Loose marbles

2008 is the year of the remix album. This might have something to do with the resurgence of DJ culture. Or Radiohead. Or both. (Or maybe the ubiquity of Diplo-infused dance tracks is just tricking me.)

2008 is the year of the remix album.

This might have something to do with the resurgence of DJ culture. Or Radiohead. Or both. (Or maybe the ubiquity of Diplo-infused dance tracks is just tricking me.)

Regardless, when I popped in Portland songsmith Leigh Marble’s new remix EP, Twister, it was with some trepidation. His 2007 album, Red Tornado, showcases a mostly brilliant mixture of bluesy, rockin’ folk tunes that toe the line between tender melancholy and rollicking attitude. These are not songs that need dance remixes.

Thankfully, Twister isn’t just a bunch of 808 beats slapped onto rock songs–each of the six tracks on the EP are fascinating in their own right. From the quiet IDM sparseness of opening track “Salt in the Wound (Alabaster Variation)” to the odd concept remix of “Fast and Loose (Live Bootleg 1966),” which sounds like a concert bootleg from, uh, 1966, the EP is extremely strong.

Marble says that he greatly enjoyed the process of putting out this record, which has its origins in a friend’s desire to create a dub remix of Marble’s song “Lucky Bastards,” and Marble’s own fascination with the genre.

“One of the musical genres I’ve been getting into over the last six or seven years is Dub, and that history of remixing and re-appropriating stuff,” Marble says. “I had done a bunch of remixes for other folks, so I just thought I would try doing my own.”

And the two songs Marble remixes on his own–under the name Dr. Marble, which he also uses in his terrifically named hip-hop group The Buttery Lords–are distinctly different from the album versions. “Gave it All (Chamber Dub Remix)” is mostly just a stripped, dubbed-out version of the song, made that way because Marble wanted to use more of the strings recorded by Horse Feathers’ Peter Broderick. But the remix of “On Your Way” really messes with things.

“When you’ve written a song and have heard it a million times … the pathways that that song travels become really set in your mind,” Marble says. “It just was fun to basically wipe the slate clean and cast those lyrics in a completely different light. And the weird time signatures were fun; I don’t get to do that a lot in folk or rock songs…. To me that was a musically engaging experiment.”

The experiment will continue tonight, Friday, Oct. 16, when Dr. Marble will rock the Press Club, doing live improvisatory remixes and reinterpretations of his songs.

“Frankly, it’s going to an adventure,” Marble says of tonight’s show. “The plan now is that I’m going to be collaborating with my friend Jason [Wolford, of Teledubgnosis]. He’s going to be running samples and beats, and I’m going to be playing bass and guitar. It’s going to a lot of improvisatory material. But I’m usually comfortable with that if I have a template or starting place for it. If we say ‘it’s kind of going to be a remix of this song,’ the source material is kind of defined. It’s not nearly as daunting as just saying ‘let’s jam!'”

Marble isn’t sure exactly how the process of Twister will affect his future recordings, but it has already given him ideas, and he plans to further explore remixes in the future.

“One thing I thought about, on a future album, would be doing my own idea of how the songs would be, but then kind of farming it out to different mixers who might have something particular to bring to it,” Marble says. “And if I think it works, use it on the album itself–this idea of mixing being a more open and collaborative process.”

Sounds good. Especially if the results are as enjoyable as Twister. So, now that he’s a veteran of the remix album: What’s the deal? Why is everyone releasing these things?

“I’m guessing it has something to do with the easy accessibility of recording equipment now and, maybe on a wider, cultural level, the idea of remixing and studio manipulation, that ‘this is something I can do on laptop,’ maybe that’s reaching this critical mass.”

Leigh Marble this weekendTonight at The Press Club (2621 S.E. Clinton St.)9 p.m., FREE

Leigh Marble acoustic showw/ Rachel Taylor Brown and Ali WesleySat., Oct. 18 at The Waypost (3120 N. Williams Ave.)