Vaudeville – The Sleeves Remixed

Full disclosure – to my shame I was not particularly au fait with British Hong Kong-based band The Sleeves, hadn’t seen them live or heard either of their albums – “Arcade Rock” and “Deliverance”. I was able to remedy this by listening to some of their tracks, and have since made a note to try to catch them live. Having supported electronica legend Gary Numan, alt-rockers UNKLE and played festivals and shows around the world, these guys are clearly experienced and road-hardened rock campaigners.

The four-piece combine elements of bands such as The Clash, Dr. Feelgood, The Kinks, the Sex Pistols and others of this ilk for their original material, which they describe as indie rock but is actually classic in every sense. Featuring solid songs and live performances with guitar solos where they are supposed to be it’s a joyous if well-mined punk/classic rock seam.

While the band’s well-intentioned blue-collar rock with its messages of socio-political angst may not be fashionable, it has nevertheless found an audience with fans of a certain age who remember straightforward, honest pre Britpop/Grunge/Showgaze et al with fondness.

Conscious it takes them an average six years to write and record each album, and keen to offer new material to fans, they recently reached out leading DJs, musicians and producers to remix a bunch of their existing tracks.

All but two were based in Hong Kong (some they had never met), and the band’s vocalist and rhythm guitarist Keith Goodman and bass player Stu McCutcheon remixed two tracks each. The brief was completely open, as long as it was totally different from the originals.

Further disclosure – I should add that I didn’t go back and slavishly listen to the source material for each track, to compare and contrast – I decided it would be more useful to assess the remixes on their own merits.

With apparently no shortage of interest from wannabe remixers, the album – called “Vaudeville” in reference to old music hall cabaret acts – snowballed into a behemoth 17 tracker, primarily drawn from “Deliverance”. A year in the making, the band describes it as a journey and Hong Kong collaboration. Whatever the motivation, remixes offer an excellent way to inject energy and originality into existing material, and that is absolutely the case here.

A heads-up for fans of Beatlesque verses and choruses though – don’t expect bona fide songs as such, as the majority of cuts here are sampled hi-tech workouts more appropriate for clubs or avant-garde art installations. In a good way.

Hong Kong never ceases to impress with its wealth of musical talent, from songwriters, musicians, singers, and in this case, producers and remixers. Clearly the overall sentiment was to move as far away as possible from the band’s traditional guitar-led approach while maintaining the songs’ essence. It has certainly brought them kicking and screaming into the 21st century.

It’s also a very smart move, to get their music out to a wider audience for whom old school punk and classic rock may not be motivating factors. In this sense there will undoubtedly by many casual listeners who would choose the remixes over the originals.

1) Twisted Key (Am I Losing You)
Dark, hi-tech feel retaining the punky vocal, very Depeche Mode. Cleverly builds up and drops down. Post-urban soundscape.

2) Behind Those Eyes
Similarly hi-tech urban soundscape, heavily effected vocal, dirty drum ‘n’ bass feel – love it. Doesn’t particularly go anywhere, evolve or develop and is relentlessly gritty, but wow does it has an intense life of its own.

3) Stockholm (Syn-DrumMix)
A different feel with electronic reggae vibe, builds up beautifully, very effective use of the vocal, creates a melancholy feel, crafted and clever.

4) Tickets Please
Kicks off with a car engine starting and heavy funky bassline before heading into a heavy sampled drumming loop, and lo-fi soul trumpet line, before tailing off with “tickets please” and “sorted” vocal samples à la The Shamen’s “Ebeneezer Goode”.

5) Girl (Pain & Passion Mix)
More straightforward remix maintaining the punky vocals and guitars and Cult-like guitars with added electronica and bonus trippy ending.

6) Immanis Et Malus
Bassline reminds me of Guinness surfing ‘tick tock’ ad of a few years ago. Until vibey synths come in alongside another impassioned vocal which all builds up nicely before some monastic style chanting towards the end. Just another day in the office for Celestial!

7) The Horror Within
Launches with lovely piano reminiscent of Evanescence before some creeping reverse-effected female vocals out of a scary movie, very atmospheric and cinematic, not to mention beautiful and unsettling. A gem.

8) I Feel Alive (Little Albert Remix)
One of the band’s best and most popular live tunes, which always makes it trickier for a remixer – how to improve upon (almost) perfection. A spirited effort nevertheless, with added beats and reverbed vocals upping the ante. I did find myself missing the infectious swing of the original though.

