In September 2023, Robots In Love returned with a new single, ‘Gossip In Your Head’. The track presented the New Zealand dark pop band’s sound in the most effective way possible, by blending a love of old school electronica with a more modern production values. More importantly, they made a potentially cold sounding arrangement really spring to life with the help of a very inviting vocal, and the end result occasionally sounded like Dubstar colliding with something further within the alternative pop realm. Meatier than La Roux, but poppier than Garbage, it was very much the sort of single that deserved to bring the Robots a new wave of fans.
This EP re-presents the track in four very different versions, and in doing so, not only demonstrates how a great song can be malleable, but also produces disparate results that could bring Robots In Love to the attention of different audiences.
The Mercy Cage’s remix opens with a wavering drone and the familiar wordless hook, but then veers off into a light industrial arrangement where the bleeps and clicks call back to early KMFDM throughout. This rather retro, very rhythmic mix has a great feel and is very sympathetic to the original track’s pop-ish heart, but it’s the way in which the wordless hook has been taken and used extensively across the three minutes that really makes it all work. The repetitious nature of this makes the re-worked track especially catchy. Beneath the newly applied rhythms, there’s still a great melody lurking too, and the lead vocal – although now reduced to a quiet accompaniment somewhere behind the groove – continues to fly the flag for strongly arranged alt-pop. Overall, this is bigger sounding, but never in a way that demotes some great electronica and pop; it’s an alternative to a superb track, but never a replacement, just as any great remix should be.
Going even deeper into to remix territory, the offering from “UK outsider artist” Max Rael – known for his work with History of Guns and Decommissioned Forests – is absolutely brilliant. Adopting a downtempo feel at first, he applies a hard edged beat and a deep electronic pulse, and manipulates these in a way that takes Robots In Love’s pop-ish into a place where bits of early 80s goth bleed through the melodies. There are times where the pulsing synth bass seems to want to share the riff from The Cure’s classic ‘A Forest’; there are other moments where a slow and hazy synth pop feel further accentuates a cool darkness within the Robots’ sound, but whichever mood Rael decides to share, it never detracts from Elenor Rayner’s melodic dreampop-ish vocal. By the time the tempo increases for a big climax, this actually sounds like a natural single of its own, rather than a remix of an extant track.
Raynor’s own ‘Permanent Rain’ remix, as you’d expect, retains the most of the original recording. She just boosts it, gently, by applying a bigger rhythm throughout, and adding a little more of a dreampop vibe to a few of the guitar lines. This, although rather subtle, works very well, making a strong electronic indie pop track sound so much bigger. Rounding out the release, The Sound Key’s de-mix is actually the first recording of the song, included here for completeness, and once you’re used to Robots In Love, plays well in its own right, almost like a de facto demo for the track. Performed by the writers – Luke Anlezark and Graeme Jack – its amazing how different it sounds when helmed by a rockier male vocal. The dream pop elements all but subside, and instead it takes on an almost gothy overtone. The main melody holds firm, which seems very natural, and in a couple of places, a touch more guitar adds a little more of an alternative 90s feel when weaving a riff beneath a slightly gruff voice. If you’re a fan of the Robots’ recording, this certainly makes for strong – but very different – extra-curricular listening.
From the off, ‘Gossip In Your Head’ had the makings of a great track, but hearing Max Rael and Elenor Raynor bring even more greatness from its pop origins more than confirms it. This four track download belongs in the digital collections of everyone who felt an instant attraction to the original Robots In Love recording, and possibly even a few other people besides. It might play like bonus materials rather than a fully fledged EP of new treats , but this EP of re-worked material is great in its own right, and certainly worth the small price of a download.