A Very Special Episode Remix Your Hearts or Die
In October 2021, the fantastic noise/post-punk band A Very Special Episode released Fix Your Hearts or Die, their first full-length album. Named for a line from the 2017 revival of David Lynch’s Twin Peaks, the record takes listeners on a harrowing journey through storms of noise, haunting beauty, and crippling anxiety, much like the TV show it alludes to. Fix Your Hearts or Die is a profoundly satisfying (and sometimes frightening) record, and to celebrate its first full year out in the world, AVSE has invited an exciting line-up of other talented bands and musicians to remix nine of the original eleven tracks. The result is the aptly named Remix Your Hearts or Die, a true community art project where we all get to hear what happens when the current NYC (and beyond) music scene gets into a collaborative dialogue.
Remix Your Hearts or Die starts out with the title track, AVSE’s own remix of the original album’s title track (and the only remix that comes from them here). The tone is foreboding, with wall-of-sound guitars (from Patrick Porter) sounding an alarm in the distance, while Chayse Schutter on drums holds down a slow, ominous beat as creepy layers of synth pulsate. Lead vocalist Kasey Heisler’s magnificent voice is almost completely missing from this version. Instead we hear David Lynch (playing FBI Deputy Director Gordon Cole) speaking this inspiring line to his colleague, a trans woman: “When you became Denise, I told all of your colleagues, those clown comics, to fix their hearts or die.”
A Very Special Episode (photo by Jen Meller)
And how can the clowns fix their hearts? Brooklyn band Colatura’s remix of “DFP” urges us to dance our way toward the fix, with a much more synth-drenched pop version of the original, transforming the song’s initial sense of dread into a frantic dance party spinning in an echo chamber of layers of Heisler’s vocals, dying out with an eerie crackling. Several of the other remixes here also seem to be leading the clowns to the dance floor, including “Everdream” (Taaj Al Khaliq remix of “Evergreene”), “Space Cowboy” (COUPY remix of “Cowboy”), and “Introspectre” (Ilithios remix).
But not all of the remixing here is fixing our hearts by seducing us on the dance floor. “Weather” (Jon F Daily remix) flips the structure of the original, beginning and repeating more the dangerous self-destructive voice in Heisler’s original lyrics, “Pull me back down / to the water / I wanna feel it filling up my lungs.” The Cigarettes for Breakfast remix of “New Coke” pulls out Patrick Porter’s aggressive guitar work with an even darker sound. The whole track ends with a voice from another David Lynch creation Mulholland Drive, that creepy cowboy’s warning: “Now, you will see me one more time if you do good. You’ll see me two more times if you do bad.”
Maybe those clown comics will only fix their hearts by feeling menaced, by rolling around in some intense dread. That seemed to be the tone of the original record, and creepy cowboys show up again in the Amskray remix of “Cowboy” (the only song from the original record to be remixed twice). Many of the original lyrics are lost in this remix, as if we’re only hearing what the cowboy can hear, and a lot gets lost in the noise of his toxic masculinity brain. He may get us going, but he’s never going to listen to us. The Nihiloceros remix of “Spent” also builds on this project of threatening us to fix us, with the bridge exploding like in the original, but with an even grungier guitar sound, and an ominous scream wailing over it all.
A Very Special Episode live (photos by Jen Meller)
Only one remix here combines two songs, and that’s the Atlas Engine remix of “Fire Walk With Me // Fuck Everything” (yes, more inspiration from Lynch, in the original album and here). The combined remix starts out in a grind of turmoil, with Heisler’s vocals more distorted than in the original. The chaos falls away, and we hear Laura Palmer (from Fire Walk With Me) musing about how it would feel to fall in space, before the repetition of “Fuck Everything” blooms into a sparkling line of electronica where we’re dancing again.
Like the album that inspired it, Remix Your Hearts or Die takes listeners on an epic and strange journey, worthy of the David Lynch works referred to throughout both. Both albums are available on their Bandcamp page (with Fix Your Hearts or Die also available on Spotify). If you’d like to see A Very Special Episode in action live, don’t miss their upcoming show at East Williamsburg Econo Lodge on November 18th.