A couple of weeks ago, we published a post outlining the things that all good remix albums have in common.
This week, we came across another one, and the story was too good to pass up, so we now present the story of Altrice’s Stem, a remix record based on Caribou’s much-feted 2010 album, Swim.
Altrice is a production alias employed by a producer named Mike Sadatmousavi. Sadatmousavi had recorded a few albums under the Altrice name, along with some “earlier work under names I’ll leave undisclosed,” and last year, he entered a remix competition hosted by Dan Snaith, a.k.a. Caribou, an artist he greatly respected.
In and of itself, this was somewhat out of character for Sadatmousavi. “Whenever I hear about a remix of a song/artist I like, I’m always skeptical and usually don’t even want to listen because the original is so great,” he explains. But Sadatmousavi’s entry, the alternately swelling and coursing “Only What You Gave Me” mix, won, and it appeared on an official release, Swim Remixes, that placed him in the company of heavyweights like DJ Koze, Gold Panda, and Motor City Drum Ensemble.
When he e-mailed Snaith to express his gratitude, Sadatmousavi realized that he wanted to continue engaging with Swim, so he asked Snaith if he could have the rest of the album’s stems. To his surprise, he got them; Snaith “happily compiled the stems together for me,” and the project that would eventually become Stem got off to a fast start.
“The breadth of sound [Snaith] creates on Swim alone is so immense,” Sadatmousavi says. “It was pretty much effortless to find inspiration from it and build new interpretations.”
Indeed, for the first month or so, Sadatmousavi worked just for the love of working. “I think I coped with the pressure by reassuring myself that I probably wouldn’t release the finished product anyway,” he says, “and it would just be for fun.” He completed several tracks and sent four to Snaith to show him his progress, when something even more surprising happened: “He ended up really digging them, and we immediately started talking about releasing and promoting it.”
This was both a blessing and a curse. Like many electronic music producers, Sadatmousavi prefers to keep his personal life and his musical life separate; when Pitchfork announced Stem’s release, he asked them to remove his real name from the article. And as a Caribou fan, he was nervous about Stem measuring up to the standards of the original. “I was getting nervous about how Caribou fans would receive it,” he admits.
“The weekend before the release date I frantically e-mailed him saying I wanted out of the whole thing,” he recalls. “Dan can verify that.”
“But he ended up convincing me to take a risk, and I’m glad I took his advice.”
Snaith’s European label, City Slang, minimized the headache of that risk (“I just remixed the music, and they took care of the rest”), and in many ways, Stem was mostly a learning experience for Sadatmousavi. “This project revealed some strengths and, more importantly, weaknesses in my song-making methods,” he says. “I definitely aspire to be at the Caribou level of production, but for now I will keep on learning how to get there.”
He certainly didn’t make it to get rich; though Stem is available for purchase on iTunes, it can still be downloaded for free on the Altrice Soundcloud page. “I may have to disable downloads soon,” he says, “but I’d like people to continue to share the album with friends and post it wherever they like.”
“There are few things I love more than free music, and I know many people share that sentiment.”
Indeed, one of the greatest rewards for Sadatmousavi has been all the positive feedback he’s received. “I really appreciate the people that took a risk and pressed play.”