In praise of the Reflex Re-Edit

The Reflex is a London-based French DJ and producer named Nicolas Laugier. He specializes in a particular kind of remix, the re-edit, in which you rework a song using only sounds found within the song itself, ideally using the multitrack stems. Some re-edits keep the original more or less intact, but with a punchier mix and a new breakdown section or whatever. Others (the ones I find more interesting) radically transform their source material by moving pieces around in unexpected ways. Read this Greg Wilson interview to learn more about Laugier’s process.

The Reflex

I really love Laugier’s tracks, on several levels. First, he has a fine ear for mixing, and his edits always have spectacular clarity and depth, often sounding better than the originals. There’s intellectual pleasure, too: it’s fun to hear a fresh take on these deeply familiar recordings, and the music educator in me adores the idea of using music itself as a medium for music criticism. Laugier implicitly critiques the music he edits, saying, “This song is cool, but wouldn’t it be cooler if the drums were more prominent, and we heard this keyboard part in isolation, and there was a longer groove in the intro?” I always prefer music analysis that I can dance to. 

Here are some of my favorite Reflex tracks.

Michael Jackson

Laugier’s first hit in the club world ramps up slowly, letting us bask in Quincy Jones’ luxurious string arrangement for a good long time first:

Many of the edits use materials that are present on the stems but that got cut out of the final release:

I appreciate the way this makes sense out of the strange phrasing in the bridge by making it more foursquare and dance-oriented:

Stevie Wonder

I would have been reluctant to tamper with the structure of such a flawless song, but this is a new work of art unto itself:

A Reflex specialty is finding some not-very-prominent background part and shining a spotlight on it:

Features a deeply satisfying breakdown with just Stevie’s voice and the Moog bass:

Other stuff

I find this to be one of the least satisfying of Bowie’s greatest hits, and this mix improves it substantially in my opinion:

Sensibly jumps straight to the break:

There’s a whole subgenre of “disco versions of non-disco things,” of which the Star Wars one is one of the most notorious. Laugier Tidily removes all references to the Star Wars score, leaving behind a bumping dance track:

Brian Eno is strongly influenced by dub, and this brings that influence to the forefront:

I love this George Michael classic and I’m super impressed by the idea of looping first chord of the four-bar progression to turn it into a new harmonically static vamp:

This removes the song completely, leaving behind the delightful track:

Samples the drums and turns them into a bumping breakbeat:

My second favorite remix of this tune, after, of course, this one:

Beyond enjoying these tracks as music, I also think they do the world a valuable service as low-key civil disobedience. We should have the right to remake recorded music to suit our own emotional needs, and we do not currently enjoy that right. By normalizing unauthorized remixing, Laugier is pushing us closer to a more sensible copyright regime.