The art of the mashup is an awfully tricky one. On the one hand, it takes talent and courage to meld disparate musical styles into a cohesive, pleasing listen. On the other, it seems everyone throws their hat into the ring nowadays. So there’s some terribly misguided combinations floating around out there. What drew me in with Chanes — who I know very little about other than he is a producer from the United States who lists “Electro/Experimental/Hip-Hop” as his genre — and his The Subherbs EP was, obviously, the allure of Arcade Fire’s Grammy-winning album and uber-popular rapper Wiz Khalifa being blended together. After all, The Suburbs was my personal favorite (as well as the blog’s) album of 2010.
I’ll forgive the fact that nearly none of the tracks used from the Canadian indie-rock outfit are actually from The Suburbs. Because what I heard pleasantly surprised me. Without a doubt, the best offering on the 7-track EP is the blending of “My Body Is A Cage” from Neon Bible and Wiz’s track “Youngin’ On His Grind.” The dramatic organ becomes an even more dramatic set piece in the background. Chanes gives both artists their spotlight moments, and it ends up sounding like what I’ll call “goth-rap” at times.
But it’s pretty cool to me that Chanes goes way back to Arcade Fire’s self-titled 2003 EP for the track “Headlights Look Like Diamonds” and uses its beautiful pieces — the guitar and chimes opening, Regine’s backing vocals — and contorts it over top a spot-on beat to give the blend a fresh identity. It’s followed with a re-imagining of “The Woodlands National Anthem,” from that same 2003 EP.
“Rebellion” from Funeral gets the hip-hop treatment as well, with that memorable piano hook and grinding bass guitar getting equal weight with Khalifa’s verses. I’ll admit I’m not all that familiar with Wiz Khalifa’s work, so I’m a little out of my depth here. But a project like this, where the foundation is the work of one of my favorite indie bands, is an introduction to Wiz that’s more my speed.
Approach this mashup with an open mind.
(The Subherbs is available for free on Chanes’ Bandcamp page now)