Radiohead - TKOL RMX 1234567
In the spring, with limited fanfare, Radiohead released their eighth studio album The King of Limbs to a mixed response. Some expected more from the band following the four years since the band’s late career landmark In Rainbows. At just 38 minutes it was notably shorter than previous works. The album’s electronica stylings were perceived as being a continued effort to further redefine themselves from what they once were, but perhaps not the game changing manoeuvre that the band have delivered in the past. They gave the impression of being defined not from within but without; they recognise that the musical marketplace has transformed in recent years and have struggled conceptually with releasing music in the album format. For a band with as many million sellers in their back catalogue, it’s intriguing to find them so prone to external influences rather than doing as they please.
Whereas In Rainbows was an album that grew from live performance, this was the product of a more manufactured process, with songs being structured around samples and loops. From this context there is a natural extension to see how such songs could be rebuilt by a range of external artists. This has been articulated by the band, with Thom Yorke being quoted as saying “I was really curious to see how the people I was listening to so much would use what we gave them. I didn’t just want floor fillers and all that shit, I just wanted to see how the songs could really branch out and mutate.”
From this background we are presented with this latest album, TKOL RMX 1234567, which features tracks from the King of Limbs reinterpreted by a disparate range of artists, such as Caribou, Four Tet, Mark Pritchard and Jamie xx. There’s almost a perversity to this album being an hour longer to the one it is sourced from but across the two discs it does allow for individual tracks to be transformed by different artists. 'Bloom', for example, appears five times.
The album adheres to the constraints of a remix album. The extent to how much deviation from the original varies, as you’d expect from track to track. There is a sense that, aping the construction of the originals, new samples, edits and loops facilitate the re-imagining of the tracks like Lego bricks being swapped. The results are diverting and interesting rather than captivating. A curiosity only. None supplant the originals but there’s no filler here either. At least there isn’t a sense of throw-away immediacy that could be leveled at some remixes. Perhaps the core issue here is that these tracks are limited by their source. A remix/reinvention album that spans Radiohead’s back catalogue is intriguing but not as much as a new album from a band with a clear sense of purpose and direction.