Album Review : New Age Doom & Lee Scratch Perry – Remix The Universe : a daring excavation of The Upsetter’s parting gift.

The Breakdown

The deep faith invested in Scratch’s power brings rewards on many levels, pushing this album up there with the finest re-imaginings .This is a remix album that offers so much more than superficial cut ups or BPM tinkering.
We Are Busy Bodies 8.9

This is exactly how Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry would have liked it now that he’s left us. Not just commemoration with a stream of inevitable reissues or out-take raids from his archive but something more vibrant, new music with him providing its soul. Dial back to November 2021 when the legendary Upsetter performed as the inspirational catalyst on New Age Doom’s ‘Lee “Scratch” Perry’s Guide To The Universe’, an album that unexpectedly became his parting shot. Perry’s wisdom, fearless flair and vitality slotted into the collective’s melange of drone, noise rock and cavernous dub with staggering results. ‘Guide to the Universe’ stood out as a mighty closing chapter but there was still more to come.

Now the rich territory of that album, shaped by New Age Doom’s core partners Eric J. Breitenbach and Greg Valou has itself undergone further sonic excavation. ‘Remix The Universe’ released like its source by the intrepid We Are Busy Bodies is now available digitally and around March on glorious vinyl. Featuring new interpretations using the raw material of ‘Guide To The Universe’, this is a remix album that offers so much more than superficial cut ups or BPM tinkering. Whereas the original album was fuelled dynamically by Perry’s spiritual and visionary vocal commentary, the ‘Remix The Universe’ extension plugs in deeper to his legacy of experimentation and the re-invention of sounds. The outcome is an album with its own identity and significance.

The key to such success is the imaginative roster of remixers working within the New Age Doom collective for this project including South Africa’s alt rockers BLK JKS, post-hardcore survivalists Quicksand, Toronto electronic musician Cola Wars, Danish drummer Benedicte Pierleoni and Andy Morin of Death Grips. What unifies this stellar bunch of alternative musicians is the influence Perry cast irrespective of notional genre boundaries. As contributor Daryl Palumbo of Glassjaw confided when reflecting on his motivation to be part of ‘Remix The Universe’, ‘whatever new phases attacked me as I was growing up, dub and reggae were always there in some sort of incarnation, with ‘Scratch’ as a powerful common thread‘.

So rather than a disjointed series of eclectic interpretations ‘Remix The Universe’ has an inherent continuity that’s reinforced by the deft sequencing of CrookOne from Teamsleep who merges the tracks together into one continuous teutonic DJ set. Highlights and stand-outs are likely to shift with each journey through the whole forty minute session but on early listens the hard dark wave drone of Cola Wars Holy Wings (Righteous Love mix) stands out as an immediate bone chiller with Perry’s warning voice piercing through the cacophony. Nick Rheinhart (of Tera Melos) weighs in with equal gravitas on his fractious broken beat techno Conquer the Sin (Hard Repent). Part cosmic, part urban, the track floats and skitters with Scratch’s serial ‘repent’ chant holding the disparate parts together. The perfectly timed drop to a gloopy bass synth intrusion as our sonic pioneer proclaims ‘OK motherfuckers’ is a must listen moment.

There’s also plenty of levity throughout the album, smiles drawn from the snatches of Perry’s often eccentric turns of phrase (‘chicken livers’ anyone?) and maintained by the melange of styles the re-mixers, in true Scratch spirit, choose to run with. BLK JKS bring glitchy Gqom energy to their uncluttered take on Step In Space while Nick Hook flies between succulent Kosmische and tense electro-pop when re-interpreting Holy Wings. Even quirkier Glassjaw’s leader Daryl Palumbo anchors his Conquer The Sin – Raising Of Lazarus Edit around a driving dub bass line while stamping goth chords, twanging desert guitars and eighties synths swoop on top. Meanwhile Palumbo’s old Glassjaw bandmate Todd Weinstock (a.k.a Child Of) offers up Life Is An Experiment – the Kismet and Karma Version. Dripping with electronica atmospherics, Weinstock’s brief mix playfully squeezes Scratch’s protestations through a vocoder for a jolt of hyper-pop surrealism.

Still, despite such lively shenanigans this remix collection never hides from its starting points. Benidicte Pierleoni and Norwegian shoegazing duo Tuvaband have their remixes of Step In Space following each other on the new release’s the running order. Whereas Pierleoni’s perspective follows a percussive trip hop creep, looping single words and short sax phrases before descending to a haunted close, Tuvaband drape their cut in vocal layers, tribal drums and an eerie dark-folk spell. Similarly CrookOne steers Holy Dub through a psychedelic nu-soul croon before Quicksand seize the rolling snare beat and represent the same song as a crunching post rock mandate.

All this intricate cross-wiring makes ‘Remix The Universe’ intensely multi-layered and compelling. The deep faith invested in Scratch’s power, even if it comes almost second hand via New Age Doom’s initial collaboration, still brings rewards on many levels, pushing this album up there with the finest re-imaginings (think Jamie XX’s bittersweet work with Gil Scott Heron or the spiritual journey that Sun Araw & M. Geddes Gengras took with The Congos). Daring to meddle with Lee Scratch Perry’s last recorded moments could easily have fallen flat but it’s this risk taking drive that fires up this series of remixes. As The Upsetter pronounces on the closing cut Life is An Experiment (Cloud Climber version), a pulsating big beat infusion by Andy Morin of Death Grips, ‘the more you experiment, you make a better, better Man’. Thankfully, New Age Doom listened and brought us such an emphatic result.

Get your copy of New Age Doom & Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry’s ‘Remix The Universe’ from your local record store or direct from:

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