Review Summary: If you thought that this was over, then you were wrong
"I think it's great. Especially with King of Limbs, out of all our records, it lends itself best to the remix treatment
Now that the dust has finally begun to settle, and all the hype and the expectant and excited first listens have since melted away and been replaced by the ear of criticism and scrutiny, looking back finds The King Of Limbs
to be one of the most misunderstood albums of recent years. Perhaps we were thrown off guard because for the first time in a long while we felt like we could actually get a handle on Radiohead, that they were no longer hiding behind something intangible and distant, but actually giving us something tangible and incredibly open. Immediacy isn't something that instantly springs to mind when one thinks of the group who almost single-handedly re-invented the alternative rock scene of the 90's, who then went on to embrace the cold and barren tundras of glacial-like techno as the reply to all the accolades. We've become accustomed to the idea of Radiohead never quite being Radiohead; or if they have actually been playing themselves all this time, that they've never been wholly comfortable just being defined by one indistinguishable sound. And so for some, The King Of Limbs
failed because for the first time we weren't immediately awe-struck by some new incarnation of the group, we were taken aback by a band who had spent the better part of their career redefining themselves, now choosing instead to simply define themselves.
As far as remix projects go, they're generally hit-and-miss affairs, either falling into the category of being blatant cash cows, or sorry attempts by an artist or artists attempting to cross over into various other affiliations: club culture, hip hop or the metal scene. They play out more like grandiose "what if?" scenarios, one-play only hollow digresses that ring out with the turgid cries of misplacement. But Radiohead have long sat on the cusp of electronic music; Kid A
is the obvious example, but even beyond that they've always experimented with their own fragile and fragmented takes on a variety of underground electronic exhibitions. And given not just the talent bought in for this affair, but the base product with which they're working from, TKOL RMX 1234567
feels like a complete album, void of simply being a pet project pieced together by a variety of different artists working in different fields. No, it's cohesive, concrete and solidified by a central theme, so amateur conspiracy theorists can now rest easy, knowing that their precious time was not all for nothing, because here is your The King Of Limbs
Working through a field comprised of equal parts techno, loose house music, garage and dubstep, the TKOL RMX
project is a lengthy and almost mind-numbing journey that is as unsettling as it is provocative. Combining the abstract charm of a group who have long been at the forefront of cutting edge experimentation with some of the best artists in their respective fields, along with the best and brightest of the latest rising stars, picking out highlights from this juggernaut of electronic experimentation and expert examination makes for hard work, but they come thick and fast. The whole project opens up with Caribou's interpretation of 'Little By Little' and it sets the scene perfectly for the barren journey ahead, as he turns Radiohead's piece into a melancholic slice of lo-fi house, with loose percussion balanced precariously over a gently caressing string section.
Further on down the track, current blog house champion Jacques Greene's re-do of the shuffling 'Lotus Flower' begins off friendly enough before going into an overdrive of techno madness, while Lone's take on 'Feral' remains the most inviting, borrowing greatly from its roots and twisting the paranoia into a steady and hard hitting breaks-inspired piece. Both of Mark Pritchard's thoughts on 'Bloom' (one under his own name and the other presented under the moniker of Harmonic 313) are apocalyptic in nature, the former a twitchy and shivering oddyssey through sinister synth thumps, while the latter is a bass driven ride through reckless and frantic 808 territory. Up and coming dubstep artist Brokenchord continues on in much the same vein as his smash Girl Of 13 Summers
12" by converting 'Give Up The Ghost' into a stripped to pieces dubstep beat, attempting to form cohesion with the broken pieces, while Shed's version of 'Little By Little' is loose and primitive, like a kind of shaman's dance framed by a sea of faceless spectators. And yet the two greatest contributions to the project remain Blawan's and SBTRKT's entries into the saga; the former is a funky nightmare with Blawan's now famous garage house licks working in double time to keep up with his steady pulse of precision, and the latter is the cream of the crop of SBTRKT's recent works, combining his love for mournful garage overtones while tying it all down with a modernist dubstep touch.
For better or for worse, Radiohead have opened their doors and allowed a few outsiders to fashion their creations into something completely removed from their original forms, and yet aside from the frequent sampling that reminds us of their roots there's still so much here to tie it all back to the mysticism of The King Of Limbs
. Whether or not your reaction to Radiohead's latest release was one of disbelief and wariness, this is the companion piece to leave you wide-eyed at what can be accomplished with a little ingenuity and help from some of the best in the business.