No One Can Ever Know: The Remixes is perhaps a wise move from the Kilsyth trio; with its progenitor No One Can Ever Know being a somewhat achromatic affair that was a retrograded attempt at revolutionising the band’s sound. This was a fairly bewildering development considering the understated brilliance of their previous two albums that gave the band tenable predictions of promise. While The Twilight Sad’s intentions were that of a Kraftwerkian advancement in scope by dabbling tentatively in electronic techniques, it was instead hampered by old habits, resulting in a failed attempt at industrial, cold electro minimalism where only glimpses of the band’s genius were exposed.
That’s not to say that the threesome’s hearts were not in the right places, however. Whilst the band were attempting to navigate a course in a new direction, they were obstructed by a reluctance to completely abandon the effusive lavishness that made them, thus obscuring the path of radical change. If No One Can Ever Know: The Remixes is the inevitable aftermath of a hindered attempt at an electronic progression, then No One Can Ever Know was the calm before the storm.
With this record the Scots provide something that is more reflective of their recent electronic tendencies that were subtly axiomatic within its predecessor; and with the remix album often being a tricky one to execute, things can oft-times go two ways - either surpassing the original or flaunting a lacklustre attempt of aimless remixes that pisses off even the most ardent of fans. In this case, The Twilight Sad safely veer towards the former: though it only just manages to sustain consistent listenability: it’s the lack of repetitiveness and stark contrasts between the remixes that makes this album a moderate success.
No One Can Ever Know: The Remixes is a compilation of remixes of four out of nine of the songs from its near namesake, brought to you by a blend of the electronic contingent (Com Truise, Optimo) and the contemporary post-punk brigade (Tom Furse, Liars) resulting in something that is a potent dose of resonant electronica where the gloomy elements of The Twilight Sad’s trademark style still remain intact; in fact, No One Can Ever Know: The Remixes is actually just as degenerate and funereal as the original, and it even occasionally sounds like an eerier version of its relative.
This is a surprising observation considering that it is James Graham’s macabre vocals that provoke the “perennially unhappy" role that they are so regularly ascribed to; because it is Grahams’ stern tones that are amiss within these remixes, and when they do appear, they’re presented mostly in glitchy snippets that converge under an abundance of key-drones and stirring electronica. Liars’ contribution is partly responsible for this unrelenting melancholy with their caliginous and brooding interpretation of the already cold and sentimental ‘Nil’, in which the Brooklyn trio inject the track with all kinds of obscure blips and frenzied electronic noises that support Grahams’ fragmented vocals which, in essence, should actually introduce some buoyancy to an otherwise sombre affair, but instead it accentuates the pensiveness of the original.
The Horrors’ Tom Furse provides one of the album’s highlight’s by adding a welcomed ambience to ‘Not Sleeping’, with a lengthy seven-minute retro-synth dronescape that is an evocation of Kraftwerk’s cosmic style and like a futuristic voyage into the unknown. Its repetitious, organ induced riff underpins a myriad of astral soundscapes that interplay nicely with the dub production techniques. In contrast, Waresnare’s take on the same track doesn’t prevail as heavily: it strips the original down to its bare bones and chucks in a profusion of shrill, pitch shifting vocals that makes the track verge on cacophonic. Similarly, the opener, Brokenchord’s remix of ‘Sick’, only underscores and makes way for a much needed subtle and understated version by Com Truise.
Ultimately, this is generally a cogent and solid example of a remix album. While it almost eclipses the original work, it was never going to be an arduous task. It’s the intriguing combination of belligerent post-punk and heady electronica that distances it from the often monotonous examples of other remix albums; and it offers a lot more than a mere contortion of the original. There’s a slight air of doubt concerning the durability of their digital evolution; The Remixes is not likely to be marvelled at as a prominent feature of The Twilight Sad’s discography, although there’s an admirable reluctance to remain static and myopic throughout their musical endeavours. It’ll be interesting to see where they go from here.