Friday, December 28, 2007

the eraser remixes

one of the best albums in recent memory was thom yorke’s solo debut, the eraser. truer to radiohead’s aesthetic ideals more than in rainbows (in my opinion), the eraser is the work of one of contemporary music’s most enlightened songwriters. the album’s reserved instrumentals and stark, futuristic aura complement yorke’s ethereal and thin, nervous vocals, so that the eraser seemed as much a portrait of our collective fears for the coming years as a musical elegy for missed chances and untaken steps. perhaps buoyed by the eraser’s success or the simple desire of expanded horizons, yorke handed the reins over to eight other electronic artists for the eraser remixes, a full reworking of the album by some of the field’s most renowned minimalists. true to the eraser’s instrumental roots and yorke’s disenchanted lyrics, the eraser remixes doesn’t attempt to redefine his songs, only to remanufacture them with fresh sounds. to that end, yorke’s recruited artists generally succeed, maintaining the album’s emotional distance yet giving it a fresh face and sound.

released as a trio of 12”, the eraser remixes features work by four tet, burial, modeselektor, the field, christian vogel, surgeon, and the bug, most of whom are well-known for their restraint and electronic stiffness. all the tracks from the eraser, save the title one, are reworked, with “black swan “ receiving double treatment from christian vogel, who created the “christian vogel spare parts remix” and “vogel bonus beat eraser remix.” unlike many remixes (especially remix albums), the eraser remixes stays close to yorke’s original vision – though sometimes almost too close. the starkness of the new beats emulate yorke’s own, though none of the new versions could be confused for the originals; all of the remixers have put their own indelible stamp on each song. the burial song, for instance, is identifiable from his trademark hollow drum beat and back beat pounding – no “archangel,” to be sure, but aurally similar enough to be instantly recognizable. unfortunately, his version of “and it rained all night” isn’t really imaginative, and is preferable to neither the original nor most of the other redone cuts on the album.

the eraser remixes is neatly divided between good and bad remixes, the former being excellent reworkings of excellent songs, while the latter make you wish no one had tampered with yorke’s original. as with the burial version, some of the worse remixes are from the most talented artists, proving that remixing requires a different mindset than merely creating. the modeselektor remix of “skip divided” is especially good, the german minimalists teasing yorke’s voice as well as his melodies. four tet adds a softer glow to “atoms for peace,” though it lacks the blaring, joyful edge of his solo work. the field, whose self-titled album was very well received this year, reworks “cymbal rush” into an eight minute instrumental odyssey, titled “(late night essen und trinken remix)” that puts me to sleep more than makes me want to keep eating and drinking. surgeon’s “the clock” is almost a house version, and the closest thing the eraser remixes ever gets to a dance song.

this collection of remixes is very odd, as all of the remixers adhere to yorke’s original vision with almost slavish mimicry; remixing is generally prized for its ingenuity and reinvention, but the eraser remixes eschews this goal for the less exciting one of mere possibility. i wonder if the remixers chosen had to follow guidelines or stick to some rules, explaining the almost universal plainness of the remixes. as solo artists, each of the remixers have created really unique bodies of work, but they are here stifled, restrained, so that our imaginations could often serve us better. the eraser remixes are disappointing – though the remixes are technically sound, their similarity to yorke’s original songs suggest that they are more like the eraser alternatives, occasionally exciting but never ingenious.

1 comment:


Man... do you ever listen to yourself talk? Furthermore, do you write how you talk? Do you talk how you write?