The Ayumi Hamasaki Maxi-Single: H/\L

End roll (HΛL’s MIX) / appears (HΛL’s MIX)
kanariya (HΛL’s Mix) /vogue (HΛL’S MIX 2000)

Ayumi Hamasaki is probably the most remixed artist on the planet. Not only has she churned out nine original albums in under seven years, but she has also released seventeen original remix albums, forty singles (seventeen of which are packed full of more than eight remixes of the title track apiece), and six German released trance singles. However, in this article, what concerns me the most are not even the compilations, but the wonder that was the Ayumi Hamasaki Maxi-Single. R.I.P 1999-2002.

In 1999, Hamasaki released her ninth official single and first official maxi-single that was to set the precedent for later maxi-singles. While most singles are rather expendable promotional discs, Hamasaki was determined to make her singles sell and worth the exorbitant $12 price tag by including an endless stream of remixes. These remixes ranged from the techno, to the trance, to the house, to the club, to the ambient strange; there was no territory that both Japanese and foreign remixers weren’t willing to cover. During the course of three years, before Hamasaki succumbed to the drab title track, two remixes, and an instrumental that patterned the usual fare of Japanese singles, not only did the songs featured cross the spectrum of genres brilliantly, but they also featured well-known to the not-so-well known DJs. Many of the DJs made continued appearances and even came to be expected to provide a worthy enough rendition of the original.

Aside from having their own band and working on numerous arrangments of Hamasaki originals, HΛL is also credited for providing some of the best remixes on the maxi-singles. This is probably because the songs were not just “remixes” in the general sense of the term; all of the HΛL remixes sounded like original, new compositions, a talent quite the feat in an endless strobe of trance and euro remixes. Their first appearance was on the maxi-single Boys & Girls and unlike the poppy original, HΛL incorporated an ominous sounding guitar set amidst a techno-industrial brigade of digital audio. On their next attempt, via “End roll,” they provided a hyper-genki rendition of the subdued ballad, infusing it with flavor and a dreamy synthscape. Each of their remixes extended beyond the obvious of the original, implementing mostly synthetic instrumentation alongside the occasional organic guitar, although you wouldn’t know it by the way it had been digitally tweaked. I don’t think I have ever heard one HΛL remix that I disliked, aside from one of their last endeavors on the forgiveness single, “HANABI~episode II~.” That was the end of HΛL’s career as one of the most fabulous contributors (amongst huge overseas names like Ferry Corsten and Armin van Buuren) to the Hamasaki remixography and the end of the prominent role of the remix in Hamasaki’s career that gave her a name in even the tiniest corners of European clubs where she would have otherwise remained unheard of.

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