"‘Won’t Live It Down’ ... had me absolutely floored. 'Matterbloomlight' feels like bouncing around in the clouds, a floating sensation that’s blissful throughout. A truly mesmerizing record."
Kartik Sundar, Find No Enemy
"Their lyricism possesses stunning depth ... beautiful sonic canvasses ... a mesmerizing vocal performance ..."
Rubin Mathias, Sinusoidal Music
Bardo Hauntings are remixes, "complete reimaginings of the songs on ... American Bardo (2020). They are hauntings in that the original songs are there, but just like specters, they are hidden beneath the sheen of these brilliant remixes, which take the songs somewhere between Americana, folk, and electronica ... gorgeous songs ... sublime .... hypnotic ... brilliantly introspective lyrics ... stunning ... an inspired, soaring sound."
Moataz Gwaily, Rock Era Magazine
Remixes of the 12 songs of American Bardo
Released October 3, 2022
Produced and Mixed by Mike Butler
Volume One Remixes by Mike Butler
Volume Two Remixes by Steven Jess Borth II
Mastered by Jamal Ruhe
Bardo Hauntings is a collection of remixes of all the songs on American Bardo: the remixes are hauntings of the original twelve songs.
George Saunders' novel, Lincoln in the Bardo, is an American Buddhist's yurei story that explores American history and many other hauntological subjects and themes.
Indie Folk Remixed Into EDM? It Works, thanks to Eric Anders, Mark O’Bitz, and Their Collaborators
A new twist on two genres we didn't know needed blending: prepare for the 'Bardo Hauntings'
Eric Anders and Mark O’Bitz are a prolific indie folk/Americana duo who have produced some of the most interesting and beautiful work the genre has seen in the last four years. With the harmonizing aptitude of Fleet Foxes and the like but the post-punk grit of Tom Waits, these two artists are well-known by those of us at YEDM who follow such circles, but we never thought they’d end up featured on YEDM. We should never underestimate the innovation of good artists, and the newly remixed versions of their haunting 2020 album American Bardo show Anders and O’Bitz as the latest artists to prove that point.
Now that we hear them--the remixes of American Bardo, retitled for the occasion as Bardo Hauntings and split into two parts--they sound like they were made to be electronic all along. So much so, in fact, that the original songs almost sound a bit minimal now. Quite often with folk and Americana work that’s been re-written or remixed into electronica or pop, there’s a moment of, “hmm, that’s weird,” in one’s head, followed by either a yay or nay vote. This is very much not the case with Bardo Hauntings, and the reason for these remixes gelling so well is definitely the remixers, Mike Butler and Steven Jess Borth II (CHLLNGR).
Bardo Hauntings I: Butler Remixes contains remixes from half of American Bardo done by engineer and producer Mike Butler. Aside from his engineering creds with Phoebe Bridgers, Norah Jones, The Shins, and The Pretenders (among countless others), Butler has been working with Anders and O’Bitz for a long time. Intimate knowledge of an artist’s body of work obviously helps with a project like this, and Butler probably has the most intimate knowledge of these artists aside from the artists themselves. He produced and mixed American Bardo itself, along with every Anders/O’Bitz release since (save for 2021’s single, "True September Songs") including the Bardo Hauntings EPs.
For those EDM fans who are also aware of the jazz, folk, and ska worlds, Steve Borth may already be a familiar name. Part of a musical dynasty begun by his father Steven Jess Borth I, Borth II had an early aptitude for music and was recognized as a saxophone prodigy by age 10. Borth has been all over the world utilizing his multi-instrumental talents in ensembles and ska bands, but EDMers may know him better by his ska/reggae/soul/electronica crossover project, CHLLNGR. Fusing all those genres with breaks, future bass, dubstep, house, and techno, Borth’s CHLLNGR project garnered him quite a bit of attention from the EDM world in the early 2010s. His aptitude for such fusion also made him a perfect choice for Bardo Hauntings.
The 12 remixes on American Bardo are split evenly between Butler and Borth to make the two Bardo Hauntings, but it seems the two artists picked which ones they wanted, as the track order doesn’t follow the original LP. In this way, each producer was able to tell his own story with the tracks they chose. It seems Anders and O’Bitz gave them carte blanche.
The title, ‘Bardo Hauntings,’ is based on the idea that remixes haunt the original songs. In this case, the original songs are those of American Bardo, so these remixes are “bardo hauntings.” As with ghosts, the original is present and absent at the same time. (Eric Anders)
Butler flexed some composition muscles few other than his laundry list of famous clients have heard before. Ranging from the startling yet emotive industrial/ambient blend of the “Won’t Live It Down” remix to the heady, theatrical, and largely analog remix of “Matterbloomlight” (this is now the third version of this achingly beautiful song, by the way) to the minimal hour mix of “Holding Will,” Butler incorporates a range of styles and genres without overdoing it. This is key with such a delicate sound palette as with Anders and O’Bitz’s original discography.
