From 1967-1972, a group of siblings from Delevan New York made what some consider to be a catalog of songs on par with The Beach Boys, The Association or The Cowsills. Though they incorporated beautiful vocal harmonies, hook-heavy songwriting and state-of-the-art recording techniques to create some of the best psych-pop of the time period, they never cracked the Hot 100. After falling into relative obscurity for nearly two decades, The Free Design was suddenly re-discovered by a whole new generation of music lovers, most importantly, DJs. Word got out in the underground about this unknown band and vinyl junkies began scouring record shops in search of their incredibly rare, vinyl-only releases. Since then, various compilations have been put together featuring the “best of the Free Design”, but The Free Design Redesigned compilations masterminded by Light In The Attic Records are head over heals the most creative and artistic way to re-introduce this group to the world. The Seattle-based label began the Free Design Redesigned series with the vinyl-only remix EPs Volume One and Two. Now, with The Free Design: The Now Sound Redesigned, the label has flawlessly packaged each cut from the vinyl-only series along with three new songs from the forthcoming third vinyl-only remix EP. The perfect treat for summer, The Now Sound Redesigned features contributions from some of the most respected names in the biz. Madlib, Chris Geddes of Belle & Sebastian, Stereolab & The High Llamas, Danger Mouse & Murs, Styrofoam & Sarah Shannon, Super Furry Animals, Peanut Butter Wolf, Nobody feat. Ikey Owens of the Mars Volta, Kid Koala & Dynomite D., Sharpshooters and Caribou.
These masterminds have collectively put together a sample-heavy electronic masterpiece which seamlessly wraps modern production with samples of the Free Design’s music from yesteryear. Sounding somewhat similar to the Avalanches (remember them?), spoken word and random sound effects are peppered throughout. A short, spoken word history lesson on the Free Design leads off the disc, but it quickly changes direction to an up-tempo mix from Madlib. My favorite track is “2002 – A Hit Song” by Chris Geddes & Hush Puppy. It relies heavily on the Free Design’s original recordings and includes a break-down portion where the band calls for “drums”, “bass” and “guitar”, similar to Sly And Family Stone’s “Dance To The Music”, except instead of continuing with the drums, bass and guitar from the original 60s recordings, the remixers splice in modern instruments. A similar tale can be told about each track, as each has a unique take on the combination of old vs. new. From sunshine pop lovers to mash up aficionados to underground hip hop heads, this record has a little something for everyone… except maybe death metal. There’s no death metal.