God Is In The Details: Stripped for success
THE INDEPENDENT'S GUIDE TO POP'S FIDDLY BITS
Friday 10 September 1999
Everything but the Girl
IF YOU had a particularly intense holiday romance in the mid-Nineties, this may be the track that brings it all back - the perfect pop song of tears and remembering.
"Missing" is an acoustic ballad that somehow ended up as a killer dance- floor hit all over Europe, particularly Italy, where it beat off all chart opposition for weeks on end. But the God-like details are not so much in the song, or its original arrangement on Everything But The Girl's Amplified Heart album, but in the fleet, infectious mix for the "radio" and "club mix" version.
Where the original is heavy, thoughtful and self-consciously musical, the remix has the qualities of quickness and lightness that Italo Calvino advocated in his Six Memos for the Next Millennium. Terry's mix follows all the usual dance cliches, adding a hustling drum loop, sawn-off bass synth and tightly synchronised keyboard vamps while removing nearly everything except vocals from the original multitrack. This is a time-honoured way to extract large fees and royalties from desperate record companies aiming for "...you know, for kids". Most of the time this results in a "less is less" scenario, but for "Missing", less is definitely more, to invoke another Mies van der Rohe statement.
A really spine-chilling moment occurs during the second line of the chorus, when Tracey Thorn's harmony vocal part rides gloriously over the purring, stripped-down engine of the rhythm track. This higher part, an insubstantial sliver of sound, perfectly pitched and phrased, manages to make the main vocal performance sound ever more lonely, more desperate to connect: "And I missed you... like the desert missed the rain." Another moment occurs early in the introduction, a brief shard of acoustic guitar, one of the few fragments left from the luxuriant rhythmic undergrowth of the album mix. Ben Watt's original guitar part is creative, musical, nicely played and recorded - it must have hurt to lose 90 per cent of it in the remix. But it was a smart decision: in the context of a hit single, the arpeggios over-egg the chorus. "Missing" is a good song, but it's not "Yesterday" (or even "Yesterdays"). The magic is in the combination of groove, sound and words; the artistry is in the cool timbre and performance of Thorn's vocal, which manages (and this is a very Nineties trait) to be detached and emotionally affecting at the same time.
John L Walters
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