CD, PharmaFabrik, 2007
The main issue I encountered in reviewing “Signia” was a simple question: what is it? A compilation of Pure H tracks remixed by various artists? A compendium of various artists’ tracks remixed by Pure H? A psychedelic musical potpourri for a serious Thompsonian bender? I subsequently discovered the first and third of these conjectures can be considered more-or-less accurate. “Signia” is the title of the opening track of the Pure H album “Anadonia” (2005), and the release here under review is a collection of remixes of that track. The various interpretations of “Signia” are each supplied with a unique title (presumably contributed by the remixing artist), and although they span a variety of genres, the remixes exhibit a startling homogeneity in sound and, in some respects, style.
The disc begins with some intensely spaced-out rainforest dub (Eraldo Bernocchi’s “Vision Rising”), so drenched in pillowy bass and breathy sirens it will send heads spinning into tropical tailspins. One of the best compositions “Signia” has to offer, it sets the pace for the sound and feel of the disc: the haunting introduction to a shadowed wilderness. “Ukwakha,” by Chris Wood, picks up next with a howling, groaning dark IDM interpretation that, five minutes in, develops some agitated click’n’cut passages with the now familiar vocal samples dissected. Wondan’s “H Light” is another standout track, concentrating on bringing an illbient, somewhat urban atmosphere into the collection with admirable beats. PCM lends and extended, eerie soundscape to the group, seemingly endless until it suddenly explodes into take-no-prisoners drum’n’bass and careens toward its conclusion with alienating undercurrents. Richard Dunlap’s take (“East Lands Silent”) is a drone-infused ritual dark ambient piece, a disquieting underworld similar to Burp’s effective portrait of a dismal swamp (“Inside Magog”), although both remixes prove ineffective and weaker in comparison to their peers. The latter is followed by another notable track (and the disc’s most unexpected juxtaposition), the valium-blithe and balmy easy listening of MoShang’s muzak-tinged “Lazy Sunday,” after which the album embarks on the epic voyage (topping sixteen minutes) of Psychedelic Desert’s nomadic march across the dunes (“Live Farce”).
The trail of auditory clues strung through these remixes serves this particular album format quite well, as the signature elements of the original are readily apparent in the proffered spectrum of remixes – dissolving voices, fiendish bass treatments and distorted horns and other instruments are all similarly included in the reworked versions. Additionally, Pure H has chosen to seamlessly blend the tracks on “Signia,” in so doing creating a kind of meta-remix of melted partitions and fused components, or perhaps even an inauguration of the end of “Signia” history in the present moment. Some great talent is showcased here, and it is only fair to attribute the overall quality of these remixes in part to the integrity of the source material.
— Dutton Hauhart