Release Date: Oct 11, 2011
Record label: TBD Records
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Alternative Dance
Remix albums are and will almost always be controversial, and as their presence amongst music libraries and record shelves continues to grow, both the motives behind them and the end product itself is often questioned. Frequently disparaged as money-spinning exercises, vanity projects, and futile efforts to transcend the genre from whence they came, the practicality of remix albums also provides challenges in itself. Any attempt to draw a collection of tracks that span dance genres into a coherent body of work that functions as an album, as opposed to a compilation, usually falls short.
The two-disc TKOL RMX 1234567, a compilation of King of Limbs remixes geared more for home listening than dancefloors, gathers all the tracks from seven 12” and download singles released between July and October 2011. Each one of the eight songs on King of Limbs is remixed at least once, while one of them, “Bloom,” gets five looks -- including two by Mark Pritchard, who provides a sighing ambient dub mix as Harmonic 313 and a blistering Krautrock-in-dub mix under his birth name. Lone injects his tranquil/turbulent rainbow spangles into “Feral,” creating great tension with off-center ambient house textures, rattling percussion, and Yorke’s vocal reduced to clipped sighs.
Radiohead’s The King of Limbs, which, in retrospect, plays more like a pasted-together EP of leftovers from singer Thom Yorke’s solo debut, The Eraser, than a proper studio effort, hasn’t aged well, with “Bloom” being the only track among the album’s sparse, forgettable offerings to leave a lasting impression. Which might explain why the song’s been reworked a whopping eight times on TKOL RMX 1234567, a super-collection of remixes that expands on The King of Limbs‘s natural proclivity toward forboding, glitch-obssessed dubstep. Serving as a kind of consolation prize for fans who deserpately read into a coy lyric from the song “Separator,” expecting a sequel to The King of Limbs, TKOL RMX 1234567‘s menu of remixers includes enough heavyhitters (Caribou, Four Tet) and fresh faces (SBTRKT, Jamie xx) to keep things interesting, far more successfully capturing the atmospheric dissonance Radiohead was aiming for on the original album.
Radiohead's past forays into the remixing world have had varying results, but it seems like the legendary UK band has usually had their finger on the pulse. Their first proper remix album, TKOL REMIX, is no different in this regard. With remixes from names like Blawan, Pearson Sound, Jacques Greene and Shed, it's a remarkable collection of musical minds that could have been taken from browsing the pages of this very website.
Radiohead has a reputation for studio perfectionism and have been known to tinker with arrangements for years on tour, but they've rarely delivered an album as obsessive as The King of Limbs. Their most single-minded record, TKOL is an itchy and restless foray into making songs out of almost nothing except whizzing bits of rhythm. Even accounting for the brief dip into balladry toward the end, bands don't generally come up with something this uniformly dense and tense by tweaking over multiple sessions.
Let’s back up for a second. Is there truthfully a concrete definition of the word “remix”? Back in the day, it basically meant an artist-approved alternate version of a recording—possibly adding some more instrumental elements removed from the original track, or even just a literal new mix (“Let’s turn up that bass a bit!” or “How about we move those guitars around a tad?”). In 2011, “remix” is way more specific than that.
The handful of remix albums that justify their existence propose a series of intriguing what-ifs. But The King of Limbs was so deeply informed by leftfield electronica that it arrived almost pre-remixed. There's questionable utility in commissioning Four Tet and Caribou to rework songs that already sound a bit like Four Tet and Caribou. Furthermore, this unsequenced, unedited compilation of limited-edition vinyl releases feels less like an album than an info dump.
Its most successful examples retain Radiohead DNA, reconstituted into new forms. Chris Power 2011 It’s fitting that The King of Limbs is the first Radiohead album to receive the full-length remix treatment. It’s their first album since 2000’s Kid A to swing away from traditional rock techniques, seamlessly incorporating electronic music elements at the heart of the songwriting.
The King Of Limbs ended up being a fairly divisive, strange little creature of a record. Long-term fans for the most part seemed to come round eventually to its subtle charms (this reviewer included), though its muted nocturnal tones and almost oppressively maudlin atmosphere haven't really lent themselves to summertime listens. It may well prove a more appropriate accompaniment to frosty winter evenings.