Radiohead - "Lotus Flower (Jacques Green RMX)" (TKOL RMX 1234567)
Good remixes invite reconsideration of the original work, but great remixes make you forget them. The typical remix album might have one or two standouts, but the whole is typically compromised by any number of factors, from lazy remixes on a vanity project to inept remixers outclassed or in awe of their source material.
If anyone was going to suffer from the latter (or put out the former on a lark/as a “commentary on the business”), it would be Radiohead. Something interesting is afoot on TKOL RMX 1234567, though: This isn’t just a double album of good remixes by some of the most relevant electronic artists today, this sounds like what Radiohead wanted to do with The King of Limbs, but couldn’t.
As Charlie Wilmoth explained in his In Rainbows review, Radiohead has been trying to erase itself for years. Here, they’ve finally done it: Though Thom Yorke’s voice is omnipresent, it’s rarely comprehensible and the band is wholly absent. You barely know you’re listening to Radiohead source material at all — and for fans of the project’s producers, that’s the best thing about these 19 songs. Radiohead nailed the atmosphere on The King of Limbs, but wasn’t adroit or ambitious enough to succeed beyond that. The album’s contents were less songs than sketches.
The remixers here have no such trouble, reimagining those sketches so as to be divorced from the originals (something you couldn’t say on the Com Lag EP, for instance). The first surprise is right at the top of the order in Caribou’s shockingly restrained “Little By Little” remix. Dan Snaith rides the beat and Yorke’s cut vocals with tinkling piano the only levity. It’s vacant and nothing near the sunny Technicolor of last year’s Odessa. Elsewhere, Kieran Hebden (who’s probably about due for another remix compilation himself) follows up his “Scatterbrain” remix from 2004 with a similarly busy rework of “Separator.” Jamie xx’s version of “Bloom” sounds like it’s being played down the hall in another room. Yorke’s croon is as much an ambient effect as it is a vocal sample.
If you’re a long-time member of the Radioherd, you probably know those producers from previous callouts and that’s the big sell for hesitant vinyl purists. The real surprise, however, is who else gets the opportunity to remix. Yorke, in particular, has always been good about staying just a step or two behind the “now,” so it’s no surprise that David Kennedy is present under his Pearson Sound moniker or that Lone and SBTRKT also make appearances. But as his recent Boiler Room mix for TKOL RMX’s release party showed, he’s either been listening to Rinse FM or delving into Mary Anne Hobbs’s recent archives. Blawan and Anstam are as “now” as you can get.
Special mention should be saved for Jacques Greene. From “What Are You Feeling” to his Kelly Rowland remix to “Another Girl” to his Rinse set in March, Greene has ascended the ranks and stands as one of the world’s elite producers. His seven-minute version of “Lotus Flower” got a lot of attention when it first dropped, and for good reason: Yorke’s vocal is chopped and Greene’s phase-in, phase-out style gradually rises and falls. It’s emotionally exhausting and it makes the original seem downright hollow and uninspired. For that, it is the best track here.
None of these remixes fall flat. For Radiohead fans, TKOL RMX 1234567 is an opportunity to see their favorite fivesome in a new light by some of the world’s most clever electronic musicians. For those who can’t stand Radiohead, it’s a wonderful opportunity to witness a monolith destroyed.