The purpose, or at the very least, the motivation behind this EP is none too difficult to discern. Last year, Hot Chip remixed Robert Wyatt’s “This Summer Night” as a b-side for the single of the same name, and here we are less than half a year later, and Hot Chip have released With Robert Wyatt and Geese. The EP consists of four tracks from Hot Chip’s fantastic 2008 full length, Made in the Dark, specifically chosen and re-tooled by Wyatt and Geese, a member of the Elysian Quartet. Whether this is a simple case of tit-for-tat, or Wyatt and Hot Chip enjoying their previous collaboration enough to begin another is debatable, but given the tossed off nature of the EP, it would be reasonable to suspect that this EP is simply Wyatt’s way of returning the favor.
Yet even if With Robert Wyatt and Geese does emit an idle, screwing around vibe, the material is strong enough to make even the laziest remixes a pleasant listen. From the album of the same name, “Made in the Dark” served as one the few down tempo respites from the LP’s predominantly danceable mood. On With Robert Wyatt and Geese, that same song is rendered a muted opener, which turns out to be an appropriate introduction to the EP. The necessity of Wyatt’s version is debatable though. As far as I can tell, Wyatt’s idea of contributing to this song is adding some sort of sproingy vocoder and some strings to the mix. It’s not bad, but that’s mainly because the amount of risk taken with the original song is minimal.
Unsurprisingly, With Robert Wyatt and Geese is most successful when the original song is less recognizable. The EP’s unquestionable highlight is Geese’s remix of “One Pure Thought,” which amplifies the more ominous elements of Hot Chip’s song by removing the propulsive drums and heavy guitars of the original, opting instead for almost percussive pizzicato strings that would make Steve Reich proud. The resulting remix not only retains all of the menace of the original but actually heightens the inherent level of dread.
Yet unfortunately, Geese’s bold remix also serves to heighten the EP’s squandered potential. With Robert Wyatt and Geese is by no means a failure, but simply a missed opportunity. It’s difficult not to wonder what might have been had all the parties involved attacked this project with full force. Sure, it’s an EP, and by virtue of that almost destined to be a curio in each artist’s catalogue, but they all could have brought something distinctive to the table. An esteemed experimental musician with jazz leanings reworking music by innovative pop-electronica artists with help from a respected classical musician should make for a more compelling listen than With Robert Wyatt and Geese. To reiterate, the EP is perfectly enjoyable, but with the exception of Geese’s remix of “One Pure Thought,” it’s doubtful I’ll return to any of these versions over their original recordings.