Moments of hypnotic beauty salvage an otherwise lacklustre homecoming.
It’s safe to say Rob Swire has a complicated relationship with drum & bass. In 2002, Swire formed the mothership of the drum & bass fleet Pendulum
, with fellow bandmate McGrillen and a local DJ Paul Harding. The guys worked flat out on their debut album Hold Your Colour
, released in 2005. The success of their debut skyrocketed the trio to new heights in the music industry, taking them on tours across the globe. In 2008, In Silico
was born; a masterful continuation of Hold Your Colour
, which solidified Swire’s position as a professional mixing engineer. Immersion
came two years later in May 2010, the group only seemed to be getting better and better – a chorus of positive feedback from critics and listeners shot Immersion
to the top of the UK album chart.
It all seemed to be going so well for the drum & bass mix masters. So, when Swire announced in 2012 that Pendulum were to cease to exist in order to continue their latest project Knife Party, it got us scratching our heads. In a statement, Swire stated the guys were having “too much fun with the Knife Party project,” and hinted at the constraints of the drum & bass genre. “…Pendulum, towards the end, sort of felt like we were doing it because we had to, and that’s never a fun way to do music.”
So… why are they back?
Well, literally because they have to. Contractually obliged to produce another album, Swire, McGrillen and Harding have come together once again – this time inviting a whole host of fresh faces into the mix – to produce The Reworks
. A 13-track chock pot of remixes and re-inventions of some of Pendulum’s most canonical music, The Reworks
is risky. We’re not all fans of recycling, particularly when there’s the risk of being faced with something that bastardises an original, but I reckon they’ve just about pulled it off.
Noisia is first up, putting a fresh spin on the title track 'Hold Your Colour'. A number of smooth sections link up to the fuzzy choral drop, but the addition of the female vocal sample (“Up against the wall now / Everybody up against the fucking wall”) lacks that Noisia pizazz we’ve come to know and love. Extending the original vocals does, however, create extra tension in the build-up which will certainly make for a stonking drop during a club night set.
‘Blood Sugar’, the original mix, felt devastatingly heavy on its initial release back in 2005. Thrashing electronics carry a thick, skank-worthy bassline to eternal glory. Knife Party’s remix for The Reworks
treads a very different path which, not unlikeable, is certainly handled with a more delicate touch. Slowing the iconic build up and adding in clapping high hats and squeaky vocal loops build suspense, but alas, doesn’t have quite the same effect as its original gut-churning drop. It’s very… Knife Party.
The third track opens its arms to Dutch producer Eelke Kleijn, who breathes a new life into ‘9,000 Miles’, originally released in 2008 for In Silico
. Gently steering its sound from the dusty drum & bass city to the smooth, rolling hills of progressive house, Kleijn teases a sexy remix from the entangled original. Flipping a 180bpm stonker to a cool, 120bpm is no mean feat, and Kleijn was just the man to do it. Skrillex tackle ‘The Island, Pt. 1 (Dawn)’ with their own individuality; releasing waves of their distinctive contemporary dubstep aesthetic upon the previously impenetrable track first released in 2010.
‘Propane Nightmares’ is perhaps most synonymous with the Pendulum brand, but feels somewhat unrecognisable since Grabbitz got his hands on it. Soft acoustics, a whimsical choral tone and a hodgepodge of distorted synths and guitars re-present the previously unrelenting track under a guise of nostalgia. The most unexpected collaboration on The Reworks
, Devin Townsend’s work on ‘Crush’ is indicative of his mastery of the guitar. Indebting his sound to the era of Strapping Young Lad, the thrashing metal guitars add a little extra gravitas to ‘Crush’ which we don’t think anyone knew it needed.
Comparable to the likes of Groove Armada, home-grown artist Icarus throws a bit of the old school British house vibe at ‘Tarantula’. Warbling vocals sit atop immortalising grooves and an infectiously hooky rhythm, which turns a bone-crushing original into a silky, toe-tapping earworm. Icarus has humanised the beast, transforming it from something to be feared to an approachable, radio-friendly listen.
In similar style, DJ Seinfeld takes the helm of a melodic ‘Still Grey’ remix. Chilled-out by design, the original track was Pendulum’s third single release back in 2004 and, unfortunately for us, it didn’t feature on any of the trio’s studio albums. Pendulum really missed a trick with this one, but DJ Seinfeld has made sure we don’t forget it. Beautiful pan-pipe-inspired chimes run seamlessly through this track, with a spin on ethereal vocals that feels much more fitted to contemporary French techno than an out-and-out drum & bass set.
There are moments of pure divinity in The Reworks
, reminding us of the ever-improving soundscape of electronic music. Feeling far more joint-in-the-sunshine than sweaty-club-skanking, Grabbitz, Icarus, Eelke Kleijn and DJ Seinfeld drag the steadfast Pendulum sound through the water and add expansive, immersive fluidity. While it certainly has its pitfalls, the album feels like a smart move for Pendulum. There’s no way we’d forget about them, but it’s always nice to be reminded.