Space City Rock reciews ‘Lacerus Rising’
The Manichean, Lacerus Rising
The Manichean’s name might be at the top of the marquee, so to speak, but on their new EP, Lacerus Rising, the band’s most definitely not the star of this particular show. Instead, this time out they’ve handed the reins over to a gang of remix-happy friends and told them to go nuts with “Lacerus,” probably the best track off their debut Whispers EP.
Now, I’m not generally all that keen on remix albums; 95% of the time, the “remixes” are barely worth the name, just versions of the same songs sped up or slowed down, with extra beats thrown on top. Here, however, I have to hand it to the remixers The Manichean folks have enlisted — the result of their efforts, this EP, is surprisingly impressive.
Of course, the EP starts off with the original version of the track in question, which should be familiar to fans of the band (especially since I think it’s the same recording as on Whispers); it’s still a great track, all near-overwrought drama, half-lidded Biblical references, tense, frantic guitars and busy arrangements, and an overall darkly foreboding feel, but on Lacerus Rising it’s more useful as a reference point, something to compare the rest of the EP to and pick out the differences.
And yeah, there’re quite a few of ‘em. On “Lacerus Vs. Vincent Priceless (Electro-Smash Mix),” Vincent Priceless keeps the dark foreboding-ness of the original, but that’s about it. Robotic, distorted voices bubble up from below, while vicious, Nine Inch Nails-ish drum machines fight for dominance above — as far as I can tell, the vocal line is all that’s kept from the original, and it’s shredded and processed beyond recognition, to turn the original Decemberists-like dramatic-indie-rock tune into a track worthy of inclusion on the soundtrack of some cyberpunk movie starring Vin Diesel.
Then there’s “Lacerus Vs. Mirm (Bailao Triufante Mix),” which provides a quick, gentle kick upwards in tone, eschewing the murk in favor of a Beacoup Fish-era Underworld feel, with some great marimba(?) and burbling, squelching beats, and only the verse guitar riff and horns to the original song, repeated ad infinitum in the background. The result sounds appropriately like it could easily be played on a dancefloor somewhere in Ibiza or something (except that it’d honestly be cooler than most of what I’m guessing gets played in Ibiza).
I had high hopes for “Lacerus Vs. Will Schorre (8-Bit Mix),” but after a few listens, sadly, I’m finding the track somewhat middling. Which sucks, because, hey, it’s The Manichean doing the theme from The Legend of Zelda! Well, okay, not really. Instead, remixer Will Schorre’s taken the original “Lacerus” and kept the structure pretty much intact, just replacing the live band with thumping, scratchy-sounding, Nintendo-hell melodies and glitchy beats that could well be the background music to Karateka or something. It’s utterly ridiculous, yes, and it’s not mind-blowing, but I’ll admit that it’s still fun as hell. I suspect that those who are more into chiptune than I am may love it.
Vincent Priceless makes the second of his three appearances here with “Lacerus Vs. Vincent Priceless (Cave Dweller Mix),” which for some reason makes me think of early Enya, specifically the lyrics-less “The Long Ships” (off her self-titled solo debut). The remix has that same fuzzy, off-in-the-distance, “landscape” vibe to it, where you feel less like you’re listening to a song and more like you’re witnessing a scene of some kind. In this case, mind you, things unfold very, very slowly, so the scene you’re watching could well be that of a glacier rolling steadily down a crevasse, swalling everything in its path. As for the original song, well, it gets swallowed up in the process, calling from within the ice and snow as it’s buried.
“Lacerus Vs. Webby Appleton (That’s What’s Up Mix)” is the most dramatic of the bunch, which fits, considering the band… The “That’s What’s Up Mix” moves along sneakily, funky and street-level and cool, with hazy layers of high-flying noise sailing atop the original song. Then it shifts into a quasi-orchestral break bit, before abruptly exploding into skittering, head-snapping breakbeats with a shrieked “Oh, fuck!” (which, I’ll admit, I didn’t actually realize is what’s said early on in the song until I’d heard it pushed front-and-center here). This one’s like the laidback, funkdafied cousin of Leftfield, and that’s no bad comparison to make.
Last but not least, I have to wince and admit that I was a little disappointed by final track “Lacerus Rising (The Manichean Vs. Vincent Priceless).” I mean, I knew this was/is a remix EP, but still, with the title “Lacerus Rising,” I’d hoped maybe this would be a bonus new track…instead, it’s another remix.
Which is cool, but damn — I’m apparently having a hard time waiting for the band’s much-anticipated full-length (hopefully due out this coming year). Not that this is a bad one of the remix bunch, mind you; it’s initially menacing, under-the-surface, noisy form works nicely, and then when the stomping, four-on-the-floor beats and overpowering synths come thundering in, it turns into something else entirely. Which is basically the heaviest, grinding-est horror-flick techno/industrial theme song you’ve never heard — an impressive feat.
Like I said above, remix albums aren’t really my thing, and that’s due in part to the fact that they generally only matter to dyed-in-the-wool fans of the band, people who already know the remixed track by heart in its original form. It’s a serious credit to the people involved with Lacerus Rising that that’s not the case here — these remixes are so good, so distinctive, that they can easily stand on their own two feet.