By Alex Kavanagh
If you didn’t hear it, reading through a selection of reviews for Black Sands will give you an impression of just what an outstanding album it was. Superlatives fly back and forth… beautiful, a masterpiece, brilliantly accomplished, album of his career, virtually flawless, awe-inspiring, magnificent, dazzling… and not a single word appears out of place.
The songs (and they fully deserve to be called songs) were so rich and luscious that while the desire to reinterpret them must have been a strong pull for any producer, it would have also been a daunting one. In spite of the odds however, Black Sands Remixed turns up some real gems.
Part of the reason it works so well is the absence of diversity amongst the remixes. This may sound like a criticism, but retaining the consistency and emotional, organic feel that made the originals so well-received was always going to be important. Si Green, aka Bonobo, enlisted DJ & Eglo Records label-head Alexander Nut to help select the mixes that would appear on the album, and in making the smart choices they did, they’ve crafted a fine record.
Standouts include Banks’ Remix of ‘The Keeper’, with its deep bass and eerie echoes. Cosmin TRG remixes ‘Kiara’ to great effect, turning one of the standout tracks from Black Sands into a pulsating upbeat number, followed swiftly by the Floating Points remix of ‘Eyesdown’, another highlight. With four remixes of this song on the album though, Andreya Triana’s vocals do become slightly repetitive. I couldn’t help but feel one or two of these could’ve made way for an inspired remix of ‘Kong’ or ‘We Could Forever’. The version of ‘Eyesdown’ featuring Dels would’ve been my omission. It’s not a bad track by any means, just an unadventurous inclusion. Both of the ‘Stay The Same’ remixes, by Mark Pritchard and Blue Daisy respectively, also fall a little short of the overall standard, but aren’t without merit and their own effect on the whole. The record proceeds to end on a high, signing off with a beautifully ambient and wholly unexpected minimal reconstruction of ‘Black Sands’ by Duke Dumont.
Thankfully, most of the tracks on Black Sands Remixed are originals. Besides a couple that featured on the epic Ninja Tune XX 20th anniversary compilation (including ‘Ghost Ship’, one of the two excellent contributions from Bonobo himself), everything else on the album is previously unreleased. And while almost all the material here is fresh and exciting, it’s a measure of the man that the two Bonobo songs are probably the standouts, providing us with a touchstone back to the original album that we loved so much and reminding us just how close to perfection his most recent work has been.