In 2009, Southern California DJ and producer Exile released one of the most compelling projects of that year with Radio – an instrumental album centered on radio, or at least Exile’s version of what radio station surfing would sound like. The end result was a creative, if sometimes exhaustive, journey in sound and thought. Many listeners hoping for an exact replication of his work with MC and producer Blu – the album Below The Heavens – would undoubtedly be disappointed in his departure in sound. This is a shame because Radio is indeed worth repeated listens. Exile latest release AM/FM is a reworking of Radio with remixes and vocal guest appearances from some of Exile’s former collaborators and associates. With Radio having achieved such a heavy impression, was this remix album necessary? That question is explored below.
Sa-Ra Creative Partners member Shafiq Husayn’s remix of “It’s Coming Down” is a spacey, noisy affair that doesn’t necessarily improve upon the original song. While the track attempts to be some ambitious audio event, it lacks any manner of direction – even when Husayn finally decides to let the drums give the song a much needed jumpstart. Producer Samiyam’s remix of “Population Control” is an improvement from the opener; the hesitating drums, distorted vocals, and organ stabs will inspire head nods. Producer Milo1’s take on “In Love” actually expands on the original and is an early standout track. The jazzy, up-tempo drums and soulful keys work in tandem and leave a definite impression. The reworking of “Your Summer Song” featuring vocalist J. Mitchell is another excellent improvement on the original material. J.Mitchell’s syrupy vocals and the busy, big-sounding track are perfect together. A vocal reworking of “We’re All In Power” features the talents of Evidence, Krondon and Blame One. On paper, this sounds like a dream team but the rhymes from Evidence are underwhelming and the usually potent Krondon is nearly smothered by the track. Blame One barely resonates, even with the best performance of the three. This song is skip worthy. The Free The Robots remix of “Population Control” is another mishap as the noisy, robotic and entirely mechanical sounding track is nothing more than audio annoyance. Vocalist Muhsinah’s reworking of “Stay Tuned” (titled “Stay Here” on this LP) is more of the usually amazing work from the DC-raised songstress. Muhsinah shows incredible range and she adds her original stamp to the track. The chorus is simply beautiful.
This project wouldn’t be complete without an appearance from Blu, and his reworking of “Love Line” does not disappoint. Blu, who has total command of the lover-boy style he exhibits here, sounds completely at home on this guitar-tinged highlight of a song. One of the best tracks on Radio, “The Sound of God” (listed on this LP as “Sound of God”), MC ADaD gives lyrical life to Exile’s track and while the hook is a little muddled, ADaD’s performance is extremely memorable. Closing the LP out is the excellent Clutchy Hopkins remix of “In Love”, the strong drums are a great boost to the samples and instruments that float in and out of the track. AM/FM is not perfect by any means. When it works, it soars. When it doesn’t, it sinks. A curious point one could raise is why did Exile see fit to remix an already good project? Whatever the answer may be, fans of Radio should give this LP a chance simply to hear what other heralded producers have done with Exile’s source material. There are gems aplenty but it’s not quite clear what the eventual aim is with this record.