Lending tunes from his ‘Phantom Radio’ album to some remixing pals reaps rewards for the ever-inventive stalwart
After 31 years in the game, far from being kaput, Mark Lanegan has spent the last few years licking the musical battery. The one-time Screaming Trees frontman ushered in his own electronic explorations on his 2012 album, ‘Blues Train’, and the 2014 follow-up, ‘Phantom Radio’. Now he’s exercised controlled artistic abandon by opening up ‘Phantom Radio’ to a platform of remixes. This electro diversion is proving itself to be no passing fancy or mid-life crisis; this signals a full-blown, goddamned love affair.
If the manifesto is to be believed, Lanegan handpicked his collaborators for ‘A Thousand Miles Of Midnight’, like former bandmate Greg Dulli and recent collaborators Soulsavers and Moby. However, it’s some of the lesser known artists that provide the more interesting deviations. When Pye Corner Audio’s take on ‘Floor Of The Ocean’ really kicks in, the edgy beat persists like a heavy pulse after a long night on the uppers.
‘Harvest Home’, despite its organic moniker, gets a radical overhaul from Magnus that sees it transformed into the arena of a smoky German transgender club. Together with ‘Sad Lover’, it represents the biggest departure from the original track. On ‘Sad Lover’, Mikey Young takes a fairly standard four-to-the-floor rhythm and turns it into new wave synthpop, almost echoing Lanegan’s recent audio curve.
Coming across as such a sweet and tender confessional, ‘Torn Red Heart’ could have been written by Burt Bacharach. It’s the man who looks like an intellectual pebble – Moby – who’s on knob twiddling duty here. While he might be well practised in providing an electronic backdrop to a gut-punching vocal, not enough of the initial recording remains to keep it in any way emotive.
The highlight, aside from UNKLE’s exquisite lesson in how to layer sound on ‘The Killing Season’, is when Lanegan invites his old Gutter Twins compadre Greg Dulli to orchestrate his gambit. What the ‘I Am A Wolf’ reworking lacks in the exposed desolation of the original, it makes up for in its uneasy, trip hoppy back and forth. Dulli lends his tortured falsetto to the track, lest you forget that these were voices born out of the lay-it-bare grunge era.
Lanegan’s voice is exactly the kind of weapon that all electronic artists wish they had in their arsenal. Blisteringly real, wretched and honest, it has a fidelity that can’t be recreated with synthesised instruments. It’s exactly this, however, that has made them interesting bedfellows on ‘A Thousand Miles Of Midnight’. With this episode in artistic play, Lanegan has given as much to those remixing as to himself. May this era of discovery continue.