UK Trio GoGo Penguin Reimagines Self-Titled 2020 Album Via ‘GGP/RMX’ (ALBUM REVIEW)

We’ve seen thousands of albums remixed and remastered, but this may be the first of its kind, a rarity in any case, where each track bears the name of a different producer and/or mixer. Also, considering that the UK trio GoGo Penguin (GGP) only issued their self-titled album, the source of these remixes, last year makes it highly unusual too.  Count on this group to be anything but predictable and conventional. They are a genre-defying study of seeming contradictions – an acoustic trio well versed in electronica and a minimalist orientation that often manifests itself in complex layers of sound. The group blends acoustic/electric – techno, post-bop, post-rock, fusion jazz, and perhaps most prominently, the minimalism of Philip Glass. With GGP/RMX, their sixth album over the course of a decade, GGP is a highly regarded global trio, known for searing live performances, soundtrack compositions, a keen ear to club culture, and certainly for risk-taking.

Pianist Chris Illingworth, drummer Rob Turner, and bassist Nick Blacka have personally enlisted an array of the world’s sharpest artist-producers and remixers for each track from the album as well as for a new version of the previously rare gem “Petit_a” (which was initially a Japan-only release before it emerged on GGP’s digital EP Live from Studio 2). GGP/RMX is a huge nod to the transformative art of the remix and reinforces their global scope and original compositions. 

While many piano trios thrive on swing and organ trios on grooves, GGP doesn’t necessarily thrive on either but instead on an energetic pulse, a common word used to describe them is ‘propel.’  The music ranges from the hypnotic to the highly danceable.  U.S. producer Machinedrum reconstructs the instrumental elements of “Atomisedinto a lithe, unruly dance banger, which forms the first single release from GGP/RMX. Even the sound of this one reflects the producer’s name, as if the original was run through a washer and dryer with its sustained machine-like hum. French producer Rone creates a shimmering ambient version of “F Maj Pixie,”, before the same track is embraced and distinctly reshaped by Brit electronic/bassist maverick Squarepusher (with whose live band Shobaleader One GGP have shared festival stages), merging acoustic and tech elements in the second single where from a sparse bass intro, the intensity builds until you have danceable club fare.

Tokyo music hero Cornelius opens with his invigorating take on “Kora,” and he pays homage to GGP’s Manchester heritage as well as his own rapport with the British city (which bore a formative influence on his own early Shibuya-kei work). Also, from Japan, the innovative musician and sound designer Yosi Horikawa (acclaimed for his experimental field recordings as well as his electronic productions) present an evocative mix of “Embers” while wide-screen minimalists Portico Quartet bring these meandering soundscapes to a heady conclusion on “Don’t Go.”

Inventive new takes also come from contemporary Brit talents Nathan Fake on a fuzzy, throbbing, reverberating effects-laden “Open”, James Holden who renders a majestic, cinematic “Totem”, and Clark who imparts a brooding vibe to “Petit_a”.  Original club pioneer Graham Massey (808 State) delivers a beat-driven, percolating “Signal In The Noise,” and new generation talent Shunya conjures mysterious moods on “To The Nth.”

These remixes move us into new directions, maybe even into different listening situations, many designed more for dancing than pure listening.  In that sense, while it would be difficult to ascribe the term ‘organic’ to the original album, the original bears more melodic qualities and the ebbs and flows are musician-driven versus effects-driven. It’s a preference – dancefloor or couch and headphones. It’s not every group that can deliver both experiences and that makes GGP special.


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