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Coaxing beauty, beauty twice over

Various Artists
marumari. the remixes
Carpark Records

The laptop movement finds its roots equally in the chaos of ’70s krautrock and elektro and the stuttering, abstract beats of contemporary demigods Autechre. Yet most laptop artists (we’ll try not to use the catchphrase IDM . . . yet) are infused with the indie ethos usually associated wth rock – they Do It Themselves.

Josh Pressein’s Marumari has put out five releases in three years. His music is a mixture of the warm and the techy, the weird and the sci-fi. One almost wants to peg him a visionary, but that would be like laying down a hex.

Now his friends and colleagues give something back. On marumari. the remixes, 20 remixed tracks are presented, all most assuredly done in the comfort of the individual artists’ homes. And the majority of them done well.

The artist herein have recorded on the hippest labels on the electronik scene: Tigerbeat 6, kracfive, Planet-(, et al. In the works since Marumari’s inception, the remixes is worth the wait. The disc includes 10 standard CD tracks (all unidentified but for the name of the respective remix artist) plus 10 more tracks in MP3 format and two Quicktime videos.

It kicks off on an uplifting note with a crackly blowout by Electric Company. It’s a nice kickback track that sounds like the speakers might be damaged, but don’t worry, this is audio morphine – the crackle runs through the nervous system. L’usine, a Texan outfit with a French name, picks things up on the next track with a skittering beat and bassline that is remniscent of the IDM movement’s most accessible work.

Wisconsin’s Casino vs. Japan takes us, not surprisingly, down a road seemingly straight into Cologne, with a shuffle beat and bassline rolling through the same sort of fuzz and pop as on the Electric Company track, with sunny synth lines emerging from behind the static.

New York’s Greg Davis mixes things up with a jaunty beat and some bells, while Colongib (who may play Portland in July) takes as many sounds as he can and constructs a quite danceable tick-tocking composition that is plenty danceable. German superhero Robert Lippok of To Rococo Rot turns a Marumari composition music into a contemplative sci-fi jazz bit that will make you want to do a robot dance.

The Finn who records under the moniker Lackluster works some straightforward repetition. Big beats in the background give way to playful phasing sounds and an IDM stutter beat before falling back into contemplation of itself and an eventual beat-less fadeout. Cex shows his affinity for hip-hop beats while piercing the ears with noises too fine for description.

Kracfiver Octopus Inc. really mixes things up, with a sense of humor and slamming beat that eventually doubles back on itself as big synth sounds take over. Rhode Island duo Stars as Eyes close the CD portion of the release with a good ear-cleansing – potent, melodic washes of sound and steady, uncomplicated beats swirl in and out of the listener’s ear and fade on a nice pop note.

As for the MP3 portion, some track titles are viewable in the window of the computer media player. Atomly works a looped dog bark into his remix of “Josh has a Bowl Cut” in a way that makes incessant canine noise the perfect accompaniment to a garage track. Buddysystem gets click-y in what is simply titled “Remix Revised 7-04-2001.”

Yuppster and Marumari team up to rework “Superbotany” in very pretty fashion – it’s like a dueling nice-guy keyboard session, the love theme to a sci-fi movie. Kettel takes the same track and adds some crunch, turning it into all into a drum & bass freakout for just a minute. Proem slowly unfurls a beat about a minute into “Meter Made,” then fades it back out after the synthesizers’ ambient wash has crested.

Vim works with interplaying synth lines and draws out some crunchy beats, then takes them back as if in denial, finally ending it on a steady note. Thug is anything but thuggish – reverb and a lazy downtempo beat scuttle the ears on this untitled remix track. Multiplex makes what is definitely a cinematic noise. Their “01” remix is like future cop drama theme, complete with chase scene. Marumari’s sci-fi synth lines are accompanied by 09’s small, crazy, moving beat, like circuits through the brain. Phuidbax finishes the whole thing with a very big sound.

Marumari might be the closest thing to Bryan Wilson electronik music scene. His obsession with science fiction and a definite gearhead bent have not taken anything away from the fact that he is an artist, even with the goofy sci-fi posing (as evidenced on the included video for “Baby M,” which garnered some MTV2 airplay last year).

The question is whether artists like Marumari and his cohorts can continue mapping the aural landscape as first begun by the likes of Neu!, Kraftwerk and Can back in the ’70s, and even further back to the likes of tape loop originator Steve Reich ’60s. So far, they’re arguably doing a fine job.

What the artists on the remixes certainly have done, is taken the patchwork quilt of sound that is Marumari’s music and restitched. In most cases, the warmth is retained, and yes, we’re in enriched this automated world.