How does one rework a certifiable classic? And what is the desired goal in doing so? Should the track maintain what made the original great or be completely indistinguishable from it? Some tracks simply have more mileage than others—Masters at Work's "The Ha Dance," for example, has been enduringly malleable—but horrendous remix packages of the Trax and Nu Groove catalogs have recently proven that these are few and far between. Grime hasn't seen the same level of retroactivity as house and techno, for a number of reasons. It's an MC-driven music, for one, and many of its MCs have been as ephemeral as the rudimentary productions they spat over. The scene's connection to pirate radio has meant many of its classic moments were just that: moments of pure, spontaneous energy. Moreover, grime is only about 10 years old at this point, and its few truly anthemic instrumentals have been mercilessly rinsed. Youngstar's "Pulse X" is one of them. The track has appeared on virtually all of the genre's seminal radio sets, and still gets play today—along with some of Wiley's eskibeats, it's often the modern DJ's token grime track of choice.
"Pulse X" is a simple proposition, its light-footed bassline skirting around a punchy percussive skip, occasionally switching into blunt overdrive. Its appeal comes down to sheer alien ferocity. Like so many classics, the track seems to will itself into going as hard as it does. There is no extravagance, just a few unmistakable elements locked into a powerful arrangement. London label Liminal Sounds has found five producers willing to remix "Pulse X," though the track's singularity is too much for any of them to handle.
That isn't to suggest they don't try. The artists are a formidable bunch, representing the current crème of experimental, grime-influenced producers. Visionist's take adds a strangulated R&B vocal and urgent string arrangements in attempt to lend the brute original some melody. When he deploys Youngstar's distorted bass bounce, however, his personal contribution falters. This continues as a general trend throughout the EP—new touches are offered, but any hint of the original (usually in the form of bass hits) overpowers. Blackwax introduces tensile, gymnastic break rolls, while Slackk's extended, fairly reverent rearrangement adds clusters of syncopated hand drums. As with the others, Pedro 123's revision is ruled by the bassline, which seems slightly off-kilter. He constantly breaks up the track with rewinds, which, while removing a fair bit of energy, does make it well-suited to MCing. Finally, Elsewhere adds a clipped Dizzee Rascal sample and semi-constant hi-hats before dropping in some 8-bit plinks toward the end. There truly isn't a poor production here, but each pales in comparison to Youngstar's track. Although the reworks testify to the lasting appeal of "Pulse X" by highlighting (or being overwhelmed by) what makes the original great, there is no such treasure to be found on these mostly undaring efforts.