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Nina Simone: Remixed & Reimagined

Nina Simone’s realpolitik folk-jazz might not naturally suggest itself as amenable to the whims of the remix artist, but listening to the rhythms inherent in Simone’s idiosyncratic phrasing spread across this disc’s wide-ranging beats, your equilibrium is bound to get thrown off as surely as your expectations.

A wildly eclectic performer, the late Simone is framed in her element here, a fusion artist further fused, with an emphasis on energy. Groovefinder’s “Ain’t Got No/I Got Life” collage busts apart traditional Memphis soul to fashion a minimalist groove-like some of the members of the Stax house band called in sick-while Daniel Y’s remix of “I Can’t See Nobody” provides the disc’s purest jolt of acid-culture Northern soul, Simone’s vocal steeped in all of the attendant earthiness of a field holler. Even the muddy, thudding bass-drum kicks of Coldcut’s “Save Me” signal pure groove beneath Simone’s ultra-processed vocal, her faint, rasping gasps for breath left intact in the mix-a rhythm to leave you ragged.

Most of these tracks almost cast Simone as a psych-Mod singer cutting loose at some warehouse gig-great late night fun, but with Simone’s righteous anger-which could, ironically, impart great tenderness. Hers was never less than protest music, no matter what genre one tended to associate with her art. On that score, DJ Logic’s revved-up take on “Obeah Woman” serves as the disc’s great proclamation of thoughts at odds with easy generalizations, like maybe this is what a hip-hop album would’ve sounded like on Impulse!-were a political activist fired up enough to cut a rap record.

Originally Published