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“SCALE IT BACK” REMIX CONTEST: THE WINNERS

Posted Jan 13, 2012

UPDATE: "The Scale it Back Remix Contest EP" is no longer available. Please see the "Scale it Back Remix EP" in the store.

Greetings all, and thank you for your patience. This contest was nothing short of staggering, both in terms of quantity and quality. I had never listened to 400 versions of ANYTHING before, and was amazed at the variety and creativity; it certainly made the many hours of listening go by quicker.
To each and every person who submitted an entry, allow me to simply say: BRAVO. This was a remix contest for the ages, and you all rose to the challenge admirably. I have appreciated the opportunity to listen to every single mix, and have been nothing short of inspired. THANK YOU, one and all.

Now for the winners. These are the mixes that I deemed to be of the highest quality and the most interesting and relevant to the remix contest. In some cases, popular mixes with a lot of plays, votes, and comments coincided with my personal taste; in other instances they did not. Ultimately, although I tried to consider everyone’s opinions, I had to rely first and foremost on my own.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the winners, as selected by myself:

1st Place (Tie)
Robotaki ( http://remix.djshadow.com/tracks/350 )

DJ Shadow - Scale It Back feat. Little Dragon (Robotaki Remix) by Robotaki

& Kev Willow ( http://remix.djshadow.com/tracks/364 )

Dj Shadow - Scale It Back (Kev Willow Remix) by Kev Willow

2nd Place
Jonny Wanha ( http://remix.djshadow.com/tracks/321 )

DJ Shadow feat. Little Dragon - Scale It Back (Jonny Wanha Remix) by Jonny Wanha

3rd Place
Party Ben ( http://remix.djshadow.com/tracks/147 )

DJ Shadow - Scale It Back feat Little Dragon (Party Ben Remix) by partyben

4th Place
Blunt Instrument ( http://remix.djshadow.com/tracks/213 )

DJ Shadow - Scale it back (Blunt Instrument remix) Check Description to VOTE by bluntinstrument

5th Place
The Archive ( http://remix.djshadow.com/tracks/399 )

Dj Shadow "Scale it back" (The Archive's Waltz) by The Archive

Yes, there is a tie for first place. BOTH mixes will be featured as part of the remix package to be available shortly on Island Records, and both receive the prize money. Oh, and by the way, ALL of the mixes above will be available soon as free, high quality downloads at djshadow.com.

This was so much fun to judge. I love each and every one of the finalists for different reasons, which I would like to articulate briefly:

Scale It Back (Kev Willow Remix)
As with Party Ben’s mix, Kev’s is technically flawless. From mix to arrangement to programming, there is NOTHING I would change. It is simply a perfect remix, with just the right balance of original elements and (incredible) new production.
This is a dubstep mix, and like many of you, I have heard my share of dubstep over the last couple of years, most of which I have liked, some I have not. Every style of dance music has a few innovators and hoards of copycats, which tends to dilute the music’s potency. At its best, I find dubstep to be exciting and visceral, much more aligned to my grimy hip-hop sensibilities than most other club music. Regardless of the genre (and Kev’s other soundcloud mixes show his versatility) talent deserves to be recognized, and Kev is a true talent, make no mistake. Wave down to me on your way to the top, Kev!

Scale It Back (Robotaki Remix)
With the most plays, Robotaki’s remix is an instant fan favorite, and for good reason: it’s smooth and satisfying, and to many listeners a welcome change from the darker, glitch-laden mixes. Of all the submissions, this is the one in which I can hear the most commercial potential. It’s musical, it’s fresh without being cheesy…and, it POUNDS. Whatever path Robotaki chooses to follow, it’s obvious that musical ability comes naturally to him. What an honor it is to be the beneficiary of such a seemingly effortless and effective piece of music. Congratulations, Robotaki!!!

Scale It Back (Jonny Wanha Remix)
Of all the remixes, Jonny’s entry wins the “it’s-stuck-in-my-head-and-I-can’t-stop-listening-to-it” award. The more I listened, the more I liked. There were several awesome down-tempo, moody mixes that were submitted, and this was my favorite. Such a wicked guitar line, such tasteful and cinematic orchestral touches…this mix “sounds like Shadow,” only better, in my estimation.

Scale It Back (Party Ben Remix)
No, I am not an expert on house music, or it’s many micro-genres, but I know enough to know that Party Ben nailed this remix. I recently burned a CD of the finalists to listen to in the car, and after taking in PB’s mix, exclaimed out loud to no-one in particular: “It’s perfect.” Seven minutes of slow burning brilliantly arranged perfection. Not one dead spot, not one hasty edit or wonky vocal phrase. Party Ben took my song in a direction I had no idea I wanted it to go, the sign of a truly successful and expertly executed remix.

