Titles: Outer Circular [EPs: I Was Awake, and Landlocked]
Artist: Stewart & Scarfe
Cat No: BSOG0027
License: CC BY-NC-ND
I can’t remember how I tripped over this release on blocSonic. It was probably a random voyage on the internet like I find myself doing all the time. But when I read about these releases my curiosity was piqued. And I am glad it was. This was definitely one of the most enjoyable random discoveries I’ve had in a while.
The story of Outer Circular goes back a few years. Liam Stewart released a couple of well received pop rock releases on blocSonic: Losing The Tortoise Race (in 2012) and Sixteen Words (in 2010). Fast forward to this year when Stewart teamed up with his Blacklamps bandmate Lyndon Scarfe to re-work a few of the tracks from Liam’s solo albums.
The resulting transformation is nothing short of astounding. While Liam’s original recordings were mostly up-tempo standard pop fare, in Scarfe’s hands the songs are only barely recognizable by the lyrics in the original tracks. Tempos are changed, pitch / keys are changed, rhythms are rearranged. Scarfe even went so far as to change the phrasing of the vocal lines, giving them a whole different mood to go with the modified instrumental backing.
It would be unfair to say that these works that have been re-realized are better than the original recordings. That could go back to age old debates about whether the artist that invents a work is always the best person to interpret that work, and it would be a disservice to the integrity of both the original and transformed versions of these songs.
However, it isn’t unfair to compare and contrast the songs. For example, the song Sooner from Sixteen Words has the angsty feeling of an alt-rock / grunge type group: Nirvana, REM, The Smiths, etc. The pop lines are clear: a driving drum line, quirky guitar fills, and resolving in the style of a standard pop-song. It’s counterpart is Soonest on Outer Circular. in which it is transformed into a more dark, brooding emo-style pop – kind of the love child of Tears for Fears, Dream Academy and The Cure: slower tempo, more of a ballad style, dramatic vocal lines, and darker texture.
It is irrelevant to think that one version is better than the other. They are different, and carry a different emotional weight when you listen to them. You can even listen to the two versions back-to-back, and feel like you’ve listened to two completely different songs. And that is what is amazing about this release. Lyndon Scarfe has heard something completely different in these songs, and has realized it in a way that is current and still accessible, without destroying the integrity of the songs, or lessening the value of the original versions in any way.
blocSonic also supports their releases by producing a couple of EP’s or “maxBlocs” to go with each release. I normally don’t include such releases in a review, however in this case a few of the included mixes and tracks are make a wonderful supplement to Outer Circular itself.
The Landlocked maxBloc includes an instrumental version of Landlocked which really opens up a lot of the detail that went into making the versions of the songs on Outer Circular. Also, included is Overloaded – a nice ambient mix track. On the I Was Awake maxBloc, there is a trio of tracks gorgeously produced by Public Enemy producer, C-Doc. And, a really nice remix by Paul “dustmotes” Croker.
[This article originally published on Netlabelism by George De Bruin under a CC BY-NC-SA license. This article is published on The CerebralRift with the permission of the author.]