Monday, March 2, 2009

The Eraser RMXS - Thom Yorke

The Eraser Remixes

Thom Yorke
XL Records.

SCQ Rating: 73%

Remixes are a dodgy form of auteurship; focused solely on sonic advances and always a few people removed from its original inspiration. Like your average, major label cover-song, there’s an artificial element to remixes that I’ve rarely been able to get over. Maybe that’s why I’ve ignored the various mp3s of Eraser remixes floating between e-retailers and blogs since late 2007. So when a gold shimmer of The Eraser RMXS’s holographic cover caught my eye, I was surprised by my own temptation. You see, having loved The Eraser (in fact, it was SCQ’s #4 album of 2006) and being a fan of Burial and Four Tet, XL’s decision to amalgamate these tracks into a cohesive, attractive whole won me over. So how does Eraser RMXS sound to a first-time listener and remix-hater? Pretty good, actually.

Beyond shiny cover-art and curious guest-remixers, it was Thom Yorke’s noted admiration for this material and his desire to have it packaged that sealed the deal and I must say, the man has yet to disappoint. As with most any remix borne from a half-decent track, the source material has to be enjoyable and while The Eraser might not stand the test of time as well as Radiohead’s output, this collection is a lively reminder of how good Yorke’s solo debut is. These remixers seem to know it as well. Beyond punchier beats and a cool tempo switch on Yorke’s vocals, Surgeon sticks pretty close to the original ‘The Clock’ while Burial adds his trademark grime-step taps overtop the familiar ‘And It Rained All Night’. Countering the recognizable sounds is Modeselektor who improves upon ‘Skip Divided’ (arguably the only dull spot from Eraser) with cool vocal effects, better momentum and truly just an attentive ear for Yorke’s composition. The most impressive display of remixing likely goes to Christian Vogel’s Spare Parts mix of ‘Black Swan’ which attaches staccato rhythms and found-sounds to Yorke’s lonely guitar-jam, thusly transforming it into a globe-trotting dance track. That’s not doing it enough justice, though, as Vogel slows things down at the four-minute mark for some live instrumentation that is metallic-sounding yet organic. The Eraser RMXS works so well because each producer takes their given song down an alleyway altogether removed from both their original contexts and the direction of their colleagues. Many cases of full album remixes result in candy-coated dance affairs that grow increasingly tedious. That Eraser RMXS explores new sonic avenues while honouring Yorke’s hard work makes this disc commendable.

Of course, whenever you have nine tracks organized by eight different, fully capable producers, you’re bound to find some heavy contrast between spellbinding work and weak areas. Where Four Tet unravels a second, more lovely artichoke heart in highlight ‘Atoms For Peace’, Vogel’s Bonus Beat mix (was its title enough of a hint?) of ‘Black Swan’ is that aforementioned tedious dance track that goes nowhere rather slowly. Due to the remix’s natural tendency to go for broke, The Eraser RMXS suffers from the occasional speaker-overload where maximized ideas begin clashing… but fans of remixes should have no quarrel there. As for people who aren’t as keen on the whole business, you’ll be happy to know there’s an eight-minute remix by the Field, ideally situated smack-dab in the middle of the album, that quietly hypnotizes you with a five-second clip of ‘Cymbal Rush’ looped endlessly. You might not buy into it but at least you’ll have the chance to recover your senses before they’re blown apart all over again.

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