ISIS – Oceanic: Remixes​/​Reinterpretations

3 out of 5

Label: Hydra Head

Produced by: James Plotkin (remastered by)

Interesting, but I struggle with its necessity. Then again, I was never incredibly wowed by the original Oceanic, so the prospect of a remix album isn’t directly intriguing to me. That said, I absolutely respect the band’s sense of experimentation, and this is an extension to that – this is absolutely not a typical “remix” disc, and I’d focus more on the ‘reinterpretations’ aspect of the title, as each artist abstracts what they want from their chosen songs, perhaps falling back to more recognizable sections once their stamp on the style has been made. This dedication to the concept is apparent in the track listing: a more usual approach would be to follow the inspiring album’s sequence, but everything is mixed up here, reordered and with multiple approaches, suggesting that each song was parsed out to contributing artists, and then the whole product was reviewed as a revision of Oceanic itself. I don’t think we ultimately got there – the album just cannot flow, with different genres butting up against one another (although somewhat stitched together by everyone keying into a heavy reliance on ambient intros / outros) – and although I’d pish-posh a usual “give it a beat” remix ethos, the lack of that makes the disc even more disparate seeming, song by song. This is maybe in addition to many of those songs not being all that great, sorry to say, at least beyond consideration of the time everyone put in to trying to find their way through their chosen reinterpretations; interesting reinterpretations, but not especially relisten-worthy. Reading reviews of the disc, it’s pretty clear reactions to this vary depending on how much room you’re willing to give ISIS and their friends to experiment: although I’m not an Oceanic fan, I’ve ironically listened to it thoroughly, and so I do sincerely find the way its been picked apart here rather fascinating. But I’m also not a fan of experimentation for its sake, at least as something I want to sit down and listen to for enjoyment, and so I cannot really get behind most of this. Those looking for more “recognizable” variants of the songs are surely to be disappointed (or even pissed off!); those with tastes that cater more to such open-endedness might enjoy what’s been put together. As far as anyone coming to this based on the names involved, I think there’s value for whichever artist you’re following: certainly JK Broadrick’s track sounds like his work; Dalek’s recognizable grinding beat is there; Mike Patton’s digestible weirdness is on display; and etcetera. For my tastes, if this had been tightened up a little bit – less ambient noise stretches, maybe even more effort to link song to song (although I recognize that goes against allowing contributors to fully dive in on their own) – it might merit revisits. As it is, I appreciate the concept and talents involved, but it doesn’t sway me one way or another on Oceanic, or ISIS.

I’d note this is a compilation of, originally, four separate releases, and the track order has been rearranged from those releases. I didn’t listen to them in those formats – the EPs on Robotic Empire – so it’s possible the bite-sized editions come across better.