Few cult bands can claim as strong a temporary hold on a genre, a
culture and a lifestyle as Skinny Puppy. Equal parts industrial rock,
electronic body music, art terrorists, far-left political activists,
internal squabblers and smack addicts, the Vancouver "group" maintained
a fractured existence for almost 15 years. At their peak, from around
1988-1993, there was no one who matched the intensity of their music,
lyrics or visuals. Fans of industrial music danced to Nitzer Ebb, Front
242 or Meat Beat Manifesto, and they moshed to Ministry, but when they
wanted to vent, they did so to Skinny Puppy.
Many of Puppy's contemporaries -- the aforementioned NE, 242 and Meat
Beat, as popular shorthand recognizes them -- could merit a remix album
that would demonstrate their influence on the techno-rave-electronica
scene that has thrived across Europe and ensconced itself in the
American underground. It seems appropriately perverse, then, that the
now-defunct (and, in the case of heroin overdose Dwayne Goettel,
deceased) Skinny Puppy should take that route instead. The group's
relentlessly harsh rhythms, heavily processed vocals, awkward tempos and
visceral anger were always going to be
difficult to turn into friendly late-'90s club cuts, which is probably
why vocalist and recovered addict Nivek Ogre (Kevin Ogilvie) and
multi-instrumentalist cEVIN Key (Kevin Crompton) have opted for
essentially more of the same. The opening cuts on this Remix Dys
Temper -- "Rodent" (remixed by Ken "hiwatt" Marshall), "Addiction"
(by Gunter Schultz of KMFDM) and Ogre's own new version of "Smothered
Hope" -- are far from radical reconstructions and offer but minor steps
toward the dance floor; they are essentially post-industrial producers'
post-industrial adaptions of classic industrial tracks.
Rhys Fulber, one half of Front Line Assembly (whose other half, Bill
Leeb, was once a member of Skinny Puppy -- there are never more than
three degrees of separation in this back catalogue), bravely attempts to
put a groove to "Worlock," as does Chris Vrenna, formerly of Nine Inch
Nails (a group influenced by Puppy if ever there was one) on the always
approachable "Assimilate." Original NIN mixer and famed On-U Sound dub
producer Adrian Sherwood offers a modestly tame version of the
classically raw and powerful "Tin Omen."
Among the younger acts reworking what one assumes were some sort of
inspirations to them are God Lives Underwater, Autechre, Neotropic and
the Deftones. They all seem to have been instructed to keep the song in
question close to its original format -- most of the original Puppy
vocals are still present throughout this album, as are an unusually high
percentage of chord patterns and textures for a remix project.
Almost as an afterthought, at the rear end of Remix Dys Temper
come the only real remixes: Guru's (of Gang Starr) "Censor" and Josh
Wink's "Chainsaw." The former is almost comical, with Ogre's screamed,
ranted and tightly processed vocals aided by acoustic guitars and
bullying a gentle hip-hop beat into bloody submission. Wink works hard
to get a real groove going, and while his choice of beat is more subtle
than even Guru's, it manages to complement Ogre remarkably well.
A likely (and lively) purchase for those who still treasure Skinny
Puppy's influence and former predominance, Remix Dys Temper sadly
does little to bring new fans into the fold. Remixers should be allowed
to use as little of an original track as they desire; there does not
seem to be much point in handing out songs to creative producers only to
insist that they be returned largely unaltered. For a group that pushed
artistic freedoms to the limit while alive, Skinny Puppy appear to have
been surprisingly restrictive caretakers of their own legend.