ReMix: Sonic & Knuckles "Lover Reef"

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Sonic & Knuckles

Possibly the best thing to come out of January's NYC OCR meetup (other than my mildly inebriated shouting of anatomical terms at the Outback Steakhouse, of course) is this Sonic & Knuckles mega-collab, born in the fires of Mt. Doom, also known as the post-meetup slumber party at Mr. Aversa's pad. Evidently there wasn't much slumbering going on, as he and four others put together the lion's share of this ReMix in that single night. Who knows what other saucy and torrid happenings occurred pre- and post-mixage that shall not be divulged on the family-friendly and wholly righteous pages of OCR? One can only wonder... but, tangibly-speaking, we do have this mix, and though brief, it manages to give each of its five participants some face-time, which I have to think was part of the point. Andy writes:

"This is a remix of 'Lava Reef' from Sonic and Knuckles, entitled 'Lover Reef'. It was sketched out and written almost entirely in one night at my place after the OCR meetup in New York City. The people involved: pixietricks, D-Lux, Shonen Samurai, GeoffreyTaucer, and myself. I did the arranging and the keys parts, pixietricks did the female vocals (duh), D-Lux did the spoken vocals, Shonen Samurai did the male sung vocals, and GT covered all the nifty guitarwork. pixie, Shonen, and D-Lux also did the lyrics. All in all, we had a blast doing it and I think it came out great. Hope you enjoy it!"

Warm analog pads start things off, with pixie's vocalizing and Taucer's acoustic guitar coming in on top of electro percussion that gets more acoustic in nature and fills out at 0'32". The first verse comes in seconds later, after the initial piano pattern gets an isolated patch, with Jill on the original lyric. I think the strength of this piece is the fitting of the melody to a lyric, specifically a lyric that works well shared between Jill and Shonen Samurai; when he comes in at 0'56" on the chorus and Jill switches to harmony, it's evident that, however short the gestation period was for the arrangement, it was still planned carefully enough to make the vocals effective. It's comparatively challenging to make one's first appearance on OCR singing a vocal part side-by-side with Jill, but shonen really does do a rather good job - his voice complements pixie's and suits the ice-pop sound as well. Lyrically, I really love the "And it's not our way to be" bit. I know it's just a single line out of many, but it's a peculiar syntax and turn of phrase, and I've always felt that single lines can make or break a lyric or poem. D-Lux comes in channeling Lane McCray from La Bouche with a little rap that may or may not hit you the right way; it certainly screams 90's and is well-written, but it does up the already formidable cheese ante a bit. That's GOOD cheese, not bad cheese, although as an MST3K fan I don't believe in the latter. The piece is well constructed; Andy's production and framework lets the other four artists shine and ties everything together, and Taucer, like Dylan before him, gets to go electric at 1'26" with a meaty guit solo. At just under three minutes, the quintet wisely decided to keep their five-way one-night stand on the shorter side of things, giving the result a packed tightness prevalent in pop songwriting. It's impressive enough on a sheer logistical level that five people could communicate with enough efficiency to simply lay the corresponding tracks down in a single night, but to have arranged the piece and penned the lyric in that same period as well would make one suspicious as to the quality of the result. While I'm sure there are things that might have sounded more polished with additional time for retakes and refinement, this mix has the spontaneity of ad-hoc creative collaboration in its corner, which is a compelling ally. Congrats to shonen for his first mix here on OCR and to all of the Big 5 involved for pulling this thing together and making it work. I suppose a final kudos has to be doled out to Mr. Aversa, who was crazy enough to let these people into his living quarters, and hopefully fed and watered them, too. Nice work, all.

djpretzel

Discussion: Latest 15 comments/reviews; view the complete thread or post your own.
Geoffrey Taucer
on 2016-01-30 00:38:16

Oh, forgot to say:

On 1/20/2016 at 8:06 AM, dronebone said:

The instrumentation is nice and Taucer's guitar work is beyond excellent,

Much appreciated. I think my timing was noticeable off-rhythm at a few points, but I'm rather proud of the lead solo nonetheless. One thing I do want to point out: the plucked instrument that comes in on the left side at 1:44 is not me; that's Andy's work, done with a samples.

dronebone
on 2016-01-21 17:05:26
15 hours ago, Geoffrey Taucer said:

It is entirely possible that my perception of this remix is biased by the fact that I consider that jam session to be one of my most treasured memories,

I'd say that's a definite

16 hours ago, timaeus222 said:

it's not "phoned-in at best" or even "cringe-inducing". At worst I'd say it's occasionally awkward

Clearly we have different standards for lyrical content.

