Albums / EPs, Reviews

Card On Spokes – Lead Me To The Water Remixes EP

Shane Cooper has had quite a busy year. While known by many as Card On Spokes through his reputation for…


Shane Cooper has had quite a busy year. While known by many as Card On Spokes through his reputation for progressive and luscious production, he also goes by Shane Cooper when playing jazz. His quintet landed another spot at the Cape Town International Jazz Festival in March and he was awarded the SAMA (South African Music Award) for Best Jazz Album of 2014 for is debut, Oscillations, in April. While it may seem that Card On Spokes has had to take a backseat for all of this – an impression gained purely from recent releases – this is misleading. He has released two new tracks – ‘The Young Ones’ for the gravy002 compilation and ‘Chocolate Covered Weekend’ for naasMUSIC’s DASSIE compilation, which saw him make his worldwide singing debut. However, much of his time over the past few months has been dedicated to transforming the original Lead Me To The Water EP into a live show, consisting of live vocals, strings, horns, guitar, bass/double bass and synths. This was premiered at PAST/FUTURE/TENSE – a City Soiree event – a few weeks ago in collaboration with Bateleur and poet Toast Coetzer.

His latest offering sees Lead Me To The Water enter the realm of remixes. The culture of remixing is well entrenched in electronic music and has been since its earliest days, but with the introduction of the internet and bedroom-studios becoming the norm, it has taken on fairly monstrous proportions. Deciding whether a remix is good can be more of a subjective matter than it is with an original. The basic concept of a remix is to provide the listener with a new sonic experience while maintaining enough of the original track for them to revel in its familiarity. Sometimes the former can be taken too far and the original track is unrecognisable; sometimes it isn’t taken far enough and the only variation is an increased tempo and a 4/4 thud (see: most 5FM ultimixes). But in the case of Card On Spokes, he has left his EP in the hands of four of South Africa’s most reputable and accomplished producers – as well as being the most appropriate in handling his particular style. The EP finds Maramza (Richard Rumney), Fever Trails (Nic Van Reenen), Jumping Back Slash (Gareth Jones) and Dank (Ross Finck) all offering outstanding variations to tracks off Lead Me To The Water

Maramza is up first with his rendition of ‘Rain’ (ft. Nicky Schrire). He immediately establishes his style with a strong kick and future-bass-percussive beatwork. He gives the original a lot of space to breathe and focuses mainly on providing variation with the bass and percussion. The vocals switch between passages of the original to pitched down versions which are then implemented as more percussive elements. It’s a great opener which supplies enough difference for the track to breathe new life as a remix, but allows the original to shine through enough for it not to feel too forced.

This is followed by a definite highlight of the EP – Fever Trails on ‘Goldshine’. He opens with delicate and sparse synth-jabs which are gradually accompanied by flute samples and a subdued synth-groove which builds to breakout as the dance-inducing lead when the beat drops in. The original vocals, which are sampled as well, provide a light layer that hovers above the groove. This is followed by a bridge section with some really great synth-line experimentation, interchanged with a hook from the original track. The groove from the beginning is reintroduced and fades into the closing section of flute samples and another hook from the original track. The song has to be credited for its ability to push the limit of exploration – it embellishes the original whilst retaining the utmost respect for it.

Jumping Back Slash is by far the most elusive of these four producers as much of his time is spent abroad recently. He takes on ‘Ladders’ (ft. Nicky Schrire) and immediately announces it as a dance track with sampled keys and vocals chirps. They are joined by claps and percussion to provide an intriguing balance between a manic Shangaan-esque groove and an airy, mellow keys progression. After a slight variation into a bridge section he uses a sample of the trumpet solo from the original track to build towards a return to the initial groove. Dank takes on the same track, which provides a valuable perspective on the EP as it proves how a remix of the same song by two different artists can take on completely different forms. His is more synth heavy than Jumping Back Slash’s, but starts out far sparser with what sounds like a pitched down guitar sample. He introduces some reversed synth over the sample with light percussion and builds the beat towards a drop which sees the guitar sample removed to clear space for bass, percussion and synth interplay. A trumpet sample is pitched down to form a brief but meaty orchestral brass section, while the original vocals float lightly above before the horns are replaced by the synth. He lets the original track play out where the double bass hook is featured with some light additional keys from Dank as a compressed version of the original trumpet solo fades the track out. A reprise from the original EP wraps everything up and acts a significant reflector in closing.

Remix EPs are not yet common in the current South African music scene, but it is definitely safe to say that this has set the bar extremely high for future releases. Cooper’s persistent drive for his music and projects to develop, improve and progress has led him to continually achieve work of the highest quality. This has been acknowledged in the more contemporary form of blog-praise as well as in the traditional sense of awards (his SAMA; the Standard Bank Youth Jazz Musician of 2013). His choice of producers in this instance is testament to that.

You can download the EP for free here. 

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