FEATURE: Top 5 Stretched Out Remixes

britney spears

Written for the 405

A couple of years ago, whilst messing about with the pre-sets in his music editing software, a young man called Shamantis (well, Nick Pittsinger is his real-life name, but it’s less exciting) stumbled across something amazing – when he slowed down Justin Bieber’s ‘U Smile’ by 800%, it went from being an insipid sub-Hall & Oates ballad, instead becoming something akin to one of Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works. And like Archimedes when he had his own “eureka!” moment, Shamantis leapt from his bath and ran through the streets to tell the world of his discovery – or rather, he did the modern-day equivalent. He uploaded it onto SoundCloud. His pioneering work has spawned a whole sub-genre of mediocre (and not-so-mediocre) pop songs given the ultimate chopped-and-screwed do-over; here’s five of the best.

1. Justin Bieber – ‘U Smile’

It makes sense to start at the beginning, doesn’t it? Well, it was a rhetorical question. And I’m writing this, so I’ll do what I want. Far from the earnestly voice-unbroken blue-eyed soul of the original, Shamantis’ stretching out of Bieber’s original makes it into something that has been compared to everyone from Sigur Ros to James Blake – Bieber’s voice a shifting spectre of unintelligible vowels floating between great swathes of ambient sound. Sometimes it gets a little spooky, like the Residents’ seminal Eskimo.

2. Justin Timberlake – ‘Cry Me A River’

Okay, so what happens if you pull the same trick on another Justin – but this time, using one of the best pop songs of the past decade? (Yes, ‘Cry Me A River’ is ten years old. I know, I feel ancient too). Well, it starts off a bit like the music from Inception, and then becomes a sort of haunting drone, with a monk-like chant running throughout, the sound of rain outside, and the sort of sound design you find in a David Lynch film. Or as one YouTube commenter more eloquently put it, “it sounds like Jesus taking a shower”.

3. Britney Spears – ‘Toxic’

Who knew that behind a simple pop song about a poisonous relationship – yep, that’s the basic metaphor behind this song, hadn’t you got that? – there was the score to an extremely dramatic art house film. That snippet of strings from the original gets stretched out into a full-blown orchestra, cymbals crash, and what sounds like a snake (maybe the one from ‘Slave 2 U’) is set loose amongst it all.

4. iamamiwhoami – ‘U-1’

So now that my indie cred lies somewhat in tatters, I guess I should start sellotaping it back together. This is a good start. Swedish electronic duo iamamiwhoami make music that’s pretty brooding and atmospheric on their own, in the vein of Björk or the Knife, but making their synth-and-atmospheric wailing last for eight times as long makes it into an even spookier, and occasionally transcendentally beautiful, ten minutes of ambiance.

5. The Eastenders theme

So apparently if you slow down the theme song to one of England’s longest-running and reality-free soap operas it becomes three-minutes of chillwave that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on the last Washed Out record. To my mind, the only thing that could make Phil Mitchell’s descent into crack addiction more palatable is if Ernest Greene was singing about it. And, for balance, here it is sped up, which makes it into a happy hardcore track.

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