In the early ’90s, the crucible of intelligent dance music, IDM forerunner Autechre put a song called “Eggshell” on their 1993 debut album, Incunabula. Those who followed their career knew this was a reworked version of “The Egg,” a song on the 1992 compilation album Artificial Intelligence. I, however, was none the wiser when I first heard “Eggshell” in the early-to-mid 2000s. By the time I came across “The Egg” some time later, I’d spent much valuable time with “Eggshell,” but immediately took to its predecessor. Why? “The Egg” felt darker, more immediate, more aggressive; it knew what it was. “Eggshell” seemed to fall by the wayside, an echo of the emotion “Egg” elicits. But is that unfair?

Despite — or perhaps because of — hearing “Eggshell” first, I’ma tackle “The Egg” on top. Right away it establishes itself as heavy, dark, almost playful. A complicated staccato beat accompanies one melody, then another, coupled with glitching sound bytes. Harmonic parts offset and build, transitioning to more bombastic drum patterns. This is a song that gets shit done. Record scratches underpin yet another melody, not emerging until almost the 5 minute mark, which is no mean feat in a 7:33 song. All three, plus a supplemental offshoot from #3, come together at 6 minutes, only to drop out less than a minute later. The song dissipates, the listener charged by the experience.

“Eggshell” stands at a whopping 9 minutes, yet feels far shorter. Its starting melody is identifiable, but very different — cleaner, muted, matured. Skeletal at first, drums and genuine harmonics (not just keyboard smatterings) join the fold. The fascination here is in the atmospherics, the space carved out of “The Egg” to make room for “Eggshell”‘s sad urgency. Melody #2 hits around 1:30, unchanged. The song toys with harmonics and percussive interjections until the third melody crystallizes at ~3:45. “Eggshell” has the self-possession to put on the brakes, letting itself breathe when it needs to. The only spirit of “The Egg” shows up in a sputtering drum beat 5 minutes in. The first two melodies interweave at ~5:50, joined by the third at ~6:30. By this point the structure has reached its maximum height, allowing the listener to take it all in for a minute and a half, before all elements collapse into fossils of themselves and trickle into nothingness.

“Eggshell” isn’t an echo of “The Egg”‘s emotions; it’s the aftermath. I’ve come to appreciate them both for their own reasons. They’re two completely different songs for two completely different moods held together by their common elements; a flux of quantum interaction. I’m curious to know of other song reworkings done by one band, with wildly disparate results. Does hearing one song before the other permanently affect one’s opinion? What do you think?