Experimental indie/electronic artist Julia Holter stripped down Boardwalk’s “I’m To Blame” (from the band’s self-titled 2013 LP) and made an unsettling and totally possessing remix. Boardwalk (Mike Edge and Amber Quintero) liked it so much that they decided to make the stems for the track avalaible to the public, encouraging people to remix the song, and even provided a soundcloud group for artists to post their remixes.
Holter’s remix of “I’m To Blame” begins with what sounds like the scraping and rattling of metal objects in apparently no particular pattern or rhythm. Taking the sinister vibes even further, Holter layers the metallic racket with a chilling humming, the kind of humming that you would hear from a demon child in a horror movie right before it kills its next victim. The creepy humming is eventually replaced by ethereal singing that elevates and withers away sporadically as new vocal elements are subtly introduced. Next comes a chordant piano and subsequent meandering bass section, making the track (only slightly) more melodic. These parts dissipate while the scraping and rattling persist. Finally the vocals enter. Doesn’t matter how we’re trying, we can’t get it right. You and I are not the same and I think I’m to blame. I think I’m to blame. This sets up the organ section to coax out a melody that is finally comparable to that of the original for the musical climax of the song we’ve been waiting for. But it’s taken away just as quickly, the track pulling back and slowly fading away into silence.
Offbeat percussion and dissonant, non-musical sounds have a way of instilling unease, but somehow the anxiety inherent in Holter’s mix of “I’m To Blame” is what keeps the listener alert rather than passive, making the occasional melodic moments more satisfying and the song more interesting throughout. While the original is more melodic and thus easier to listen to, Holter’s version is actually more captivating, maybe even moreso for ignoring most aesthetic characteristics of Western composition. It’s a perfect example of how technology opens up possibilities for collaboration, a sentiment reiterated by the band’s invitation for more remixes.
Listen to original side-by-side with Julia Holter’s remix below; maybe it will inspire you to make your own.