filled with lacklustre, uninteresting reworkings. They rarely feel special – and instead sound like they’ve been rattled off in an afternoon, as a desperate attempt to satiate a label demanding new material.
But sometimes we get lucky and they absolutely slap. And one upcoming collection could enter the God tier of remix albums: Dua Lipa has teased the upcoming ‘Club Future Nostalgia: The Remix Album’, which will feature Gwen Stefani (!) Missy Elliott (!!) and the actual Madonna (!!!), as well as superstar producers such as The Blessed Madonna and Mark Ronson.
We’ve to wait a few a few weeks before we find out if a trip to ‘Club Future Nostalgia’ is a night out to remember – but for now, let’s look back on some of the greatest remix albums of all time, shall we?
Björk, ‘Telegram’ (1996)
The Icelandic musician’s second remix album is a reworking of the songs on her eclectic, art-pop sophomore album ‘Post’ (1995). ‘Telegram’ sees Björk expands her expansive sonic world, recording new vocal tracks and working with a varied group of producers and artists. The twinkling ‘Cover Me’ is transformed into a drum and bass banger by Dillinja, ‘Enjoy’ is now a growling industrial-noise megalith courtesy of Further Over the Edge and ‘Hyper-Ballad’ is given a baroque-pop makeover thanks to British string group the Brodsky Quartet. Powerful and pioneering.
Best moment: ‘Hyper-Ballad (Brodsky Quartet Version)’ is utterly beautiful.
The League Unlimited Orchestra, ‘Love and Dancing’ (1982)
This album by The Human League – who for one record only go by the moniker The League Unlimited Orchestra, a reference to Barry White’s 1972 record ‘The Love Unlimited Orchestra – sees songs from the band’s 1981 album ‘Dare’ reimagined as disco bangers. It established The Human League as pioneers of the format, as it was one of the first remix albums ever released. Filled with glitchy, glittering cuts of strutting disco, it’s brilliantly good fun.
Best moment: ‘Don’t You Want Me’. The classic synth-pop belter is reworked as seven-minutes of pure disco euphoria.
100 Gecs, ‘1000 Gecs and the Tree of Clues’ (2020)
A newbie! A few months after 100 Gecs dropped their debut album ‘1000 Gecs’ in 2019, they released the stems for all tracks online, encouraging fans to create their own remixes of the songs. Inspired by what they heard; the experimental duo decided to put out their own remix album. ‘1000 Gecs and the Tree of Clues’ is full of re-workings of the musical Marmite that was their first record, featuring a handful of these fan remixes, as well as high-profile guest appearance from the likes of Charli XCX, Rico Nasty and Fall Out Boy. Pushing the boundaries of pop music, it draws on synth-pop, hardcore, Eurodance, pop-punk and more, so you best strap in for the wild ride.
Best moment: ‘hand crushed by a mallet (Remix)’ feat. Fall Out Boy, Craig Owens, Nicole Dollanganger. A totally unexpected team-up yields fist-pumping, moshpit-opening results.
Radiohead, ‘TKOL RMX 1234567’ (2011)
‘TKOL RMX 1234567’ sees the tracks from Radiohead‘s ‘The King of Limbs’ remixed by a who’s who of trendy producers. Jamie xx, Four Tet, Caribou and Modeselektor, among others, all get their paws on the songs from the band’s eighth album, reworking the glitching electronica and unconventional rock. First released as a series of double or triple A-side singles, they were compiled onto ‘TKOL RMX 1234567’. It’s an intriguing collection, which demonstrates the power a remix can wield on a song; Harmonic 313 turns ‘Bloom’ into a eerie cut of cinematic electronica and Jamie xx’s version is an ethereal, ambient soundtrack to pranging out on the dancefloor at 5am – and a welcome addendum to ‘The King of Limbs’.
Best moment: ‘Little By Little (Caribou Rmx)’, imbued with Caribou’s distinctive warmth and sprinkled with dreamy harp twinkles, is a beauty.
Goldfrapp, ‘We Are Glitter’ (2006)
Benny Benassi taking on ‘Ooh La La’? The Flaming Lips turning ‘Satin Chic’ into a sprawling baroque pop epic? DFA adding a dance-punk bounce to ‘Slide In’? Goldfrapp’s 2006 remix album ‘We Are Glitter’ has it all. Modifying the songs from electronic duo’s third record ‘Supernature’, a bevvy of big-name producers here create a shimmering collection of reworked gems.
Best Moment: The Carl Craig remix of ‘Fly Me Away’, which borrows the bassline from Donna Summer’s ‘I Feel Love’ for. An unlikely match made in heaven.