Borth’s remixes are both more grassroots and more ravey than Butler’s approach. In most of the tracks he remixes, Borth keeps almost all of the original stems, including the instrumentals and general pop/rock structure, as more and more electronica creeps in progressively to the tunes as both they and the EP roll on. The first track “Haunting Abraham,” for example, starts off almost completely acoustic and then grows in production complexity as Borth adds in a house beat subtly masked as analog. By the end, the track has a full complement of strings and cannot be easily recognizable as a pop or folk EDM track. Talk about delicate treatment; it’s almost like we’re duped into rave tracks on Borth’s EP, and each track is a surprise as to how it will unveil itself.
Butler and Borth had very different approaches to this remixing project, but they both brought out the best of Anders and O’Bitz’s work, and hopefully exposed it to a whole new range of fans. The idea that these are electronic “hauntings” of American Bardo is a brilliant one, as it ties in the Bardo Hauntings not only to the original album but to the 2017 Pulitzer-winning book by George Saunders, Lincoln In the Bardo upon which American Bardo was based. It’s an illustration of how great art begets great art begets great art and it can spread across media, generations, and genres. Now the only thing left to do is go full-on Bardo inception and have Butler and Borth remix each other’s remixes. In the meantime, a beautiful body of work is now here for folk, literature, and EDM fans alike to enjoy these “hauntings.”
Layla Marino, YourEDM.com
Eric Anders and Mark O’Bitz – Bardo Hauntings I: Butler Remixes
I find it hard to classify one bit what Eric Anders and Mark O’Bitz were going for on Bardo Hauntings I: Butler Remixes. Now does that for one moment mean that it’s a bad thing? Not in the slightest. The confusingly eclectic record incorporates elements of dark house, indie rock, folk music, Americana, and also classic pop. The record is in effect a remix collection, a reimagining of past work that completely blurs the lines of what the originals were. They see and view remixes as ‘Hauntings’, hence the aptly named title. But, in other forms, the sheer mood and tonality of the tunes themselves definitely give off those same haunting vibes.
‘Won’t Live It Down’ opens the album on a cracker of a note, a dark and brooding electronic-emphasized instrumental that slowly but surely gives way to more decisive rock tunes before hitting a cathartic crescendo with a beat drop that had me absolutely floored. 'Matterbloomlight' feels like bouncing around in the clouds, a floating sensation that’s blissful throughout. ‘And One Love’ returns to that magnificent electronic and rock confluence with striking confidence.
Perhaps there’s more to be gained from hearing the originals through and through, but from the remixes alone, I found myself very enamoured by the entire record. It’s so refreshing to see such an eclectic approach, the kind that I really can’t even draw a parallel to, especially taking these uplifting Americana-based driving melodies and then tilting them into this cascading river of electronic music to give it a wholly different flavour and flow. A truly mesmerizing record.
Kartik Sundar, Find No Enemy
Eric Anders and Mark O’Bitz – Bardo Hauntings I: Butler Remixes | Evocative Art
Eric Anders and Mark O’Bitz, the indie rock and alternative singer-songwriter duo from California have come up with an eclectic remix album. Eric and Mark hail from northern and southern California respectively and have been making music since 2003.
The twelve tracks from their album 2020 American Bardo were remixed as the remix album Bardo Hauntings released in two volumes. Six of these tracks are remixed by Mike Butler for Bardo Hauntings I. American Bardo was based on the 2017 American writer George Saunders' experimental novel, Lincoln in the Bardo, which addresses American history as well as a variety of other hauntological topics and themes. With their lyricism which possesses stunning depth and sonically vivid musical expression, the listener cannot help but emote with each song on the record.
The album begins with "Won’t Live It Down (Butler Remix)" which begins with a heavy synth bass and beats that lay down an industrial intense sound. Vocals traverse through this dense arrangement like butter. A string section adds to the stunning impending cinematic aura of the song.
"Matterbloomlight (Butler Remix)" has a porous chordal backdrop on which the vocals are drenched in apt amounts of reverb. There is also good use of percussive tabla samples coupled with string sections and vocal harmonies. Electric guitars with dense layering add to the arrangement.
