In the midst of working on the follow-up to their critically-acclaimed debut Playlouder, the Norwegian group Serena-Maneesh has dropped this double-disc of early material, re-mastered and repackaged for audiences outside their home country. It features work from two early EPs (Zuruck and Fixxations) along with remixes and a couple videos, adding up to over eighty minutes worth of music.
I was one of those people who wound the work of the debut from the group to be rather derivative and uninteresting, so I'll admit from the start that this collection likely isn't exactly the sort of thing that's aimed in my direction. It's one of those warts-and-all collections that groups put out to sate fans and possibly gain a few new fans at the same time, but in the end doesn't end up offering a ton of new windows of insight into their sound (although certain remixes take the group in somewhat exciting directions).
One of these is the fuzzed-out, but seriously poppy NJ Recreation Room Mix of "Hear Bleed Phil Harmonic," which veers into a backwards-track laced dreampop extravaganza that charms despite the lo-fidelity mix. Although it's a different result, the same could be said of the Grandsport mix of "Oxygen, Please!," which shimmers off into the same sort of heady space that Curve and other female-led electronics-laced groups pulled off a decade ago. The original versions of each track don't fare nearly as well, with vocals buried in murky layers of guitar feedback and syrupy rhythms that never really shake free.
On the second disc (which collects work and related material from the Zuruck EP) it's again the remixes that shine more. Although it still feels a bit on the sloppy side, the Ancient mix of "Leipziger Love Life" mixes horns other gritty passages into the song to somehow more than double its original length and still make it sound more compelling while the NJ Recreation mix of "Sehnsucht/Drag Me Upstairs" turns the original into a tripped-out beast that again accentuates the quiet vocals alongside some squalling outbursts, making the dynamic range much more exciting than the original. If the group can somehow capture the more experimental and even odd edge of their different mixes, I think they might have something going. When they're just doing their thing, they simply sound like far too many other bands that are just trying to milk the legacy of the Jesus And Mary Chain a bit longer.