"What do you do when your alt jazz quartet (and the whole world) goes into lockdown for a year?" asks singer, Irene Serra, of isq. "Why, you release a dance album obviously!" Irene had the bright idea of asking friends, acquaintances and band members to contribute to this project, with guests including the legendary Arthur Baker, Emmanuelle, Faithless guitarist Dave Randall (Slovo) and Urchin.
I have always had a soft spot for remix albums and singles, even if, truth be told, you only come back to the one or two remixes that really transform a song that you love. The raw material was isq's last album, Requiem For The Faithful, which openly flirted with electronica, and was ripe for the remix treatment.
As one would probably expect from such an album, it's a slightly patchy affair - less coherent than the original album, which flowed well - and some remixes working better than others. But when its good, it's really good, and you'll find yourself reaching for the volume control, turning it up, and upsetting the neighbours. And they may even thank you for it.
Opener We all Bleed was remixed by Wolf & I, Irene's electronic alter ego, and she's done an amazing job, highlighting on her haunting vocal refrain, "I've finally found some peace of mind." This remix is clearly aimed at the dance floor, and sounds great. Dance producing legend Arthur Baker is up next with the excellent Ode To Myself. To his credit, he keeps Irene's wordless intro, which works well, and the more uptempo beat keeps the momentum going.
On the original album, In My Bed sounded like a demo, albeit in a good way, and Dave Gale gives it the full electronic treatment it always deserved, extending it too, but keeping the haunting beauty of the original vocal refrain.
Kmodo is isq drummer's Chris Nickolls. He has always had a keen interest in electronica, and it shows, as he produces a quite stellar remix of Stone - another highlight on the original album. Emmanuelle's remix of At The Seams is another highlight, taking another short piece from the original album and making it even better. Reach for that volume knob!
Panic Room was not my favourite track on the original album, and the remix didn't add much to the original, for me at least. Richard Sadler and Naadia Sheriff, who play bass and keyboards with isq, tackle Orbit and Where Beauty Lives, respectively. Both are more electronica than dance, and whilst interesting, don't really improve on the original album versions.
Urchin's L.A.S. is superb, however, and it is easy to see why this was chosen as one of the singles ahead of the album's release. Paper Doll, a single off the original album, also responds well to the remix treatment. Slovo's take on Run To You is another highlight, completely transforming the original, from its dreamy opening to a more trance-oriented close.
Irene Serra questioned whether the album would be reviewed by many jazz websites, but these days jazz crosses over into pop, electronica, dance, what was once referred to as 'world' music, and plenty more besides. isq have always had crossover potential, in my view, and Requiem For The Faithful 2.0 simply reconfirms that view. A bold move, and one that - for the most part - succeeds in its aim.