Those left feeling a little cold by Radiohead’s February album The King of Limbs can expect little comfort in the shape the band’s latest work – a 19 song, 105 minute long collection which sees their eighth studio release given the remix treatment by a host of trendy electronic artists.
A glance through the tracklist of Thom Yorke’s DJ set at the album’s launch party at London’s Boiler Room provides a clear indication of the direction taken by this compilation. Cuts by the likes of Ramadanman, Modeselektor and Aphex Twin are mixed together with some of the remixes from this record to indicate the style of work that band have attempted to emulate through their selection of producers for this record.
With the concept of a remix album, Yorke and co. have taken on a notoriously difficult format from the off. Effective examples, such as the Human League’s Love and Dancing and more recently Jamie xx’s remix of Gil Scott Heron’s I’m New Here, are offset by the many releases containing brash rehashes of work by the likes of Rhianna and Ke$ha, artists who perhaps have agreed to the idea because of the prospect of making a little extra money from an under-performing original record.
Yorke, for his part, describes the album as an opportunity to see “how the songs [from The King of Limbs] could really branch out and mutate”. It is an interesting concept, which acknowledges the prominence of the UK bass and dubstep genres in today’s musical scene, and some of the reworks included are excellent examples of such styles in their finest forms. Producer Jaques Greene, for example, contributes a jumpy dubstep flavour to ‘Lotus Flower’, whilst Lone’s ‘Feral’ rework adds an appropriate tribal feel to the slightly discordant original.
KOL RMX 1234567 is ultimately held back, however, by the fact that a lot of the remixes are, to be totally honest, not all that interesting. They mainly follow a predictable formula of skippy drum beats, with Yorke’s wailing vocals cut up and shifted to the background in an attempt to add extra atmosphere. This is a problem in itself, as such a formula can be said to be the basis of the original record in the first place. Remixes by the likes of Caribou and Four Tet in particular appear relatively pointless because of the fact that the tracks they remodel already sound like they were originally composed by the likes of, well, Caribou and Four Tet. Others, like Shed’s rework of ‘Little By Little’ and Anstam’s ‘Separator’ remix, are obscure, skeleton-like scaling down’s of the original work that ultimately succeed in reducing some of the original album’s finer moments to challenging, unfulfilling listens.
The ‘1234567’ in the album’s title refers to the track numbers of the remixed tracks, meaning that to reach its full quota of 19 songs the record in most cases contains several versions of the same work. This includes five versions of The King of Limb’s opening track ‘Bloom’, hardly a flowing musical composition to begin with. It is occasionally interesting to see the different directions which the chosen producers take the original tracks (Jamie xx’s version of ‘Bloom’, for example, is an eerie and echoey rework, whilst the version of the song created by Blawan is characterised by its pounding, revolving drum beat). The problem is that such innovation is rare in an unambitious collection which appears reluctant to push any boundaries and often bears too much resemblance to the original recording.
KOL RMX 1234567 is exhausting and unrewarding to listen to as a collective entity, making it a challenge even for Radiohead purists. Reviewing the record as a whole is perhaps missing the point of the release, however. Totally unsequenced or mixed together, these are tracks built to exist as separate entities in a certain environment, largely midway through DJ sets like Yorke’s in the Boiler Room. Viewed from a wider perspective, it is an indication of the thriving health of the UK’s bass scene that one of the world’s most famous bands has decided to remix their latest release in its honour. Unfortunately, the artists called upon have ultimately failed to produce the cutting edge music which could have made this collection the memorable UK music landmark it has the potential to be.
Follow Piers on Twitter @piersbarber18