The Best Remixes: 1998-Present

Wondering Sound Staff

By Wondering Sound Staff

on 11.08.11 in Lists

Who invented the remix? Lots of people — and people are still reinventing it all the time. That’s the point of remixing: proof that a piece of music is never finished as long as someone can tweak the parts till they shine brighter, move differently, or resemble something else altogether.

When a remix really flies, it can take on the patina of an original work. Who thinks of Primal Scream’s “I’m Losing More Than I Ever Had,” Jacob Miller’s “Baby I Love You So,” Suzanne Vega’s original a cappella “Tom’s Diner,” or Everything But the Girl’s folky “Missing”? We remember instead the remixes by Andrew Weatherall (“Loaded”), King Tubby (Augustus Pablo’s “King Tubby’s Meets Rockers Uptown”), DNA, and Todd Terry, respectively. When a remix really flies, it can take on the patina of an original work.

They were also crucial to hip-hop’s early-to-mid-’90s golden age: “The Choice is Yours, “Flava In Ya Ear, “Shut ‘Em Down” and “Nappy Heads” are all better known (because they’re better records) as remixes. Remixes reach every corner of studio-based music: A hip-hop remix is different from a dance remix is different from an R&B remix is different from a pop remix, ad infinitum. The 50 examples we chose take in a fair amount of remixing’s breadth. Not all of it — eMusic’s catalog is huge, but it’s not limitless. Still, think of this as a kind of shadow history, as much as a roundup of our favorites. Either way, there’s a lot of great music here, however far removed from its original sources. Read The Best Remixes 1952-97 here. — Michaelangelo Matos

Cornershop, “Brimful of Asha (Norman Cook Remix)” (1998)

The Greatest Hits - Why Try Harder

Fatboy Slim

"Another month, another perfect pop record from Norman Cook," Peter Shapiro wrote in The Wire in 1998, Fatboy Slim's banner year. He was reviewing "Gangster Tripping," but he could have been reviewing this joyous big-beat overhaul of the British indie-rock favorites' tribute to Bollywood playback singer Asha Bhosle. Speeding up Tjinder Singh's loping, post-Velvets guitar and (it should go without saying) cranking the drums, Cook nabbed his first No. 1 in England. Michaelangelo Matos

Azzido Da Bass, “Dooms Night (Timo Maas Radio Edit)” (1999)

Trance was inescapable if you were a late-'90s clubber, but sometimes its starry-eyed pomposity yielded to something a little tougher. Azzido Da Bass's "Dooms Night" was just another cheese-synth trance track; Timo Maas's remix shifted the focus to a swarming, slurping, infernally glowing bass line so powerful and playful it caught fire with DJs who'd stopped caring about Paul Oakenfold in 1992, utterly eclipsing the original. Michaelangelo Matos

Hakan Lidbo, “Walk Away (Todd Edwards Vocal Remix)” (2000)

Loaded 20

Various Artists

Todd Edwards, a New Jersey house/garage producer revered as "The God" by those took his sound to heart the turn of the 2000s, takes micro bits of samples and slurs them all together into a macro sort of angelic choir. It's a wowing technique, executed with a sense of swing still never bested by the many younger artists in his debt. Not to mention, as "Walk Away" shows, it's also a ridiculous amount of fun. Andy Battaglia

Dntel, “(This Is) The Dream of Evan & Chan (Superpitcher Kompakt Remix)” (2002)

Press R For Galaxy Bar

Various Artists

Two years before the Postal Service, Jimmy Tamborello (Dntel) and Benjamin Gibbard (Death Cab for Cutie) floated an indie-tronic trial balloon with this yearning breakbeat ballad. The winsome vocals are offset with fidgety drums and distortion, as if Tamborello were overcompensating for Gibbard's earnestness. Cologne's Superpitcher, never one to shy from bathos, took the opposite tack, framing Gibbard's wistful vocals with a tough, streamlined house groove and moody chords, misty-eyed and unabashedly epic. Philip Sherburne

Seelunluft, “Manila (Ewan Pearson Remix)” (2002)

Dance-music vet Ewan Pearson turned an interesting, weird, disjointed downbeat lounge song into the smoothest, most soaring celebration of an airplane plummeting toward certain doom ever imagined. What did the singer do when he realized his mode of transport was going down? "I started to dance, without wearing no seatbelt." It gives chills every time, and affirms the project of human life as well as any line ever uttered. Andy Battaglia

