Dean & Britta – 13 Most Beautiful… Songs For Andy Warhol’s Screen Tests

Dean & Britta - 13 Most Beautiful... Songs For Andy Warhol's Screen Tests

Whilst some of Dean Wareham’s most ‘traditionalist’ audience might have taken more convincing about his decision to break up Luna and to then make his side-project duo with bassist/wife Britta Phillips his primary vocation, the skilled crafting of soundtracks for 13 previously silent Andy Warhol-directed ‘Screen Tests’ must surely have validated the creative union of Dean & Britta for any questioning followers.  Released last year on DVD, as well as toured extensively before and since, the 13 Most Beautiful project has revealed the two as highly-flexible sound sculptures and unpretentious interpreters of vintage pop-art.

So expertly have the film scores been delivered, that many of us would have been happy with just a professional DVD-audio rip of the existing music on to CD.  But being forever friends of record-collecting fans, Wareham and Phillips instead opted to supplement the original tracks with new remixes (from Sonic Boom, Scott Hardkiss and others) on this lovingly-packaged limited edition 2-disc set on their own label.

Whilst there is initial mild frustration that the DVD sequence has been put on shuffle, so that new versions intermingle with the old in a revised running order (that drops the formative incarnations of “Richard Rheem Theme’ and “I’ll Keep It With Mine” in the process) it soon subsides when the realisation comes that the twosome have allowed these songs and wordless compositions to breathe even wider and deeper than before.  Consequently, the collection is a little less lethargic in its movements than the DVD edition, which no doubt comes from the detachment of the slow-mo visuals.  Thus, the more upswinging cuts swim closer to the surface; with the two rambunctious but divergent takes on the rare VU gem “Not A Young Man Anymore” and the pop-exotica rewiring of Luna’s obscure “Eyes In My Smoke” now becoming more prominent highlights.  The dreamier vocal-led tracks, which still form the bulk of the collection, sound even more balmy and strung-out, with the gorgeous likes of “Teenage Lightning (And Lonely Highways),” “It Don’t Rain In Beverly Hills,” and Dylan’s “I’ll Keep It With Mine” casting bigger somnambulant spells across their multiple mixes.

However, the true magic of the 13 Most Beautiful experiment has always been – and remains – within the impervious instrumental set-pieces.  Hence, the mesmeric “Ann Buchanan Theme” is still peerlessly touching; the twanging “Silver Factory Theme” and “Herringbone Tweed” still bring in deliciously dark-hued grooves; “Incandescent Innocent” still rumbles with latent dread; and “Richard Rheem Theme” still throbs with enigmatic electro-pulses, which are now enhanced by a warped-techno coda.

Although 13 Most Beautiful could arguably have made for a tighter translation on to CD, its new breathtaking expansiveness is something for both prior-converts and late-comers to truly sink into and gorge themselves upon.  Where Dean & Britta go next is currently unknown, but based on the evidence here, it’s almost certainly bound to be somewhere alluring and adventurous, given the creative leg-up that 13 dusty Warhol film-reels have generously given to them.

Double Feature Records