The mere idea of Drifts must be flattering for Michael Silver – the name behind CFCF. For an artist who rose to fame for his remixes of other artist’s work (most prolifically his version of Crystal Castles’ “Air War”), having a selection of well known and rising artists rework your songs must be reassuring. It’s encouraging in the fact that it implies people – famous people or at least relatively famous in the music world – are listening to your work and want to work with the sounds you’ve created. But remixing has its disheartening side as it also equally implies that there’s something that can bettered about your music.
If I were Silver I would try my best not to get too bogged down in the latter thought as you should really just take all the flattery you can get these days. But he also has no real reason to worry since none of remixes surpass anything from Continent, from which the material is drawn. And that’s perhaps the distinct flaw of Drifts in that it offers nothing new or fresh despite one or two pleasant jams. Had this been released as a bonus disc with Continent then it would probably have been more welcome and relevant but coming months after the release it just serves as a reminder of an album that likely got overlooked by many. The good thing, I suppose, is that listening to Drifts makes me want to return to Continent and re-appreciate its many qualities.
The qualities are, however, mixed and worked on or out of the mixes here in variety of ways. Lead track and the most prolific of artists at work here is Junior Boys’ remix of Silver’s version of the Fleetwood Mac original “Big Love.” With it squelchy bass beats and nasal synths it sound much like any Junior Boys track with the absence of lead vocalist Jeremy Greenspan. Admittedly I didn’t care much for this version at first but it has grown on me. However, listening over and over again I realise that when the added bass track, the high pitch synths and the bouncy piano from Silver’s original track all come together during the end of the song the track fails to actually take off but instead seems to just wither away without giving any real or worthy climax. Mathemagic’s wavering version of “Big Love” isn’t as successful as it piles on the reverb and gets itself lost in a congested mess of noise and vague rhythms.
The curious aspect of this EP is the track choice for a third of what’s on offer. Out of six remixes it gives us two version of Continent’s weakest track “Come Closer.” I suppose this elaborates on my point earlier: choosing the remix the weakest track implies these artists saw where the fault lay in the album as a whole and tried to better it while leaving the other tracks as they were in there perfectly commendable original form. Much like the two versions of “Big Love,” there’s one that’s better than the other. The Nacho Lovers remix of “Come Closer” spreads the song out creating an airy backdrop for the song’s elements to unfurl, dispensing with the tense grimy atmosphere the original had. The other less favourable remix by Azari & III bounces about with percussive elements that wear thin and become frustrating despite it sounding more related to the grimey sound the original track was aiming for. But the two tracks still falter in that the source material is still obviously weak – breathless vocals, sparse melodies. The Nacho Lovers version saves itself for the majority of the time but the added female vocals seem to bring more attention to the weak male voice.
The best tracks here are the ones that totally deconstruct the original source material and make something seemingly unrelated. The hazy, if not almost beautiful, Memoryhouse remix of “Letters Home” sounds like an entirely different track compared to the original, so much so you forget that skimming strings and pan-pipes were ever there to begin with. The Young Galaxy remix of personal Continent highlight “Snake Charmer” works in a similar vein: it remodels the tense wiry guitar that ran through the track and puts it together with what appears to be new rhythms, creating a new jam that’s almost as pleasing as the original if not better for being a more condensed. But the only real fault I can pick with these two remixes is that are unfortunately short. It’s not so much an issue with the remix of “Snake Charmer” as you get a satisfying climax but the Memoryhouse remix of “Letters Home” feels cut short, stopping just as you were about to get completely enveloped. In a nutshell it’s these two tracks that are the saving element for Drifts as they make me want to listen to them again instead of making me want to revisit Continent to hear the songs executed more pleasingly.