Scale It Back (Blunt Instrument Remix)
Bonkers stuff, an exhibition of skills so impressive that it made me laugh out loud on first listen. If you’re not nodding your head emphatically by the second drop, you might want to take up lawn bowling. Big, bad beats galore. It’s obvious that Blunt Instrument will be a force to be reckoned with on a large scale very, very soon.

Scale It Back (The Archive Remix)
“And now, for something completely different…”
The Archive deliver charming, gorgeous music that resonates on the palate like a fine wine. Bold, musically sound, and totally original, this mix earns respect not by forceful aggression, but by taking a great concept and executing it perfectly. There were several late entries that successfully attempted a gentler approach, and this was my favorite.

I’d like to also call attention to a few other remixes, which I feel deserve special attention:

Cherenkov Riddim ( http://remix.djshadow.com/tracks/38 ) satisfying and different…

DJ Shadow - Scale it Back (Cherenkov Riddim Remix) by Cherenkov Riddim

Stereo Assassin ( http://remix.djshadow.com/tracks/56 ) best beat…

SCALE IT BACK (dj shadow vs. stereo assassin) by stereoassassin

Circus Atari Acrobats ( http://remix.djshadow.com/tracks/67 ) most original…

"Scale it Back" by DJ Shadow [Far-out (2for1) ReMix] by Circus Atari Acrobats

Irn Mnky ( http://remix.djshadow.com/tracks/176 ) wicked dnb…

DJ Shadow - Scale It Back [Irn Mnky Judgement Mix] by Irn Mnky

Ikabod Bum ( http://remix.djshadow.com/tracks/204 ) wasteland menace supreme…

Ikabod Bum x DJ Shadow x Little Dragon - Scale it Back (Rework) by ...Ikabod Bum o_0

Mars-One ( http://remix.djshadow.com/tracks/246 ) solid dubstep…

DJ Shadow: "Scale It Back" F. Little Dragon MARS REMIX by MARS-ONE

DJ D,O,R ( http://remix.djshadow.com/tracks/247 ) great headnod…

Scale it back (dj d,o,r RemiX) by dj d,o,r

Infest ( http://remix.djshadow.com/tracks/264 ) so atmospheric…

Dj Shadow Feat Little Dragon - Scale it back (Infest CityScape Remix) by Infest

Nick Andrew ( http://remix.djshadow.com/tracks/390 ) perfect chill…

Scale It Back (Nick Andrew Remix) by Nick Andrew

There were others I loved also!

My criteria for judging the four-hundred and six mixes evolved as I listened, but several sticking points emerged which helped in the “weeding out” process. The single biggest issue seemed to be the vocals. Many mixes failed to account for the truncated 4th bar, causing the vocals to drift all over the time line. Other submissions asked a little too much out of available time-stretching software by shoving the vocals into a tempo change that caused unintentionally unpleasant artifacts and awkward phrasing. Still other mixes had a killer beat idea or groove, but failed to evolve beyond the first 45 seconds, causing the mix to feel one-note.
Overall, I ended up flagging about 50 entries as “worth a second look,” and then narrowed it down from there. Some mixes I commented on, most I did not…yes, there were mixes I liked that I did NOT comment on for whatever reason; it depended on my mood from day to day, and I didn’t want to overdo it. Naturally, my primary motivation for commenting was to offer encouragement and praise.

Did I “mess up” and overlook someone’s mix?
It’s certainly possible, but I did listen to all of the mixes that were available, although in some cases the user removed them…

Am I crazy because I preferred someone else’s mix to yours?
Highly likely…100 judges would come up with 100 different winners. I tried to be as objective, disciplined and unbiased as possible in making my selections. I feel I can professionally judge quality dance music of ALL genres, regardless of my personal preferences. Regardless of the outcome, I would encourage all 406 artists who contributed to this contest to KEEP DOING WHAT YOU’RE DOING, and to use this contest as a valuable networking and learning tool.

Am I going to offer stems again in the future? Will there be another remix contest? Almost certainly. Our first contest, held in 2010, yielded amazing results and introduced me to artists that I consider true peers. This contest upped the ante (to put it mildly) and has set the standard for future experiments.
Incidentally, I’d like to thank Michael Fiebach and the Soundcloud staff for their expertise and hard work. EVERYONE involved in this project loves music, and that’s reason enough for me to do it again.

Congratulations to the winners and to everyone who participated…I am truly humbled.
Until next time,

-DJ Shadow