A slew of well-loved alt-rock albums from the likes of Pearl Jam, Nirvana, The Replacements, and R.E.M. have gone the remix route in recent years.
It seemed like for years whenever a big-selling album would celebrate an anniversary, said album would get remastered and re-released. But recently, more of these albums are being remixed completely So what’s the difference?
A remaster takes the original source material of the album and, for lack of a better term, punches it up. For instance, if you have an old album that was recorded using analog methods and use digital tools to remaster it, you essentially have the same album with a cleaner, more up-to-date sound–in most cases.
In a remaster, none of the recorded parts are taken away. When an album is remixed, however, those original recorded parts are game for messing around with. So now the final product is an altogether different listening experience than the original. Vocals might be clearer because the remix has stripped away guitar parts and synth lines, as was the case of a recent remix of R.E.M.’s Monster.
VICE’s music blog Noisey recently wrote about the R.E.M. remix, as well as recent remixes of classic releases by Nirvana and Pearl Jam. It’s fascinating stuff and you can read all about it here.