Category Archives: Radiohead

Radiohead: A Moon Shaped Pool

A Moon Shaped PoolRadiohead: A Moon Shaped Pool
XL Recordings (2016)

I decided to let this one sit with me for a while rather than join the frenzy of posts that appeared online hours after Radiohead dropped their 10th LP. And what a joy it’s been to sink gently into A Moon Shaped Pool, giving it space to reveal all of its charms.

In the album’s opening seconds, as those cheeky strings ignite a staccato pulse it’s obvious there’s something different going on here. Radiohead sound relaxed, less agitated and more human than they have in years. The electronic rhythms have been dulled down to make room for analogue traditions. Everything sounds live and the band itself appear refreshed because of it.

Life, as in the reality of life and living, are a constant theme throughout. In a return to The Bends era there is something very personal about this record. The band’s politics have been replaced by Thom struggling to make sense of his relationships with those around him. It’s impossible to ignore the end of his 23 year marriage and its impact on A Moon Shaped Pool.

Sonically all 11 tracks are loose and casual. Born of a band jamming together in a room and slowly uncoiling compositions from their instruments. Songs like Daydreaming, Present Tense and Glass Eyes don’t feel like they reach any conclusion per se, which isn’t a negative. Rather they’re enigmatic, haunting and spacious. Daydreaming is particularly mysterious with its lonely piano, romantic orchestral flourishes, and digital debris swirling around Thom’s sweet falsetto before flickering out in a haze of eerily slowed down voices. This is heady stuff.

Deck’s Dark has a 70s soul vibe and a hot blooded outro like you’d never expect from such a serious band. While Ful Stop (sic) channels Krautrock into a 6 minute burner which approaches its crescendo so subtly that you don’t realise where you’re at until they throw you off the bus. Identikit shuffles around a weirdo contemporary-adult take on drum n’ bass, channeling twangy guitars and sparkly synths while Thom wails about broken hearts making it rain.

For my money, A Moon Shaped Pool will go down as a classic in Radiohead’s discography. It’s chill atmosphere and warm, dreamy vibes are a comforting new direction that already feels like home every time I revisit it. And I expect to visit A Moon Shaped Pool often.

New releases: Thom Yorke

Thom Yorke –  The Eraser Rmxs

( XL Recordings, 2008 )

As a general rule I steer clear of remix albums. I picture them to be a collection hastily of produced tunes that deflower originals.

Perhaps the only remix album I’ve enjoyed to-date is Bjork’s Telegram, because it was such stark and confronting take on her early pop songs. It was a sign of what she had in store for us.

So I was worried when I discovered that Thom Yorke’s delicious solo debut, The Eraser was being released as a remix album. That is, until I saw the black and gold-foil, fold out packaging and the music nerd in me bubbled with greedy desire. Well, that and the impressive list of producers attached to the album – including Burial, The Bug and Four Tet.

I’m now thrilled to own this because The Eraser Rmxs holds its own against its predecessor. In fact, Mr Yorke could easily have released this as the original.

Remix albums are generally disjointed affairs, but much care has been given to flow of this record. Although the producers keep their individual styles (Burial’s creepy dub-step makeover is the most obvious) each track feels like part of a greater whole.

Nor is there anything as obvious as dumping a house rhythm or break-beat under a sliced n’ spliced vocal sample. There’s pretty much none of that here. In fact all but two of the tracks here rely on the sweet and soulful vocals that made The Eraser such a joy in the first place.

Each of the nine tracks ebb and flow, taking you on a short walk within a greater journey. No one over indulges or flexes their production muscles. These tracks actually breathe.

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The Bug turns Harrowdown Hill into an industrial stomp that would give Trent Reznor a hard on. Four Tet picks up on the joy of Atoms for Peace and turns it into a sun shower of xylophones and music boxes. Christian Vogel serves up two versions of Black Swan. The first is a jangly drone circa the Velvet Underground, which hangs over a mid-tempo hip-hop beat. However it’s his ‘bonus beat’ and the album’s closing track that I’ve got on repeat – Vogel inverts Black Swan’s funked up bass line until it resembles something completely abstract, hooked on a loping four-to-the-floor rhythm and dub flourishes. Yorke’s vocoded voice drifts in and out of the mix “because this is fucked up. Fucked up…”

Yes, it definitely is fucked up, Mr Yorke; because The Eraser Rmxs shouldn’t be such a solid album. Given those responsible for the remixing are all experienced at creating unique and interesting compositions, I shouldn’t have been a doubter. Still, I’d be interested to know how much influence Mr Yorke had over the structure and general vibe of these tunes, such is their emphasis on ‘song’.

But whatever, if you’re a Radiohead fanatic or not, this comes highly recommended.

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