Ken Ishii

Stretch/Extra [Japan EP]

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Arguably the brightest star in Japan's electronic scene, this import release combines remixes of the "Stretch" and "Extra" singles from Ken Ishii's well-received full-length CD Jelly Tones released earlier the same year. As is the case with many techno remix EPs, other artists are given the chance to shine here and paint with Ishii's brush onto their own unique canvasses, while the artist himself takes a back seat. For the most part, Ishii is not a songwriter, but rather a brilliant assembler of dense sounds. As a result, the remixer is left with either challenges or freedom, depending on how you look at it. What samples of the original piece to include? Should they invent a melody line when there was none before? A couple contributions are merely passable as club-ready technical exercises (both Ian Pooley's and Dave Angel's mixes seem flat and unadventurous), but, beyond a doubt, Ishii's influence hangs over every track. Especially high points come from Shogun's exciting remix of "Stretch," with spitfire percussion, breathy ambience, and shimmering keyboards pushing the listener down the tracks of the Bullet Train. Frank de Wulf does a fine job holding onto the tornado of a mix he's constructed with many of this artist's original sounds, and Luke Slater's murky contribution stays just interesting enough, but it is Wagon Christ (aka Luke Vibert) who wins the gold medal with his fascinating take on "Extra," with warmth, playfulness, intensity, and reverence, and is some of his best overall remix work. If the Japanese import cost of this EP is too much to bear, find the R&S release of the single "Extra," and you'll still have an enjoyable addition to your shelf.

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