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Astralasia

The Hawkwind Re-Mixes

Review by Gary Hill

I’ve got mixed feelings about remixes. For bands that I really enjoy, like Hawkwind, it lends a chance to experience familiar songs in new ways. The thing is, it’s kind of odd because it’s allowing another artist to put their brand onto the music. When the original artist approves or participates, though, there is an air of authenticity to it. Such is supposed to be the case with this Hawkwind remixes, although, from some of the odd omissions of information on the liner notes, it seems hard to believe. For instance on one track they say that Tim Blake is or isn’t featured on the track. Shouldn’t they know? Disregarding that, this is a mixed bag. Some of the tracks work pretty well, others are overly long without a lot happening in them. I suppose that’s sort of the nature of the beast. I’d say that this would be highly recommended to fans of techno/dance sounds looking for something new or Hawkfanatics like myself.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2008  Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Spirit Of The Age (original 12 remix 1993)
Waves of techno energy rise up and swirl about as this builds very gradually. At about 1:15 or so we get the first rumblings of the Hawkwind melody in the form of a crunchy progression. This gives way to a techno-dance sort of alteration of the central song structures. The vocal performance is delivered over the top of this rhythm-laden backdrop. At about three and a half minutes in it drops back to swirling keyboards before the techno rhythmic structure returns. Around the four and a half minute mark more of the Hawkwind sounds mark their presence again. Then we get the next vocal segment. They run through with this more techno variant on the typical Hawk-sounds. A little before the seven minute point it drops back to just a drum type beat with elements of Hawkish keys laced over the top. Spoken processed voices can be heard in the background as the arrangement works its way back up. This makes it back towards the Hawkwind source material before it ends at almost ten minutes.
Uncle Sam's On Mars (original Martian conquest 12 mix 1994)
We get a spoken introduction, distant and dramatic, introducing the tale. Keyboards join and then we get other voices that seem to be from a movie. It starts to move out into a more typical techno-dance arrangement. Traces of voices can be heard in the distance as Hawk-like keys also swirl over top. Then we can hear a distant vocal line, the original spoken vocals from the song. When the chorus kicks in its with a more full arrangement, not too far from the Hawkwind version. It sort of feels like the Hawk-version barely churned around in a food processor. This gives way to a more ambient sort of techno-motif. This doesn’t seem to come as close to the original as the opener and doesn’t seem to capture the essence of the track as well. It does have a Hawkwind sort of sensibility through a lot of it, mostly due to the use of the swirling sort of keyboard washes that make up so much of Hawkwind’s sound, but it just doesn’t feel that much like “Uncle Sam’s…” It drops down to just keys for the extended fade down outro.
Assassins (Of Allah) (original Majick Carpet mix 1993)
Techno keys lead things off here, but a restless sound begins to rise and starts to take control, bringing the original pounding Hawkwind cut closer to the surface. Eventually it shifts out more towards the techno sounds again, but some great Arabic musical textures skirt around the outside of this. I’ve always been a sucker for those sort of modal elements and this case is no exception. This one stays in one place far too long, though. It just seems stuck. There are some minor variants, but not nearly enough alterations to keep it interesting enough. I suppose if you use the term “trance” music to describe this, then it makes sense. As potent as the original Hawkwind song is, though, I expected a lot more from this remix.
Spirit Of The Age (Flesh To Fantasy mix)
We get the second of four versions of “Spirit of the Age” here. This one comes up very gradually with lines of melodic keyboards slowly growing. Hints of the original Hawkwind song come in here and there, just barely audible. This stays pretty much in a house/techno/dance motif, though. The original song only present in minute elements. This one suffers, as the last track, from a lack of any real movement – at least  for the first three minutes or so. Then we start to get some little slips of vocals showing up to at least bring a little variation to the table. At around the five minute mark it drops way back again, with just keys and the recurring vocal (“flesh”) holding it. Then the rhythmic motif takes a more dominant role again. They work their way gradually back to where they had been before. At over twelve minutes in length this is the longest cut on the CD. It’s also too monolithic to hold the interest for that long. Of course, if you are otherwise occupied, either chemically, in the midst of the dance floor or both, perhaps this would work.
I'm Uncle Sam (unreleased tribal mix)
Keys gradually emerge here with a pretty and Hawkesque musical approach. At around the half minute mark the rhythmic textures join and this moves along as an odd textured sort of techno groove. This gradually shifts focus to the percussion with a driving beat holding the number while waves of keys flit across the top. Then about two and a half minutes in it shifts out to a new motif. This is merged with the textures that preceded it and the club is sure to be hopping by this point. We get another drop back to just percussion and then space keys work their way across the top again. We alternate between these basic musical premises. While this song seems to have little to do with the Hawkwind material that gave birth to it, it works much better than the last couple tracks because there is a lot more going on here. Just after the five minute mark we hear some echoes of the vocals from “Uncle Sam…” This is actually one of the best pieces on show here.

Uncle Sam's On Mars (live at Hawkfest 2002)
This one has more of the source music than some of the other stuff here. It feels a lot like “Uncle Sam” has been twisted and turned and reshaped. We get big chunks of the original track, just sort of pinched and pulled into new forms. This is another highlight of the disc. The Hawk jam that’s pretty well preserved here is a nice touch. So is the guitar solo that soars across later.
Cluster Of Waves (unreleased recording 2002)
This doesn’t seem to tie directly into any one Hawkwind song, although, throughout I hear bits and pieces that are familiar – or is it just my imagination. In any event, this really feels like it could have come from a Hawkwind disc, just like it is. It’s the only track on this that feels like that. It seems a lot like some of the ambient space work that shows up on albums by Hawkwind. It an intriguing piece, and although not one of my favorite one or two cuts, is definitely a highlight. At just over six minutes it’s also the second shortest track on the CD.
Spirit Of The Age (Cyber trance mix 1993)
Here we get another remix of “Spirit of the Age.” It’s very weird and stripped down at first with just electronic sounds and the words “an android” looped. It’s not until around two minutes in that anything changes. Then tribal rhythms take control and a more groove oriented keyboard sound enters to lead the way. It reverts back to the earlier modes later. This is another that doesn’t cover enough ground for the length of the piece.
Spirit Of The Age (original radio mix 1993)
The last track is the final version of “Spirit of the Age.” At just over four minutes in length it’s also the shortest piece on the CD. It’s a more hard rocking version that is actually not that far from the Hawkwind version in many ways. It’s like taking the original recording and adding a techno edge to it. This is another highlight of the CD.
 
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