Afro Celt Sound System, 2013
Pod is a personal collection of some of the very best remixes from the Afro Celt Sound System's career to 2004. The album also showcases previously unreleased material, and reinvents old classics with a driving new rhythm section.
The original version of Pod features an exclusive 25-minute DVD created in partnership with Real World's multimedia department. In short Pod takes their music kicking and screaming into a new era of surround sound entertainment and cinematic pyrotechnics.
The Real World Gold reissue has become a two-CD set, packaged together with Release Remixes, originally unleashed in 2000 but long since unavailable on CD. As its name suggests, it contains reinterpretations of the much-beloved track Release from the likes of Masters At Work, Rollo and Sister Bliss from Faithless, and Bipolar. It's a heady reminder of just how this band sketched out the musical future.
"Unlike conventional remix albums, we have actually used the opportunity to work in our new band," guitarist and founder member Simon Emmerson pointed out when discussing the ideas behind Pod. "With tracks such as 'Riding The Skies' and 'Whirly 3' we actually remixed in live drum and bass. Effectively we've taken DJ culture and turned it on its head by remixing with real instruments. For example 'Whirly 3' has been completely reworked by the band and is now the big finale tune in our live set."
There are also remixes from celebrated producers Masters At Work, Rae & Christian, DJ Toshio from U.F.O., and Rollo & Sister Bliss, mixed into a storming club set by Simon Emmerson: "The whole DJ mix section is indicative of my DJ work. It's become more common place for Global Beat DJ's to beat-mix nowadays and I wanted to represent that."
On the DVD we get to glimpse the Afro Celt Sound System at their most scintillating, live on stage in Seattle during WOMAD USA 2001. "It was an historic gig for us," explains Emmerson. The band played in front of 15,000 people, with Peter Gabriel making a rare guest appearance on stage. "It was really the year that we were set to break America, but then 9/11 happened and our video of When You're Falling had to be withdrawn just as it was about to go on heavy rotation on VH-1. It's such a powerful video, but it was just one of the many setbacks that we've had to endure as a band."
The album artwork features a Japanese print taken from the Getty Collection. "As this was a special package with a fresh approach to the many facets of our the music we felt compelled to create a new atmosphere for the cover," McNally points out. "Jamie Reid's artwork has been very significant on previous albums. His visuals have complemented the ethos of the band, and our collaboration with him continues fantastically on the visual feast of North on the DVD. But as a band who encompass the element of surprise, our fans know not to have any preconceived ideas of what we will do next. The image of six Japanese men in their hotel pods looking in different directions very much represents us as a band. We are very different people coming from different cultures and experiences, but within each of us lies one common spirit that connects us all and fundamentally finding that spirit is the key to what makes the Afro Celts tick."
If the band's enthusiasm for the musical aspect of 'Pod' weren't enough, then they are positively ecstatic over the multimedia aspect of it. "We have live footage of the band in Seattle during one of our best gigs, and we've remixed 'North' in 5/1 surround sound. In that way you can fill the room with sound from five speakers and one bass bin. It's as close to the studio experience as you'll get. Our music works really well in this context and it's in keeping with the bands desire to always keep moving forward." Combining the crisp, expansive multi-directional sound with the stunning visual montage of classic Afro Celt footage and spiralling computer generated effects, this revitalised track provided a pivotal moment in the evolution of the Afro Celt Sound System.
No less remarkable are the video's for 'When You're Falling' and the Rae & Christian remix of 'Persistence of Memory'. For the latter director Jean Francois Julian travelled to around twenty countries and four continents covering Asia, North and South America, Africa, the Eastern Bloc, and Iceland in an amazing six-week period. The startling imagery makes 'Persistence of Memory' a truly memorable, and culturally vibrant visual experience.
- Afro Celts taken apart and put back together This album/DVD double package will attract two different audiences to the remixes included here. Existing Afro Celts fans will be keen to compare them with favourite originals from their four earlier albums. New listeners (particularly those who are into dance music) might be attracted by the guest producer names - DJ Toshio, and Rollo and Sister Blis among others. The 'Further In Time' remix gives a more immediate and full-on impact from the outset. 'Whirly 3' is another exciting remix which provides the number with a richer depth. The tremendous pace here is under pinned by the addition of guest appearances by Irish fiddle supremo Mairead Nesbitt and drummer Ian Markin. 'Eireann', already ethereal in the original, is given a poetic interpretation with the effective inclusion of birdsong which - when combined with the flute - increases the Edenesque ambience. The DVD is a definite bonus. Although only short, it includes two music videos and excellent live footage from WOMAD USA 2001. Songlines (UK)
- It's a sleek, sophisticated and very worldly dance record. While the Afro-Celts have wandered to nearly every continent to scoop up sounds for their trademark fusion, the band has always called electronica home. So a disc of remixes by band members and friends (plus a bonus DVD of videos and live concert footage) seems inevitable. Joined by such vocalists as Sinéad O'Connor and Peter Gabriel, the band rambles around the world, from the gospel-tinged inspirational anthem "Rise Above" and the viscerally propulsive African drum beats of "Full Moon Low" to the Irish reels of "Whirly 3" and the lushly Bollywood-esque strings of "Lagan." World music purists won't be necessarily pleased, but this album isn't for them: It's a sleek, sophisticated and very worldly dance record. "Pod" clocks in at 70 minutes, however, which is a bit too long a trip for all but the most committed fans. AT Billboard (U.S.A)