Geoffrey Taucer
on 2016-01-21 02:14:13
2 hours ago, djpretzel said:

Music isn't always about refining things to sonic perfection.... see The Velvet Underground.... or the entire genre of punk, for that matter :)

Sometimes it's more "of the moment"... as was the case here, imo.

I think certain types of arrangements just tend not to even HAPPEN at all when everyone involved is thinking about pristine perfection or whether adding/removing a given element will make a song more appealing to a wider audience... it's not about saying you couldn't have made improvements at the time if you knew then what you know now, if I'm getting @Geoffrey Taucer right... it's more about some of those types of tweaks that type of finesse ruining the vibe that birthed the arrangement in the first place.

More or less.

Dronebone, I totally get what you're saying in that it could be improved. The production could have been better. The four live performances could have been better. If the five of us were to get together and make a remix now, we could probably do something that sounds much cleaner, much more professional.

But here's how I see it: listening to music doesn't always mean listening to pristine studio recordings; sometimes it means listening to your buddy's band rock out in his garage. Do they sound as pristine as what you hear on the radio? No. But does that at all detract from the fun? Not at all.

This wasn't "let's sit down and make the best damn remix ever" sort of thing; it was more like "hey, we got five remixers here in Andy's basement, so let's throw a track together." It was a jam session between five buddies.
It is entirely possible that my perception of this remix is biased by the fact that I consider that jam session to be one of my most treasured memories, but when I listen to this track, I wouldn't change a single thing. Not one waver of Jill's voice, not one aspect of Andy's production, not Mike's cheesy lyrics, not Steve's 3AM rapping, not my off-rhythm guitar playing, not one single thing would I change.

timaeus222
on 2016-01-21 01:21:54

If I were in Taucer's shoes, I wouldn't want to change much either; there are five collaborators, so y'know, it might be best to just go for as good as you can manage without pulling some of them in for more and more fixes.

That aside, I actually haven't heard this since I heard zircon's Phasma Elementum, which was like, 3+ years ago (when I heard it, not when it was released :lol:), so let's see.

Yep, Jill is still killin' it with her tone, and she only got better in the later years. Shonen Samurai makes it sound somewhat parody-like, in a good way. Almost talk-like, but not like he wasn't motivated, and not so flat that it felt unenthusiastic. A bit more like he maybe didn't understand the message of the song but wanted to sing it as well as he could anyway. Sure, I can see sometimes the lyrics are trying to fit into a large number of notes (yet a short time span), but it's not "phoned-in at best" or even "cringe-inducing". At worst I'd say it's occasionally awkward, but clearly not so bad that they might as well not be there...

As it stands, it's right on the edge of the typical production standards in 2006 IMO. Maybe it wouldn't pass today, but I wouldn't go so far as to say it should have been further revised before final submission in 2006. Still holds up well today, and well worth listening to.

djpretzel
on 2016-01-21 00:45:55
10 hours ago, dronebone said:

I guess I just don't understand the mindset of "it's not up to my standards, but given the chance I wouldn't improve it".

Music isn't always about refining things to sonic perfection.... see The Velvet Underground.... or the entire genre of punk, for that matter :)

Sometimes it's more "of the moment"... as was the case here, imo.

I think certain types of arrangements just tend not to even HAPPEN at all when everyone involved is thinking about pristine perfection or whether adding/removing a given element will make a song more appealing to a wider audience... it's not about saying you couldn't have made improvements at the time if you knew then what you know now, if I'm getting @Geoffrey Taucer right... it's more about some of those types of tweaks that type of finesse ruining the vibe that birthed the arrangement in the first place.

dronebone
on 2016-01-20 14:37:45

I guess I just don't understand the mindset of "it's not up to my standards, but given the chance I wouldn't improve it".

Geoffrey Taucer
on 2016-01-20 11:33:52
23 minutes ago, dronebone said:

It seems like what happened here is that a bunch of talented people got together to work on a song and threw a bunch of stuff in, but nobody had the producer-spine to cut parts and/or say what needed to be said for the song's sake, perhaps for fear of offending each other. A lot of wack stuff made it to the final mix. I can't imagine that if someone had been thinking in terms of what was best for the track (instead of what was best for everyone's egos) it would have turned out like this.

This assessment could not possibly be further from the truth.

As for the rest of the post, I'm sorry you didn't like the song. It is, looking back on it after ten years, probably not up to the standards that any of the five of us would shoot for if we were to make it today, but if I were to go back and redo the song all over, I wouldn't have wanted to do anything different.

dronebone
on 2016-01-20 11:06:24

This track is solidly mediocre. The instrumentation is nice and Taucer's guitar work is beyond excellent, but everything having to do with the vocals is just bad and drags the track back down to middle ground.

