By Andrew Merman Fisher

There has been a lot of discussion recently on the Remix64 message board about the commercial remix CD’s, and how to approach the job of remixing a classic SID tune into something new. The Remix64 team themselves have taken a few risks, made a few difficult decisions and produced their 2nd CD – INTO ETERNITY. [At the time of writing, the CD has been delayed for further re-mastering and improvements.] The first thing that strikes me is the track list – several of the tunes do not strike me as being a classic, and the games represent a wide cross-section of styles. The other key is that the remixers have interpreted the tracks in a very different way. None of them have done a straight 1:1 cover, or added a dance beat to the existing melody. Like the first Remix64 CD, you won’t hear any SID sounds in there either. Let’s start at the beginning of the CD… Or, rather, I won’t reveal how the opening track BLOOD VALLEY starts (that will be a surprise for you when you first hear it in full), but I will talk about the interpretation. Swirling guitar and ominous bass notes give a much darker edge than the original, and also act as a great introduction to the CD. Ringing percussion adds to the claustrophobic feel. SPELLBOUND also becomes much darker with some spooky sound effects and haunting piano, while the choir takes us deep into film-score territory. The melancholy high-score tune from THE GREAT GIANA SISTERS is turned into a romantic ballad with soaring female vocals and gentle keyboard sounds. TALES OF BOON may be unfamiliar to many, but the outstanding guitar work gives us a dramatic rock opus that belongs in an action movie. The cosmic sub-tune 4 from PARALLAX has long been a favourite of mine, and with its combination of violin and acoustic guitar this remix has a downbeat edge. The variations around the theme also work really well. The mediaeval section of the CD starts with TIMES OF LORE; it is an epic Martin Galway composition, and from the trumpet fanfare to the gentle flute this version really captures the spirit. STORMLORD is much darker and more mysterious. IRON LORD also begins with a fanfare, but has a much more upbeat feel to it. FIST 2 puts me in mind of Vangelis or Maurice Jarre with its plaintive melody shifting from piano to flute, and suitably restrained percussion. BUTCHER HILL tries to sound like it was taken from the soundtrack of a 1980’s film set in Vietnam. The mood created is triumphant, even heroic. THANATOS changes the mood instantly, with its reflective and dream-like piano. The depth of all the tracks on this CD is typified by this track, with a whole orchestra backing the melody. ARMAGEDDON MAN is also a favourite of mine – the original by David Whittaker, and this excellent remix. The string section introduces the theme, and then the tribal drums kick in. It’s a stirring, soaring track throughout. BARBARIAN always suited the game, and here it jumps in with pounding drums and blazing trumpets. The changes of tempo and rhythm are handled superbly, taking the tune through several moods. All those years ago Richard Joseph wrote a masterpiece, and here it is in all its glory. (And I managed to tell you that without mentioning CONAN once…) SHADES by Chris Huelsbeck is another tune that many will not be familiar with, but the CD version is another compelling track. We get a haunting piano melody, floating over the Jarre-like accompaniment. Completing the musical journey is RUBICON, a mellow guitar track with a very 1980’s feel that wraps things up nicely. So, this preview is meant to tell you about the technical and musical aspects of the remixes. Let me say how impressed I am, not only with the quality of the sounds, but also the depth of the arrangements. References in this preview to film soundtracks and composers show how strong the tracks are at evoking emotions – and that is why this CD is so different to what has gone before. It is not a light, happy sort of album to play to a packed dance-floor; but it is a mature and deep collection of tracks that I am sure you will listen to many times. I know some people who will dislike this album because it is so far removed from the SID sound. I also know those who will love it because it takes the originals and turns them into something different. All I will say in summary is that you should listen to the clips online and get ready to order the finished CD; the Remix64 team has produced another excellent compilation of tracks. A full review will follow in due course.