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Sounds like … several of your favorite Christian pop and rock artists thrown together in a blenderAt a Glance … though it's a fascinating concept, this is a novelty remix album that will either impress or offend your ears
Smash-Ups represents a natural evolution in the art of remixing and a sign of the times in popular. Thanks to affordably priced computer software and the age of digital downloads, savvy DJs and music geeks have in recent years devised a new genre referred to as the "mash-up." The concept is simple: they blend the vocals of one song with the instrumentation of another. Usually this is done with the aid of vinyl remixes that feature the vocals more prominently, if not completely a cappella. Purists will insist that the songs be combined manually with turntables, but today's technology allows for amateurs to accomplish the same by digitally filtering out the unwanted music and adjusting the speed of one song to fit the other.
Of course, all of this is made considerably easier if you have access to the original multitrack masters of the recordings. Inspired by the relatively new phenomenon, Sparrow Records utilized their large catalog of artists who fall under the Chordant Distribution umbrella and commissioned a number of mixmasters to create their own smash-ups, including Tedd T. (Rebecca St. James, ZOEgirl) and David Larring (Matt Redman, Avalon). A successful mix in this case is to blend together two seemingly disparate songs and make them sound as though they belong together—the more bizarre the pairing the better. The trick primarily lies in the speed adjustment, and it should be noted that altering the background music is usually much easier than altering the lead vocal. Too much one way or the other and a vocalist can sound like a munchkin or a troll.
To best illustrate the concept, the most natural pairing on Sparrow's Smash-Ups is the simple mix of "Entertaining Angels" by the Newsboys over the music of dc Talk's "Colored People." Anyone familiar with these songs can hear that they are so similar in style and rhythm (and for that matter, the same key) that very little had to be done to fit them together. In fact, mix-meister Rusty Varenkamp didn't do nearly enough—tobyMac's rap about racial harmony has been left in the mix, and it has absolutely nothing to do with the prayerful plea expressed in the lyrics of "Entertaining Angels."
Bearing in mind the creativity and artistry in selecting and creating a successful smash-up, there are some excellent examples to be found on this disc. The most bizarre example also involves the Newsboys, taking their anthemic classic "Shine" and dramatically raising the pitch of it to fit the strong rock blasts of Pax217's "Tonight." The result is a complete transformation that's a lot of fun. In this case, Rusty Varenkamp goes so far as to adjust the rhythm of the chorus in "Shine" to fit the syncopated lead-in of the chorus to "Tonight."
p>Equally strange is Rebecca St. James's "God," pitched down and merged with the modern reggae rock of Earthsuit's "One Time." Oddly enough, the two songs work together, and the irony is that Earthsuit is one of Rebecca's favorite bands. Another track takes the playful hometown hip-hop of "TN BWOYS" by GRITS and matches it to the rocking sounds of Switchfoot's "You Already Take Me There." They go together like peanut butter and chocolate, as do the aggressive dance pop of ZOEgirl's "Dismissed" over dc Talk's equally aggressive "Jesus Freak."