The Foreign Exchange

+FE Music: The Reworks

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More than a set of remixes, The Reworks is a showcase for Phonte and Nicolay's immediate and extended Foreign Exchange Music family -- the duo's like-named group, the artists supported by the label, and their affiliates and peers. Most releases of this type are stylistically scattered and equally inconsistent in quality. That's not the case with this 21-track compilation, given that the "outside" contributors -- including remixers Tall Black Guy, Pirahnahead, Ahmed Sirour, Pure P, Marc Mac (4hero), and James Poyser and ?uestlove (the Randy Watson Experience), as well as the remixed Vikter Duplaix and Debórah Bond -- could be on the label roster without changing its aesthetic. Nicolay carries out eight of the remixes, typically with his own all-new instrumentation. These include Jeanne Jolly's blissful ballad "Sweet Love," where soul-folk is recast as ambient R&B, and RJD2 featuring Kenna's "Games You Can Win," adjusted to sound like classic singer/songwriter material targeting adult album alternative radio playlists. He also turns "ACSlater," a funky freakout from recording/touring partner Chris Boerner's band the Hot @ Nights, into textured and melodic electronic pop that could be on Ghostly International. Each rework has at least some appeal, but nothing provokes repeat play like Tall Black Guy's spaced-out, smack-and-glide work on Zo!'s "This Could Be the Night," also switched up with a Phonte appearance in place of Big Pooh. Three tracks are new compositions. Phonte's wistful "Love Songs," produced by Focus..., evokes a Gerald Levert/Roger Troutman collaboration with longtime FE associate Sy Smith as Shirley Murdock. Two new songs from the Foreign Exchange themselves are among the group's best. "So What If It Is" is eight minutes of brisk, sunlit house with inspirational realism. "Don't Let It Be So," written and produced with Zo!, relays dejection vividly enough to disturb a content soul and has more to offer in its last minute than most songs.

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