9) Never Let Me Go (Schizo Dub Remix)
Busy, cartoony reimagination, with tons going on, super dancey, switching without warning into a reggae keyboard part before bringing it up again, with screeching, sirens, and assorted madness – schizo indeed!

10) Freedom (Iron Orchid Remix)
Some serious thought has gone into this great mix, which kicks off with an angelic choir before dropping some heavy squaretooth synths and vocal samples, like a robot dance party in heaven. Or something. Love this.

11) Inside My Head
Another strong piece of work, featuring big, squashy beats, vocal samples, phat bass and general goodness. Hypnotic.

12) Angel (Reflexion Remix)
A vibey cut, with deep beats, ska-tinged rhythms, vocal samples before breaking into a staccato synth arpeggio. Something of a 90s, “Trainspotting” soundtrack vibe.

13) Adieu Mon Amour
Wow wow wow, creativity off the scale with this awesome remix. “Sparky’s Magic Piano” type vocoder effect and lots of subtle synths before the beat comes crashing in fabulously, followed by a full-fat, seductive female vocal IN FRENCH from Ingrid SG. Super Vanessa Paradis and truly sensational. This has hit written all over it and is the pick of the bunch for me. Deserves pride of place on a suitably indie movie soundtrack. Uplifting.

14) Never Let Me Go
Another interpretation of the track, with a Gary Numan synth vibe (look him up, pop kids, especially “Cars” and “Are Friends Electric”). A full female vocal and poptastic production make this a solid effort.

15) Sticky Dance Floor
Love the 80s vibe, again quite Depeche Mode, with an eerie music box feel. An intriguing cut, with a nice vocal and spine-tingling keyboard part combining very effectively.

16) Just One Time (Change Your Life)
Bit of a Joy Division/New Order feel to this one, relentless rhythms with vocals and guitars drifting in and out. Trancey and dancey.

17) Angel of the Noise
One of the few tracks to retain the guitars, this echoes and swirls around before kicking in and out. I haven’t heard the original which judging by this has all the makings of a post-punk classic.
– Reviewed by Dan Creffield
The album is available at CDBaby and on Spotify.

Track listing:

Remixed by M.O.B.
Original track: Broken Key, from the album ‘Deliverance’ by The Sleeves.

Remixed by DJ Lovely
Original track: Old Jag, from the album ‘Deliverance’ by The Sleeves.

STOCKHOLM (Syn-Drum Mix)
Remixed by Celestial
Original track: Stockholm, from the album ‘Arcade Rock’ by The Sleeves.

Remixed by Special K
Original track: Old Jag, from the album ‘Deliverance’ by The Sleeves.

GIRL (Pain & Passion Mix)
Remixed by The Delfino Trio
Original track: Girl, from the album ‘Deliverance’ by The Sleeves.

Remixed by Celestial
Original track: The Menace (Pt II), from the album ‘Deliverance’ by The Sleeves.

Remixed by Silencio
Original track: The Horror, from the album ‘Deliverance’ by The Sleeves.

I FEEL ALIVE (Little Albert Remix)
Remixed by Little Albert
Original track: I Feel Alive, from the album ‘Deliverance’ by The Sleeves.

NEVER LET ME GO (Schizo Dub Remix)
Remixed by DJ FabSabs
Original track: Never Let Me Go, from the album ‘Deliverance’ by The Sleeves.

FREEDOM (Iron Orchid Remix)
Remixed by Celestial
Original track: Freedom Now, from the album ‘Deliverance’ by The Sleeves.

Remixed by Special K
Original track: Rumble (Inside My Head), from the album ‘Deliverance’ by The Sleeves.

ANGEL (Reflexion Remix)
Remixed by Silencio
Original track: Angel Of The North, from the album ‘Deliverance’ by The Sleeves.

Remixed by pøl (featuring Ingrid SG)
Original track: She Said, from the album ‘Arcade Rock’ by The Sleeves.

Remixed by Joelectrick
Original track: Never Let Me Go, from the album ‘Deliverance’ by The Sleeves.

Remixed by JUNK!
Original track: (Out On The) Dance Floor (Get What You Ask For), from the album ‘Deliverance’ by The Sleeves.

Remixed by X24r
Original track: I Feel Alive, from the album ‘Deliverance’ by The Sleeves.

Remixed by Weeper Mira
Original track: Angel Of The North, from the album ‘Deliverance’ by The Sleeves.

Be Sociable, Share!