R. Kelly, “Step in the Name of Love (Remix)” (2003)

Chocolate Factory

R. Kelly

"It's the Pied Piper of R&B, y'all," R. Kelly taunts near the top of this florid recasting of his dancing ode it arrived in the midst of his notorious underage-sex scandal, after all. But it also coincided with Kelly's creative peak. "Step in the Name of Love (Remix)" is light-fingered, but in the last three minutes it swells into a soul display that would have made Marvin Gaye himself jealous. Michaelangelo Matos

Freiland, “Hot Love (Justus Khncke Remix ft. Meloboy)” (2004)

In the mid '00s, schaffel ("shuffle") briefly acted as a change-up in German dance music, riding a foot-dragging glam-rock beat instead of a straight 4/4. Kompakt, the label that launched schaffel, capped the style's heyday by making that link explicit on the remix compilation Kompakt 100, with Justus Khncke twining a pair of Wolfgang Voigt tracks and getting Meloboy to sing T. Rex's "Hot Love" over them a fruity, processed falsetto: in short, something for everyone. Michaelangelo Matos

Alicia Keys, “You Don’t Know My Name/Will You Ever Know It (Reggae Mix)” (2004)

Reggae Gold 2004


Even Leeshakeez skeptics fell hard for "You Don't Know My Name": those billowing strings (via the Main Ingredient)! That yearning! The spoken part! It didn't seem like a record you could do much to improve. But when it rubbed bellies with Gregory Isaacs's "New Lover," courtesy of ex-KISS FM DJ Min-One, it came damn close. Fitting Keys around that supple roots-reggae groove certainly didn't make her sound worse, you know? Michaelangelo Matos

The Knife, “Heartbeats (Rex the Dog Mix)” (2004)

Deep Cuts

The Knife

While the Knife's original "Heartbeats" tipped toward a sound a little creepy and slight, the antic Englishman known as Rex the Dog born Jake Williams, a trance producer in the '90s under the name JX went big, bigger, and biggest. It was called electro-house at the time, but semantics rarely matter when a chorus is made as rousing and rich as the one that kicks in at 2:26. Andy Battaglia

Ada, “Maps (Mayer & Thomas Remix)” (2005)

First the Yeah Yeah Yeahs wrote the most beautiful love song of '00s rock. Then Hamburg DJ-producer-singer Ada covered it on her superb 2004 album Blondie. But for sheer glossolalic overload, head straight to the remix by Kompakt's Michael Mayer and Tobias Thomas, which builds off a shifting bell loop like a temple massage, string swoops that evoke sunsets, and that fabulous refrain: "Wait they don't love you like I love you." Michaelangelo Matos

Gorillaz, “Dare (DFA Remix)” (2005)



The semi-jokiness of the Gorillaz project went oddly well in hand with the DFA's aesthetic rock solid by 2005, the year of the first LCD Soundsystem album, in retrospect a swan song for his partnership with Tim Goldsworthy. The rich mix of live instrumentation that breathes like wood and electronics at their squelchiest reaches a fuzzy apex on this 12-minute exercise, but even when the machines grind away, that cowbell still peeks through. Michaelangelo Matos

The Gossip, “Standing in the Way of Control (Soulwax Nite Version)” (2006)

The Gossip was heading straight toward the discos on the original barnburner the female "House of Jealous Lovers." But after setting the table with phased drums and short-sharp-shock vocal snippets to lay out the band's post-punk roots, Soulwax leave the basic groove be but tweak everything else, from the infra-red phasing Beth Ditto's voice undergoes to the way the bass line becomes utterly metallic as the track proceeds: surprisingly reverent, shamelessly irreverent. Michaelangelo Matos

Justice vs. Simian, “We Are Your Friends” (2006)

We Are Your Friends

Justice Vs Simian

Sometimes a song should be stripped down to its chorus. English indie journeymen Simian had one called "Never Be Alone," and it took the intervention of French blare-house duo Justice to get rid of the nothing verses, fuzz the whole thing up (redolent of low-bitrate MP3s, hence the term "blog house"), and crank the fist-pump factor. Justice broke into the mainstream; Simian took heed, and became Simian Mobile Disco. Michaelangelo Matos

Theo Parrish, “Falling Up (Carl Craig Remix)” (2006)

Carl Craig's remixes always go long. He sculpts broad, gleaming forms architectural in scale and grandeur, regardless of the source. Nowhere was that truer than here. From fellow Detroiter Theo Parrish's shuffling, meandering "Falling Up," Craig used almost nothing, save a clunky bass line and a transcendent Rhodes riff, which he framed with soaring, shiveringly detuned synthesizers. The two versions were related only in the way that crumbling mica resembles a cut diamond. Philip Sherburne

