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Downtown Greenville, Illinois, is 50 miles northeast of St. Louis, set back from Interstate 70 by several long, winding roads. On a bone-chilling January day with the imminent threat of snow, the quaint Main Street area looks like a ghost town. Nearby Greenville College — a small school affiliated with the Free Methodist Church — is still on winter break, which probably explains the dearth of activity.
André Anjos, a senior in Greenville's music business program, lives in a yellow house a few blocks away from the main drag. In keeping with the idyllic setting, the yard is equipped with a white picket fence, even if rotting pumpkins slump next to piles of dead leaves on the front steps. Skateboards lean against the wall just inside the front door. Posters of Radiohead, Smashing Pumpkins and the Cure adorn a living room full of thrift-store furniture along with the requisite TV set and video-game systems.
In gray jeans and a black short-sleeved shirt with narrow white pinstripes, Anjos isn't dressed appropriately for the wintry weather, perhaps because he spent the holidays in his native Portugal. Back in Greenville he's been spending his afternoons making a record with his earnest, autumnal indie-rock band, the Silent Film. Unassuming and polite, he's almost bashful as he leads a tour of the gear-stuffed room between the living room and kitchen.
Affectionately nicknamed the "battle station," the workstation (which he shares with Karl Kling, his roommate and bandmate in the electro/new-wave project the Pragmatic) is a clash between modern and retro. On Anjos' side an oversize computer monitor on two long desks dwarfs a Dell laptop and a Mackie mixer. Two vintage analog keyboards sit to his right. One is a 1973 Univox MiniKorg; the other, a Roland Juno-60, dates from 1982. Behind him is a smorgasbord of found objects and eBay gold: Lite-Brite boards, a homemade Theremin, an old Mac and a dusty (and for the time being anyway), inoperable church organ.
Anjos flips on the Juno-60 and begins tapping out random notes and chords. "I'm not much of a keyboard player, so most of the stuff I do is real basic stuff," he says. "Have you ever seen Blade Runner? Well, if you listen to the soundtrack...." He fiddles with some buttons. Melancholic, eerie synthesizer tones — think 1970s sci-fi movies — emerge. "It's one of the main sounds in that movie; you use this for it."
The 23-year-old's fascination with neo-futuristic sounds and unorthodox textures informs his work as the founder of the Remix Artist Collective, which is better known by its acronym, the RAC. The three-person team — Anjos, Seattle-based Aaron Jasinski and Chris "Crookram" Angelovski, who lives in the Netherlands — has steadily gained recognition within the music industry since forming in late 2006.
Strangely enough, the RAC principals have never met in person. Six or seven years ago, Anjos contacted Crookram after being impressed by some songs he heard online. The pair formed a mutual admiration society, sharing homemade tracks and musical ideas via e-mail or instant messenger; Crookram helped teach Anjos about the computer software used for remixing and gave him recording tips. Similarly, Anjos befriended Jasinski after the latter won a few remixing contests through the Web site ACIDplanet.com.
For now Anjos handles the bulk of the RAC's remixing jobs, most of which involve reinterpreting indie-rock songs by infusing them with danceable beats and dreamy instrumentation. Crookram and Jasinski both have day jobs and other artistic endeavors. But in just over a year's time, the RAC has completed more than 40 remixes for a who's who of indie-rock royalty (Tegan and Sara, the Shins, Bloc Party) and hotly tipped prospects (Ra Ra Riot, Au Revoir Simone, Tokyo Police Club).
What's more, the RAC has assembled its high-profile client list and cemented its reputation mainly on the strength of its online presence. The popular gossip blog PerezHilton.com, for instance, streamed the "Shopaholic" remix Anjos made for UK hip-hop cutie Verbz. KEXP, an influential Seattle-based FM station, chose RAC's redo of Tokyo Police Club's "Be Good" as a featured selection on its "Song of the Day" podcast in late December. Online radio station WOXY.com featured an hourlong mix by Anjos on its Xtrabeats electronic music show a few weeks ago.
Along the way, the RAC has established its own brand identity. Unlike many electronic remixes, which are technical and precise to a fault, Anjos and his partners embody a unique aesthetic based around emotion and nuance, an almost intangible warmth and innate playfulness. It's hard to pinpoint what a remix from the collective might sound like — but when you do hear one, it's immediately recognizable.
"André's music has always struck me as being very powerful, and at the same time very free," Crookram comments via e-mail. "It's quite unlike my own music, which is much more reserved and melancholy. I like that contrast between our styles. André's tracks give me a glimpse into a musical world I could never create myself, but it's a world I really like nonetheless."
While attending high school in Portugal, André Anjos played guitar in a pop-rock band called Believe. Although he didn't write any of the band's songs, he did appear on national television and tour the country with the group. So he's not afraid to aim high — which is how indie superstars the Shins became the RAC's first remix subject, in January 2007.