Last month we brought you an interview with the Membranes’ John Robb ahead of their show at the Clonakilty Guitar Festival, and the band have since released an album of remixes from their critically acclaimed 2015 album Dark Energy/Dark Matter. The rejigged result is entitled Inner Space/Outer Space and features remixes from some excellent artists including the Manic Street Preachers, Mark Lanegan and Reverend and the Makers.
The Membranes have strong roots in the punk scene but approaching this album with that foremost in your thoughts is setting yourself up for a shock. Limitations are not something Robb feels the band can afford, there are few boundaries in their creative process – those that do exist are hopped over or broken down. The same approach has been adopted by those molesting the original tracks.
A swaying orchestra opens the album accompanied by a gently tinkling piano before bursting into life with crashing symbols on the appropriately titled ‘Universe Explodes’, remixed by the Manic Street Preachers with some associated James Dean Bradfield lead guitar thrown in.
Another of the album’s highlights is the second track tinkered with by former Screaming Trees frontman Mark Lanegan, ‘Dark Energy’. The song rides along a deep, dark, hypnotic groove that wouldn’t sound out of place on a hip-hop record. It’s kind of like what the Happy Mondays’ ‘Wrote for Luck’ video would be like had it been recorded in Berlin’s infamous Kit Kat Club instead of the Hacienda.
It’s at this point the album starts its orbit into the unknown. Perhaps a slight nod to T-Rex’s ‘20th Century Boy’ the Membranes’ ‘21st Century Man’ cranks the album up into a full blown industrial noise-scape with clanking, metallic piston percussion and a guitar solo that sounds like a Doctor Who villain dying. Harsh, hammering harmony at the hands of Godflesh.
One of post punk’s envelope pushers, PiL’s Keith Levene takes on manipulating duties on ‘Dark Matter’ – his bright, squealing almost Indian flavoured guitar pings around the track as Robb’s prodding bass pulses under the surface. ‘Do the Supernova’ is almost unrecognisable from its original deconstructed rock’n’roll format as it opens with rowdy percussion from what sounds like the cast of Broadway show ‘Stomp’.
Being an album of remixes, each and every song on this record creates its own little landscape. Some of the songs are remixed twice by different artists and couldn’t be more different sonically, texturally, tonally. Some mixes are more immediate and retain a conventional song structure, others are sprawling, groove-laden, trippy universes to get lost in.