The King of Limbs, Radiohead‘s latest and most cursory album to date, drew perhaps the most contrarily divergent response of their career. That is to say, it was their first album in years that didn’t inspire widespread fellating of the group and the extent of their virtues. Fans and critics had many bones to pick with the LP, citing everything from its short, eight-track, sub-40-minute length to how it sounded more a Yorke solo record than a Radiohead album to many ears, in how it heavily downplayed a full band aesthetic. As time passed though, the album seems to have grown on most, no doubt helped along by the fleshed-out takes the band debuted on BBC’s In the Basement back in July and spur-of-the-moment shows at Glastonbury and New York’s Roseland Ballroom. Radiohead, in their typically deliberate manner, released this here remix project, piece by piece from July till last week, willing you to take it bit by bit, completely on their terms.
The record’s sketetal beats and minimal production lend King of Limbs to remix treatments better than any Radiohead album to date, as drummer Phil Selway put it. They’ve experimented with this sort of thing in the past, even releasing the individual tracks to “Nude” and “Reckoner” to the public for a couple of remix competitions a few years back, with submissions from Flying Lotus and Diplo. What’s most compelling about this compilation though is its favoring up-and-coming luminaries from Britain’s booming bass music scene, with only about three or four of these guys being even remotely big names (Modeselektor, Jamie xx, Four Tet and Caribou). More than a mere charity effort to boost the cred of some of the band’s favorite fledgling producers, this keeps things interesting in minimizing any messy preconceived notions that’d get in the way of digesting the record.
Most of these diverge far from their source material, to great effect: Blawan’s “Bloom” remix rips Limbs‘ stoic opener to shreds for one of the compilation’s best tracks, along with Thriller’s hazy take on album standout “Give Up the Ghost”, which somehow manages to match the original’s entrancing sway pound for pound. The surprisingly muted Jamie xx contribution, another remix of “Bloom”, favors indistinct ambiance over the sort of moody dance tracks he’s been cranking out lately. While it’s certainly compelling, the sprawling rework cuts out almost as soon as it starts to thicken, at a mere two and a half minutes. Four Tet’s re-imagining ”Seperator” as dreamy IDM makes for typically intriguing fare, though London producer SBTRKT laughs last, stealing the show with a rework of “Lotus Flower” as the compilation’s final track, recasting its hesitant beats and memorable chorus into a sprawling, five-minute banger.
This remix compilation is just that, a compilation, and at over an hour longer than The King of Limbs itself doesn’t sound like it’s meant to be played through in one sitting. Though it’s hardly the “second half” many felt the album deserved (and were, at one point, quite sure it would get), it expands substantially on the tangeted, capricious nature of the record that many complained about to begin with, and ultimately serves as a very compelling companion to The King of Limbs.
Essential Tracks: Little by Little (Caribou RMX), Good Evening Mrs Magpie (Modeselektor RMX), Lotus Flower (SBTRKT RMX)