Pet Shop Boys, ‘Disco’ (1986)
The first remix album by Pet Shop Boys (they later released ‘Disco 2’, ‘Disco 3’ and ‘Disco 4’) features new versions of songs from the band’s debut ‘Please’ as well as its B-Sides. A lot of the tracks included were previously unreleased, or incredibly rare (the single with the Ron Dean Miller and Latin Rascals’ Version Latina of ‘Opportunities’ was going for up to £100), so it was chance for fans to get their hands on them. Filled with effervescent disco versions of the duo’s songs, it’s a toe-tapping companion to their chart-topping debut.
Best moment: The nine-minute epic that is Shep Pettibone’s mastermix of ‘West End Girls’.
Primal Scream, ‘Echo Dek’ (1997)
‘Echo Dek’ is the experimental dub counterpart to Primal Scream‘s fifth album ‘Vanishing Point’. For it, they worked with dub producer Adrian Sherwood to heavily rework the songs. ‘Ju-87’, one of two remixes of ‘Stuka’, twists its original experimental electronics, meshing them with relentless trippy beats and the ding of a doorbell. ‘Vanishing Dub’, the reworking of ‘Out of the Void’, is now a chilled-out slice of ambient-flecked elevator music. Like it or loathe it, it’s a fascinating listen.
Best moment: ‘First Name Unknown’, the remix of ‘Kowalski’, is a weird and wonderful five-minutes.
Danger Mouse, ‘The Grey Album’ (2004)
Danger Mouse’s infamous ‘The Grey Album’ started life as an experimental project. The mash-up record, which mixes Jay-Z‘s a cappella vocals from ‘The Black Album’ with samples of The Beatles‘ ‘The White Album’, emerged from the idea of meshing these two albums together, with the producer explaining “I was obsessed with the whole project, that’s all I was trying to do, see if I could do this…Once I got into it, I didn’t think about anything but finishing it.” It was initially only intended for a 3,000 limited run, but a buzz quickly built around ‘The Grey Album’. No wonder: the record is outstanding. Meticulously crafted and expertly put together, ‘The Grey Album’ surely is the definitive mash-up album.
Best moment: ’99 Problems’, which is mixed with the raucous ‘Helter Skelter’. Ooft.
Gil Scott-Heron and Jamie xx, ‘We’re New Here’ (2011)
‘We’re New Here’ is a creative reimagining of Gil Scott-Heron’s final studio album ‘I’m New Here’. Created by Jamie xx while he was on tour with The xx, it meshes elements of electronica, UK garage and post-dubstep, reframing Scott-Heron’s works surrounded by the indie-darling producers own influences. It’s a culture clash that smooths the rough edges of the original record, but there’s no diluting Scott-Heron’s beautiful poetry and wry delivery.
Best moment: ‘I’ll Take Care of U’ – it’s a stone-cold smasher. No wonder Drake sampled it for his massive Rihanna collab ‘Take Care’ the following year.
Depeche Mode, ‘Remixes 81–04’ (2004)
Both a remix album and a compilation one, this sprawling collection from Depeche Mode brings together remixes from the band’s back catalogue from 1981 to 2004, pulling together both well-known reworkings and rarities. It’s jam-packed full of big-names – Underworld go hard on ‘Barrel of a Gun’, Goldfrapp cast an enchanting, cinematic spell on ‘Halo and Linkin Park‘s Mike Shinoda adds a coat of nu-metal flecked paint to ‘Enjoy the Silence’ – and holds some moments of pure gold.
Best moment: The eight-bit bop that is British producer Daniel Miller’s mix of ‘World in My Eyes’
Philip Glass, ‘Rework: Philip Glass Remixed’ (2012)
To celebrate his 75th birthday, composer Philip Glass approached asked Beck to pull together a group of contemporary musicians to remix some of his most well-known pieces. The results are ‘Rework: Philip Glass Remixed’, which sees a bevvy of artists – including composer and ex-Battles member Tyondai Braxton, chillwave champion Memory Tapes and Beck himself – take on some on the pioneering minimalist composers greatest works. It’s an extensive yet enthralling listen.
Best moment: Memory Tapes’ funk-infused ‘Floe ’87’. It’s minimalist and mesmerising.
Massive Attack and Mad Professor, ‘No Protection’ (1995)
When Massive Attack first released their second album ‘Protection’ in 1994, they approached dub producer DJ Mad Professor to get him to remix one of the tracks. That intended one-off eventually snowballed into a full-blown remix album. Running the band’s second record through a woozy, dub filter, it takes the band’s loungey, chill-out album to the dancefloor.
Best moment: ‘Moving Dub’ is an eerie, grandiose epic.