Tosca: Shopsca (The Outta Here Versions)

Austrian experimental music duo Richard Dorfmeister and Rupert Huber burst onto the European electronic scene in 1997 with their release of Opera. Continuing with a string of successful albums throughout the late 1990’s and 2000’s they incorporated electronic, experiential, and early versions of down-tempo/chill-step. Their most successful album in the U.S. was 2003’s Dehli9—an eclectic mix of cuts which consisted of noir-style, beat-driven melodies with a light spread of piano and dub melted in middle like Nutella on toast. The second side of the album consisted strictly of piano based experimental soundscapes, good for rainy drives through a large metropolis of your choice.

A necessary word on the modern nature of the remix… Remixes are now just as likely to be heard as album versions. Within the music business today we see empowered artists as brands and niche record labels. This has allowed for more remixes, guest spots, and alternate versions of songs to sometimes become exponentially more prominent than the original work. Technology has brought DJ’s/producers and artists together, fostering a creative relationships—Hippie Sabotage’s remix of Tove Lo’s “Habits (Stay High)” is a perfect example of a remix maturing in mainstream.

Tosca’s most recent full-length release, Outta Here, saw them veer away from their signature lounge, ambient drenched sound to more up-tempo electronica. Still their signature sound resonated throughout the album—mixing elements of dub/jazz/soul and making for a sporadic listening experience from one song to the next.

Shopsca (The Outta Here Sessions) can be at times both forgettable and captivating, but in the end that didn’t seem to be the point. Tosca opened up their vault from Outta Here, inviting several underground artists that would make even the most hipster-y of hipsters quizzical in the attempt to verify their musical existence. The opening track, Harry Dean gets a decidedly more dub-ified make over from its original by German artist, DJ Mato.

Another positive about remixes can be the range of change form on song to the next. Sometimes drastic differ enation of styles occur, other times a subtle tweak of beat or tempo can shift your perception of a track entirely, yet it still obviously resembles the original.

For example, the original version of the first track, “Harry Dean” from Outta Here, is beach-y hypnotic dub-laced track, where as its remixed doppelganger, crafted by German artist DJ Mato subtly shifts the tempo creating a more mid-tempo house-reggae feel.

Often if the same song is remixed more than once, it can be dis-assembled and reconstructed into totally different pieces of music. The most worked-over song and arguably the most successful of transformations on the album is “Have Some Fun.” One version gets the magic touch of Urbs, aka Austrian-based DJ Paul Nawrata. In what sounds like 80’s electro/funk with updated equipment, this version plows forward with a sinister baseline and electronic sounds that give it that oxymoronic feel of being futuristically retro. Another version receives a remix courtesy of New York based producer, Drew Lustman aka, FattyDL. Lustman veers more into the smoothed out jazz/funk arena. Sprinkled with electronic accents and experimental sounds it’s a smoother take than the Urbs version but no less danceable.

The highlight of the remixes however is done by the Berlin-based artist and producer duo known as Speak + Speak—real names Alesio Phareira and el gato con botas. The worm hole of searches to retrieve the previous sentence of information alone is enough to qualify this remix album review as educational… Moving on. In this version we spin the genre dial to the deep-house setting. Taking that same sinister baseline, Speak + Spell elevate the song to a faster tempo and pepper it with echoed voices and electronic manipulation. Yet its original form is still there, coalesced into a darker dance-hall version of its original self.

Half the fun here again, was discovering the artists that remixed these songs. While some warranted the track-skip button like Headman aka Robi Insinia and Artist Robi’s instrumental version of “Put it On”—others, notably Tom Demac’s heavy drum and base version of “Crazy Love” and Austrian DJ/Producer Stefan Obermaier’s “Open Sky” are adeptly crafted with resoundingly better results.

With an album like Shopsca (The Outta Here Versions) there is no reason to complain about a lack of new music. Sure not everything hits the mark, but top 40 exists for a reason, it caters to the masses and is easily digestible by the highest percentage of people. The fun with this type of remix album by Tosca is falling down a wormhole of experimenting with artists which otherwise you wouldn’t even sniff. The way we digest music has changed drastically (for the good) in the past 20 years. Starting with a top 40 band on Spotify you can—in four clicks of “related artists”—end up in the depths of an experimental trio operating out of a basement in Helsinki.
If anything, Shopsca… provides you with a platform to leap from and expand your listening catalog. However it still manages to handcraft a few satisfying gems as a starter course before you peer deeper l into the sheer amount of talented artists that are literally a click away.

Rating: 7.5/10