CD REVIEW Beats and Electronics on Beats and Electronics

A decent remix album

Thom Yorke

The Eraser Remixes

XL Recordings

Jan. 20, 2009

Most Radiohead fans consumed Thom Yorke’s 2006 solo effort, The Eraser, as a welcome treat in that awkward limbo period between the releases of Hail To The Theif and In Rainbows. But it you call it filler, at least call it good filler. Now that the In Rainbows craze has died down a little, we find Thom Yorke releasing a remix album to satiate our thirst for Radiohead-related material (at least temporarily, that is). Last week, Yorke released a compilation (available only in Japan until now) entitled The Eraser Remixes, housed in a package mimicking the original acclaimed artwork of its predecessor.

The Eraser itself was billed as mostly “beats and electronics” when Yorke announced it years back. Most of the songs in their original form are already remixes themselves, utilizing samples that Thom Yorke cut and pasted himself. So, it’s interesting to hear the songs with the remix treatment. The majority of the remixes maintain the main elements of the original songs, except for the Vogel Bonus Beat remix of “Black Swan.” Yorke wrote the majority of these songs about climate change and the environment, maintaining a dark position. The Burial remix of “And It Rained All Night” does a stellar job of making the track much darker than the original, stripping away the original instrumentation and laying Yorke’s reverb-treated vocals over a clicking rim beat. The rain sound effect in the background is emphasized, conveying the rain that kept Thom Yorke awake and encouraged him to write the song.

Remix albums serve multiple purposes. They showcase various DJs’ abilities to make something new out of an existing song, but they also serve to generate new music to dance to. Of the tracks found here, “Black Swan (Cristian Vogel Spare Parts remix)” and “The Clock (Surgeon remix)” are the easiest to dance to. The latter has a pulsing beat that moves forward while the vocal line lags slightly behind the beat, giving a new sense of urgency and recontextualizing the apocalyptic lyrics. “Harrowdown Hill (The Bug remix)” is a surprise on this album because it’s more of an industrial remix than its counterparts. The remix juxtaposes speedy vocals with a half-time industrial bass groove and snare-heavy beat. Interestingly, an out-of-key cowbell sample weaves in and out of the vocals to further disorient the listener.

While none of the remixes fail at bringing something new to the table, it’s the Four Tet remix of “Atoms For Peace” that really stands out as a clear success. The remix opens with a tribal-themed acoustic drum sample, so we don’t feel an electronic sound right away. A subtle two-chord keyboard line replaces the original bass line and drones on during the vocal delivery. This is one of the few remixes that doesn’t even treat the vocals at all — not even in speed. Four Tet recreated the harmony and rhythm for the song and pasted Yorke’s vocal on top. The music grows and introduces a xylophone line, an occasional electronic drum fill, a guitar line, and an organ part. The song climaxes during a beautiful instrumental section and immediately drops out for one chorus. Throughout is that tribal drum sample, bringing this song out from the Berlin nightclub feel to a more organic folk feel.

Pick up this album for Stanley Donwood’s gorgeous artwork and for an intelligent reworking of Thom Yorke’s songs. Keep waiting for the next Radiohead album, but this will do for now.