Album Remarks & Appraisals:
Georg Friedrich Handel's 1742 masterpiece of spiritual rebirth is itself reborn, in this deep and thoughful tribute album. Eleven of today's most searching musical minds respond to one of the classic works of Western music, and their responses range from tuneful electronica to craggy modernism, from moody ambience to unbounded joy. An unprecedented collection of some of the brightest lights of composed music, electronica and experimental hip-hop have created.
Released in time for the 2004 holiday season, this CD intends to offer a new look at the most-performed classical work in December of any given year: Handel's Messiah. Two kinds of listeners may be tempted to approach this album: those who are fond of the original composition and those who can't stand it anymore. The former will probably be more pleased than the latter, for the experimental computer artists invited to remix it have mostly opted for keeping the work highly recognizable. Tod Machover, R. Luke DuBois, Phil Kline, Paul Lansky, and even Nobukazu Takemura fragment, reorganize, and lightly treat sections of the original work, focusing mostly on the choral parts. They stick too close to home to offer something that would reach beyond a "seasonal music for the avant-garde inclined" tag (although Lansky's piece is exquisitely graceful). The real interest of this compilation resides in the contributions that go further, like Scanner's "Insulation Mix," which makes clever deconstructive use of the strings to create a brand new soothing piece, reminiscent in its approach and overall sound of his collaborative album with Jean-Paul Dessy, Play Along. Laetitia Sonami's "Overture on Ice" and Eve Beglarian's "Be/Hold" use isolated fragments of the original piece to construct abstract electronic works of striking yet uncertain beauty. As expected, Dälek's "Messiah [Deadverse Remix]" stands out like a wolf in a henhouse; the rappers' contribution matches the good average of their recorded outings to date, but marks quite a departure from the nine previous tracks on the album. These three pieces are all tucked at the end of the album, creating a dichotomy in the track list between the friendlier/blander first half and the more demanding/meaningful second half. In a few words, Messiah Remix is a good idea that yielded mixed results. ~ François Couture