The Butler remix of "And One Love" has a gritty synth riff over a retro electronic arrangement. Beautiful sonic canvasses are conjured on this track. A song one would revel in. The fourth track is the Butler remix of "Bury Me." A cello commences the track with a mesmerizing vocal performance and a solid rhythm. Another song with an amazing arrangement you would be immersed in.
"Holding Will" is the fifth Butler remix on the record. There is a great amount of classic electronic production on this song. The novel arrangement gives the song a fresh upbeat approach which gives it a new spin. The remix album concludes with the sixth and final Butler remix of "Judgment Day." With some interesting chord changes and production which elevates the song, we get a great swan song to the record.
The evocative vocals of Eric Anders are akin to Phil Collins or Elton John. While the music of Eric Anders and Mark O’Bitz usually lies in Americana and folk, the adult contemporary indie electronic remixes on the record are top-notch and all wonderful reimaginings of their songs. The remix album aims to send us into a state of hypnosis with the music possessing an elegant and vivid sensory aural experience. Trip-hop, downtempo, and other indie rock styles are used on the original tracks to great results which results in a fresh sonic narrative. This is an immersive record that is not merely a remix but reimagined album.
Rubin Mathias, Sinusoidal Music
Bardo Hauntings I: Butler Remixes is an Eric Anders and Mark O'Bits EP
I really liked the atmosphere created by these songs. A hypnotic sound with magical melodies and electronic sounds that in some moments made me think of Moby of the 90s, Depeche Mode, and I also heard nuances of the Pet Shop Boys. I recommend listening to Bardo Hauntings I: Butler Remixes with your eyes closed. These songs have the ability to create oneiric visions and transport you to a parallel universe. For a moment I forgot the reality that was around me and I abandoned myself only to the futuristic and ancestral sound of the music of Eric Anders and Mark O'Bitz. This duo is reconfirmed for the refinement of their music and above all for the very high-quality artistic vision.
EP: Bardo Hauntings I: Butler Remixes by Eric Anders and Mark O’Bitz
A bardo, in Buddhism, is the state between death and rebirth. An in-between place, which is an apt description for the music that Eric Anders and Mark O’Bitz write.
A prolific songwriting duo from California, Anders and O’Bitz’s music is a dazzling blend of folk Americana. Haunting folk songwriting with searing Americana sensibilities are trademarks of the duo’s music. Their two latest EP releases, Bardo Hauntings I & II are remix EPs. What they offer are complete reimaginings of the songs on their 2020 release, American Bardo. They are hauntings in that the original songs are there, but just like specters, they are hidden beneath the sheen of the brilliant remixes, which take the songs somewhere between Americana, folk, and electronica. A haunting world explored with professional sensibilities through six gorgeous songs.
Away from the mythology, this EP does a very delicate job of shifting the focus from the acoustic guitars of the original songs to glitchy, buzzing electronic elements, transforming them from folk to the aforementioned eccentric blend, and this is done with striking success. Starting with a foreboding industrial sound with crunchy, distorted drums and ghostly percussion on the starter. "Won’t Live It Down" is the ethereal closer to the original album. The prominent vocal melody and haunting lyrics are accompanied by a grandiose arrangement that utilizes the industrial sound alongside a dark, synthetic string sound for an atmosphere that’s as airy and expansive as it is oppressive. A sublime starter.
The sophomore track, "Matterbloomlight," is hypnotic. With a dance beat that leans heavily on ethnic Indian percussion, coupled with a charismatic, evocative vocal delivery with ample space between the eloquent phrases for a breezy, intoxicating, and mythical sound. "Bury Me" has a slumbering low tempo and an emotional composition with brilliantly introspective lyrics. The atmospheric pads are haunting and spectral and create a mood that’s light and airy, grounded by the dramatic topics and the extremely slow pace.
"Holding Will" is a stunning composition with an inspired soaring sound and a delightful string arrangement. This haunting has a solid, electronic groove, a rhythm that’s stadium-sized, and a vocal delivery that’s colorful and full of character. "Judgement Day" has a harrowing, deep sound with an ultra-deep bass and a steady beat. The dazzling chord progressions and vocals with healthy space, and composed melodies are perfectly supportive of the vibes of this song, elevating it to be an outstanding closer.
Bardo Hauntings I sees the duo wading into new waters. The folk and Americana songwriting duo set out for a daunting task, and it was executed in a totally professional, calculated manner. The songs on this album have varied sounds and a bunch of unique, inventive ideas, all delivered effortlessly and elegantly. This EP of remixes is a perfectly solid standalone listen; you don’t need to be familiar with the original songs to grasp the beauty within these reimaginings. And on an expected closing note, the originals happen to be just as stunning.
Moataz Gwaily, Rock Era Magazine