Thursday, July 6, 2017

Johnson Somerset, Remix Genius

I have just discovered the phenomenal superpower of record producer and remixer Johnson Somerset, who has worked extensively with Bryan Ferry as well as artists like Steve Winwood and Peter Godwin. Somerset (who is known in some circles by his full name, Lord Johnson Somerset, son of David Somerset, 11th Duke of Beaufort...really!) takes already good songs and makes them extraordinary. His style, while generally leaving the basic underlying song structure the same, is to use a gauzy, hazy filter and layer on the dark, dense sonics, driving the song to a throbbing, swirling dream state. It is stunning work and I am loving listening to all he has presented on his Youtube channel...I also love that his remixes run to the eight to nine minute mark, letting the pulsing sound develop, and sending me into a total trance. I was having a conversation with a friend a while ago about the role of music in my life and what I want from music, and I said that I need music to function like a drug. I need music to alter my consciousness. I need music to bring me to an Alpha state. And Lord Somerset, you are rocking my consciousness!

Here are a few highlights.

Let's start with some Bryan Ferry songs...which are dreamy and driving in their own right but Somerset manages to make them even more of what they are. "The Chosen One" is a special song but here it is transcendent, especially as it peaks around the 5:30-ish mark.

Bryan Ferry released an album in 2002 called "Frantic" which contained a song about Marilyn Monroe called "Goddess of Love" ("Marilyn says I got nothing to wear tonight/ Only a pair of diamond earrings that catch the light/ Platinum blonde, is it true that you have more fun?"). This is a lovely take on it.

Somerset applied his magic to "Music," a perfectly serviceable Madonna song..and turned it into a magical, strung-out fantasy...if I put this on "LOOP," I can just zone out for an hour or so.

He dared to turn Massive Attack's downtempo "Teardrop" (otherwise known as the harpsichord-featured theme song to the television series "House" with Hugh Laurie) into a dark, rock and roll road trip.

His friend Peter Godwin got a makeover too! The 1982 cult "New Wave-y" dance song "Images of Heaven" by Godwin (I recall very well dancing to it in clubs in '82!) is here slowed down until it is almost a ballad in Somerset's hands. This slower pace allows the mournful, poetic aspect of the song to emerge.

But listen to what he can do with classic tunes like Steve Winwood's "I'm A Man" (making it even more ferocious and bad-ass than the original, and more than my heart can take)...

...and even, of all things, the classic disco song "Stayin' Alive" by The Bee Gees!

Browse through his video catalog on Youtube. Among the fantastic remixes, you will find a collection of original music he calls "10 Presidents," each track named after a U.S. President.
You can also listen to his remixes on SoundCloud.

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