'Re:Generation' music project an eclectic display of artistic talent

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When documentary filmmaker Amir Bar-Lev first announced his latest endeavor, “Re:Generation,” in October of last year, questions arose as to how well the acclaimed director would be able to bring two separate genres together in order to create something that was both cohesive and enjoyable. Although the movie will not be released in the country until Feb. 16 (those hoping to watch it in Austin will have to wait until South By Southwest), the documentary’s soundtrack offers a glimpse into the work and creativity depicted in the film.

“Re:Generation” features 10 songs: Five original arrangements by the artists involved and five remixes of those arrangements. The former is the most important part, showcasing electronic sounds and ideas intermingling with jazz, rap, classical, country and rock. Each song reveals the artist’s desire to challenge themselves in a genre they are unfamiliar with. Since each DJ/producer tackles a different genre, the soundtrack remains captivating until the very end, taking listeners on an electronic-dabbled adventure in well under half an hour. The arrangements are a near-perfect balance between electronic samples and sounds and acoustic instrumentation, with neither one overpowering the other unless a certain part of the song calls for it.

“Breakn’ a Sweat,” the collaboration between Skrillex and remaining Doors members, Robby Krieger, Ray Manzarek and John Densmore, lights the album’s fire. The seizure-inducing, dying-elephant sounds that have become a staple of dubstep music blend seamlessly with Manzarek’s church-organ melodies and Krieger’s psychedelic guitar. “Let’s kick ass,” says Manzarek confidently before the chorus makes an explosive transition into the trademark “drop” section found in most dubstep songs.

“Wayfaring Stranger,” the collaboration between Pretty Lights, Leann Rimes and Dr. Ralph Stanley, is one of the more compelling songs on the soundtrack. The gritty electronic fuzz gives the song an eerie, somber atmosphere, while the reverberated, surf-rock guitar and finger-picked acoustic guitar paint vibrant pictures of a 19th century cowboy showdown. “I am a poor wayfaring stranger / while journeying through this world of woe,” sings Leann Rimes in the distance, the strange combination of tumbleweed country blending easily with buzzy discordance and mechanical percussion.

The title song most embodies what this whole musical project is about. Acclaimed DJ Premier and rapper Nas tackle uncharted territory by working with the Berklee Symphony Orchestra to create an arrangement that puts the legendary MC’s lyrical expertise to a challenge. “Composer, DJ Premier. Maestro, Sir Nas,” says the rapper courageously, backed by staccato strings and punchy percussion that will bring to mind the production of Wu-Tang Clan’s RZA.

Each collaborator and their respective genre is fitting; it’s not too unfamiliar that the arrangements could be disastrous, but it is challenging enough to put the artist’s creativity to the test. For example, Skrillex, whose past contributions to post-hardcore act From First to Last have seeped into the raw, aggressive sound that is a large component to the music he makes now, seems to effortlessly unite rock with dubstep, allowing moments for both his spastic monster sounds and The Doors’ laid-back psychedelic feel to shine. Same with Mark Ronson; “A La Modeliste,” the producer’s collaboration with Mos Def, Erykah Badu and Trombone Shorty showcases Ronson’s eclectic musical background as he brings together dixieland jazz with soul and funk.

“Re:Generation” does its job and then some. It not only puts the artist’s talents on display, but shows the potential between bringing together genres of music in a way that has never been done before. Hopefully, this will serve as a catalyst for future collaborations. Even if not, considering the soundtrack achieves its goal of highlighting the beauty of intermingling genres, “Re:Generation” is an enjoyable and an interesting listen.

Printed on, Tuesday February 14, 2012 as: Project's soundtrack shows broad mix of collaborations