Remixes are a fickle art. When done wrong, they can butcher a beautiful song into a stale, overly-produced mess of a track that has none of the soul or meaning of the original; the musical equivalent of a plate of cold grits with a smattering of lunch lady hair on top.
But for every 1000 schmucks butchering a Snoop Dogg track on Youtube, there comes a duo like Toronto’s Rainer + Grimm, who have perfected the art of making a remix that pays due homage to the original record while still sounding fresh and original. It’d be unfair to suggest they are new to their craft– they each have over a decade of producing to their names. But it’s only recently that the duo, with their undeniable chemistry, has captured the ears of the internet and the radio on the back of their incredibly well-produced remixes.
Particularly, their remix of Sam Smith’s smash hit “Stay With Me”, is pretty much the epitome of what a good remix is. The track keeps the original’s haunting piano progression, and rather than covering it up, builds on it with a matching synth melody and a kick drum that’s fast enough to make it danceable but slow enough to not obscure Smith’s voice, which is sometimes manipulated but never overly mangled. The track is so darn good that Capitol Records, Smith’s label, put it on rotation across U.S radio. The duo has a small collection of remixes that are just as tasteful, such as their take on Golden Coast’s “Break My Fall”, which flips the synth-heavy original into a light, bouncy summer jam that’s probably more popular than the original track at this point.
But Rainier + Grimm aren’t just in the remix business. The duo recently dropped their debut EP, a six-song number by the name of Modern Wild. Filled with lush synthesizers, funky basslines, and carefully selected vocals, Modern Wild is as diverse as it is expansive. Although this is still definitely an electronica EP, we hear influences from pop, funk, and drone dotting this musical wonderland.
Opener “Burnt Bridges”, starts up with a leering, droning synth that eventually gives way to Grimm’s reverb-soaked vocals before rising again, this time permanently. The track does a lot with very little– there’s only one proper “verse”, but somehow “Broken Bridges” goes on for over 4 minutes without going stale. It’s also the first time we see the theme of heartbreak on this EP. We didn’t know you were even allowed to makea dance music breakup album, since thinking about your ex and silently weeping shouldn’t usually go hand in hand with a dancefloor, but somehow Rainier + Grimm make it work, thanks largely to some skilled vocalists who drop in to help. Singer Jasmine Spence gives tracks “Battlefield” and “Fix This Love” incredible emotional weight, despite her relatively short verse. Grimm himself loans his vocals on many a track, along with visitors Moose, Seth Nyquist, and Saidah Conrad. It’s a small touch, but much like Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories, the addition of vocals and lyrics gives the robot rock a poignant human touch. The EP’s highlight may actually be “Fix This Love”, where Spence and the DJ duo find a perfect harmony between vocals and instrumentation, between emotion and orchestration.
That’s not to say the instrumentation doesn’t have merit. On the contrary, Rainier + Grimm’s use of vocal loops, tastefully simple synth and bass lines, and minimalist percussion creates a light, fluctuating sound that never feels overly busy or complex, yet never gets overly simple. Whenever a track approaches repetition, as it almost does on “Driving Through the Night” ft. Seth Nyquist, a new melody begins playing, another vanishes, and the track avoids drudgery.
In short, Modern Wild is a fantastic effort from a production team that manages to create music from machines without ever taking away the humanity behind it, and that can remix a song without taking away its original spirit. It’s not clear where the duo goes from here– more remixes? Another EP? A full album? Who should they collaborate with? Do they go pop or stick to the underground scene? Whatever happens, we hope we hear more from this duo, and fast.
Rainer and Grimm will be playing the Electric Owl with White Noise on September 5th, tickets are $12 in advance and are available at Beatroute and Red Cat Records.