The remix is one of dance music’s most unique attributes. If you think about it, there’s no other faction within music, or the arts in general for that matter, that places such a high demand and regard for the rearrangement or, in extreme cases, complete reconstruction of an original piece of artwork. Imagine Martin Scorcese or Wes Anderson finishing up a film and immediately passing all of the footage along to four other directors to reinterpret and release. Or Salvador Dali sending off his latest tour de force for his contemporary Picasso to “re-envision.” In all other aspects of art, the idea of the remix is absurd, but in the world of electronic music, it has become nearly as integral to the genre’s constitution as the original works.
With dance music’s affinity for remixes now fresh in our minds, we wanted to call attention to a handful of producers who have recently proven on multiple occasions their abilities to simultaneously find inspiration in others’ works while imposing their own individualities within them. Don’t read the following spotlights below as the best remixers ever, but rather a shortlist of motivated musicians who are all hitting full stride with their reinterpretations as of late. If I was releasing a new single this year, these folks are the first people I’d call.
There are many who believe that acts like Daft Punk, Justice, and Porter Robinson are better left alone when it comes to remixes. k?d doesn’t hear any of those people. His imaginative nature beckoned him to take on “Doin’ It Right,” “We Are Your Friends,” and “Sad Machine” all within the past year, and his risk-taking paid off. Scoffing in the faces of purists, k?d’s approaches to these electronic opuses were varied and adeptly tailored to meet and exceed expectations. The inherent nostalgia of Daft Punk’s RAM standout was echoed in k?d’s punchy, string-laden version. k?d’s take on Justice’s breakout record might as well have been wearing a leather jacket and driving an 80s Testarossa. With “Sad Machine,” k?d’s own personal influences from Porter Robinson shone brightly through gorgeous arpeggios and kawaii chords. There’s clear intent and appreciation for the original artists from k?d with his remixes, setting him up for success every time.
Name a festival headliner DJ who hasn’t rinsed a Crankdat remix in the past year…I’ll wait. The Ohio-based producer has rapidly become a mainstay in the sets of everyone from RL Grime and Skrillex to Marshmello and Diplo. His remixes, or “re-cranks” as he’s dubbed them, range between incendiary bass rumbles (graves & Coolight’s “Say Things,” Eptic’s “The End”) and flickering pop melodies (San Holo’s “Light”, The Chainsmokers’ “Closer”), allowing DJs to use his VIP SoundCloud page as an all-you-can-eat buffet for fresh takes on popular tunes. Next time you’re at a show and you hear a wild new drop to a song you think you know by heart, I’d put my money on it being a re-crank.
Vancouver’s Nathan Shaw aka Ekali has found a way to make his music extraordinarily universal. Always so fluid and intelligently blissful, Ekali’s remixes bank on soul-soothing chords and brawny beats, evident in his pensive takes on Flume, Ta-Ku, Jack Ü, and Flux Pavilion. As with his own original tracks, Ekali takes care of his reworks, underlining his talents with pristine production and thoughtful arrangement, and with such comprehensive appeal, it’s no surprise that all of his remixes notch millions of streams across the interwebz.
The emperor of edits. The viceroy of VIPs. The executive of exclusives. Benzi is the man whose USB might as well be made out of solid gold. In addition to producing as one half of Mad Decent signees, TWRK, Benzi is also a BBC Radio 1 & 1xtra resident DJ, often heading up the Diplo & Friends broadcast and bestowing his coveted, VIP-stuffed Girl Trapz mix series to the globe. The best thing about Benzi’s edits is that nothing is off the table. He’ll take on Migos or RL Grime in the same breath as Brittany Spears or Rihanna, often pairing up elements from completely unrelated songs in a masterful feat of creativity.
Darren Styles & Gammer
UK producers Darren Styles and Gammer are key figures, together and individually, in the recent recharge of happy hardcore here in the US, and their remixes can be heavily credited for this surge. For me personally, the only hardcore I was aware of until the past couple of years was whatever I heard through arcade games and late 90s/early 00s throwbacks. But thanks to Darren & Gammer’s remixes for Porter, Jack Ü, Kayzo, and Kill the Noise (and some extensive coverage on NEST HQ from my pal Fan Fiction), the somewhat recondite genre was cracked wide open for me as I’m sure it was for plenty of others. I’d never pretend to call myself an expert in the realm of hardcore, but I can acknowledge when artists are breaking down barriers and working together to find new lanes for a seasoned sound. As far as remixes go, Darren Styles and Gammer have a rare ability to take songs to previously unimaginable heights…and tempos.