The lyrics are cheesy and the syllable placement is cringe-inducing. The lines don't flow rhythmically; it sounds like awkward chanting at best. I think "There's a fire lit so let's unthaw now" might be one of the absolute worst lyrical choices I've ever heard in my life, bar none, and the rest of the lyrical choices are in that same ballpark. I recognize it's tough to put good lyrics to a melody line that was never intended to be sung, but these lyrics needed a few more rewrites.

The vocal performances feel phoned-in at best. The female vocals are kind of okay, but the male vocals are flat and unenthusiastic, and the intonation on both is off just enough to be noticeable. The chanted section by the deeper male voice was a misguided aesthetic choice. That performance has zero flow and comes off like a 90's sketch comedy bit making fun of white people attempting to rap.

I have no idea why so many people in this thread heaped so much praise on this track. With more time spent reworking the lyrics and more takes recorded on the vocals (or perhaps cutting the singing entirely and fleshing out the instrumental), it might have been worth something, but as it stands, this is a swing and a miss.

It seems like what happened here is that a bunch of talented people got together to work on a song and threw a bunch of stuff in, but nobody had the producer-spine to cut parts and/or say what needed to be said for the song's sake, perhaps for fear of offending each other. A lot of wack stuff made it to the final mix. I can't imagine that if someone had been thinking in terms of what was best for the track (instead of what was best for everyone's egos) it would have turned out like this.

It's kind of sad to see how almost every time someone in this thread has criticized any aspect of this track, they're met with snark, excuses, and hostility, or even worse, some form of "well it wasn't meant to be good from an objective standpoint so you're looking at it wrong."

flicky1991
on 2016-01-17 06:41:23

It may be ten years old, but this is one of my favourite tunes on the site. I think about it every time I hear the Lava Reef music.

Immortal Phoenix
on 2015-01-03 13:01:50

For some reason, the piano laid down in this track reminds me of "Chocolate Rain" by Tay Zonday. But that aside,

The sheer amount of good tasting cheese in this song in impeccable. Really an excellent idea for the track!

Agreed.

Bahamut
on 2012-07-03 23:57:17

I've never commented on this historic mix (for the site at least)? Strange.

I was at this meetup where this song was made, although I wasn't a part of the creation of the song. This is when Andy and Jill first met also, so it was momentous for many of those there.

Listening to it now, the mixing sounds off, with everything sounding overcompressed/crowded. Other issues have been touched earlier so I won't beat on that horse much. As Jill mentioned, it is meant to be a fun song for a group of OCRers who had a fun time - I certainly remember that day fondly, although I was a shy person then.

It still brings warm fuzzies listening to it, although I can understand if others might not grasp it. It's fair game to critique music after all.

youthboy14
on 2011-02-02 20:24:09

Sweet tune. A tad on the short side, but I absolutely love the easy-going mood of the piece. It could've done without the flute, but that's just me. Definetely my favorite part is the guitar solo at 1:28. It's just...I can't even describe it, it's so beautiful.

But eh...D-Lux, your vocal section just didn't work for me. Maybe if it was altered to fit more with the piece, it would've worked better, but it just has a sort of boring tone. It's like if you had Stephen Hawking sing it. No offense to you, I can tell you tried, but I just didn't care for that section.

Still love this source though. It's definetely going onto my iPod.

rebelnyell
on 2011-01-22 19:24:40
I'd absolutely love this song if it was simply Jillian.

The composition is great and so is the her voice.

I can even deal with the first guy's voice, but the deep guy's voice just completely clashes with the mood the song places.

i somewhat agree with you. I think they could have mixed or compressed his (the deeper guys) vocals in another manner to make it more fitting; it feels too overriding at least in my opinion. Even considering this i don't mind his part that much and actually enjoy the flow of the lyrics.

Roihu
on 2011-01-07 08:41:46

I'd absolutely love this song if it was simply Jillian.

The composition is great and so is the her voice.

I can even deal with the first guy's voice, but the deep guy's voice just completely clashes with the mood the song places.

MechaFone
on 2010-12-04 01:29:52

Wellll I was just about through this whole reviews thread, thinking I hadn't posted. It's there on page three, but I'm gonna go ahead and review again anyway.

I LOVE this song. It absolutely baffles me all the flak that the contributing artists had to put up with. This song was sung by my wife and myself at our wedding (poorly, lol) and so it has great significance to me. All of you responsible for putting this song together, thank you so much for sharing this song. I promise you, I'll never forget it.