Matias Aguayo, “Minimal (DJ Koze Remix)

DJ Koze approaches remixes the way jazz players approach solos as now-or-never statements, always different, yet unmistakably one voice. Koze's voice is usually wry the original "Minimal" is a rough, grunting thing, a play on minimal techno's sublimated machismo. Cute, but Koze takes it further, turning the lyric ("Got no groove, got no balls") on its head with the fizziest, fruitiest post-Chic disco groove he can make. Bottoms up. Michaelangelo Matos

Hercules and Love Affair, “Blind (Frankie Knuckles Remix)

Hercules And Love Affair

Hercules & Love Affair

Frankie Knuckles has remixed more than 400 records, but would his main-room sensibility translate to Hercules and Love Affair's conceptual disco? The answer: goodness yes. Where the original bounds confidently, Knuckles' treatment is beautifully restrained the bass line lower-slung, the string washes feather-light, the piano chords subtle, all of which allows Antony's fluttering, felt vocal more room, and makes it seem more stately and crossed the house legend over to a younger audience. Michaelangelo Matos

Zomby, “Spliff Dub (Rustie Remix)” (2008)

Mu5h / Spliff Dub


If the term "post-dubstep" was necessitated by any one record, it's this one. Zomby's original is a taut bass roller, but in Scottish producer Rustie's hands, "Spliff Dub" becomes a splatter-filled fever dream: splashy synth chords bursting like unexpected sunshine, a keyboard line crumpling like balled-up newspaper. On the original, a nagging organ suggests The Twilight Zone theme; Rustie's remix strongly hints that everything you're hearing is taking place there. Michaelangelo Matos

[A]pendics Shuffle, “Disturbing Idle (Melchior Productions Ltd. Remix)

From grinding, sleazy rock-disco to a balmy, conga-laced groove that evokes Hawaiian shirts, drinks at sunset, and sex both comically overstated and unbearably hot is quite a leap. But Tiedye's reworking of DJ Kaos's far darker and more driving original isn't merely audacious. Had it been released in 1980, it would have cut Kenny Loggins and the Doobie Brothers like the harpoon that accidentally killed Koko on Yacht Rock. Michaelangelo Matos

La Roux, “In for the Kill (Skream’s Let’s Get Ravey Remix)” (2009)

Quicksand - EP

La Roux

La Roux shamelessly revived the '80s, but U.K. dubstepper Skream took her somewhere else. The stark synth, heaving bass and basic drums build a modern tension while oddly evoking a John Barry spy-thriller soundtrack, the vocal's harsh timbre and swampy echo adding to the alien quality. Then, after a convincing false ending, Skream brings in a jungle breakbeat that exposes the track's first four minutes as a sneaky set-up: cinematic, indeed. Michaelangelo Matos

Maino ft. T.I., Swizz Beatz, Plies, Jadakiss & Fabolous, “Hi Hater (Remix)” (2009)

Maino caught lightning in a bottle with "Hi Hater" the hit song became a zeitgeist-seizing catchphrase, a T-shirt, a movement. The remix featured a vaguely baffling lineup of fellow hater-haters T.I., Swizz Beats, Plies, and Jadakiss all queue up to shine on the haters. But Fabolous wins by a wide margin. "So N.Y. like the folks who make Playstation," he cackles, preferring morale-crushing punch lines to bank-balance brinksmanship. Hua Hsu

The Bug, “Skeng (Autechre Remix)” (2010)

All kinds of expectations were upset with this one. Not only was it on one of the fewer monster compilations worth the time investment, Ninja Tune XX, it reappeared on an EP, Infected, that bested its prior album, London Zoo. But the credits took the cake. Flowdan's wary tone grown even steelier amongst razor-wire buzz and groaning bass: Who'd have figured IDM kingpins Autechre could be so head-knock menacing? Michaelangelo Matos

Panda Bear, “Surfer’s Hymn (Actress Remix)” (2011)

Surfer\'s Hymn

Panda Bear

On the cover of "Surfer's Hymn" are a tangle of branches and a chilly word: "TECHNO." A counterintuitive visual for a song that spins vocal harmonies and surf-music jangle into a luminous ambient foam the Beach Boys sharing a sweat lodge with Stockhausen but it suits the remix from London's Actress perfectly. He stretches out vowels into long, shivering drones paired with glacial organs, and the groove is pure, post-apocalyptic primitivism. Philip Sherburne