A new remix project focusing on Mike Oldfield’s 1973 genre-defining new-age smash Tubular Bells ends on a stirring note, as the multi-instrumentalist is joined by ex-Nightwish singer Tarja Turunen on the finale “Never Too Far.”
Oldfield has found, in the Finnish three-octave wonder, someone whose voice fits seamlessly into every flowing eddy, every rivulet of sound, as he creates yet another spacious, one-man soundscape. After years, and years, of trying to reconfigure, reimagine and otherwise update his masterstroke debut, Tubular Beats offers, at long last, a reason to reinvest.
“Never Too Far” is for everyone who stuck around for David Bedford’s Orchestral Tubular Bells, which followed in 1975, and then Oldfield’s Tubular Bells II in 1992, III in 1998, The Millenium Bell in 1999, a completely re-recorded version called Tubular Bells 2003 and, most recently, the remastered original in 2009. That’s to say nothing of the seemingly countless live versions.
Elsewhere, Tubular Beats (due February 5, 2013 from earMusic/Eagle Rock) actually begins to make a pretty convincing argument for examining this material yet again, as Oldfield collaborates with Torsten “York” Stenzel, the celebrated German producer. Together, using the original multi-track tapes, they’ve created boisterous remixes of now-familiar cuts like “Tubular Bells,” “Moonlight Shadow” and “To France” — adding a modern dance sheen.
Whereas the original moved in ambient variations, like wind through the curtains of an open window, there is a crackling new energy on Tubular Beats, and the mixture proves to be surprisingly involving — not unlike the play of crashing noise and then bracing stillness found in Brian Eno’s more recent work.
In the end, however, all of it feels like a preamble once you’ve lost yourself in the Turunen cut. She begins with a breathy reminiscence, as Oldfield unleashes icy sheets of synthesizers, then soars into unforeseen heights as he adds a trickling rhythm and a series of searching guitar lines.
Turunen says she used a vocal by Bonnie Tyler from Oldfield’s 1987 project Islands as an inspirational starting point for “Never Too Far,” but there hasn’t been anything quite like this — despite so many tries — on a Tubular-related album before. It’s worth the price of admission.