In Limbo: Radiohead, Kid A, and self-amnesia

In Limbo: Radiohead, Kid A, and self-amnesia

In his book The Unbearable Lightness of Being, the Czechoslovakian Milan Kundera recalled that the eternal return represented the heaviest burden for Nietzsche. Carrying the weight of eternity on your shoulders is something that brings anyone down. However, life as an ephemeral and vain existence becomes mild and, textually, “makes man fly upwards, distance himself from the earth and his earthly being.”

And if they are about something Kid A (2000) and her Siamese Amnesiac (2001), by Radiohead, is about marking distance. Impossible not to think about the wall that Roger Waters made a reality on the stages of the tour for the album The Wall, erecting a colossal wall between Pink Floyd and the fans. Is it possible that, unconsciously, due to the insistent, annoying and delusional similarity that the press of the mid-nineties established between Ok Computer and the Dark Side of the MoonYorke and company have wanted to pile all the possible bricks between the public, the critics, and themselves?

For Waters it all started in an altercation with some fans, where the lanky ended up spitting on them in the middle of the In the Flesh tour. For those from Oxford, in the documentary Meeting people is easy, which portrays apathy and exhaustion in the middle of the tour of his third album, if one thing is clear, it is that meeting people is easy. Maybe too easy.

In a cryptic scene in the middle of the aforementioned documentary, where it sounds On your own again by Scott Walker, a fly hovers perched on a window, as a metaphor for distance and isolation. “Hasn’t it been a good year? Wasn’t it full of conversations? ”Scott sings. “You’re alone again …”, he continues, affected, in his cavernous, alien voice. And Radiohead, from then on, decided to play alone.

But the wall that Radiohead built in Kid A and in Amnesiac It is not a literal wall like Waters’. It is a wall of sound. Not like the rococo filling of the disturbed Phil Spector, but rather close to the wall of the German Kraftwerk, who knew well about dehumanization.

Yes OK Ok Computer places from its cover a scene on a highway, Kid A he presents himself with the imposing image of mountains, completely removed from civilization. In an interview with the prestigious Mojo, in June 2001, Yorke elaborates on the art of both works: “In the first you see the fire on the other side of the mountains. On Amnesiac, you are right there in the forest, where the fire is ”. Both are part of the same reality, but it occurs outside the confines of the city.

But not only that. When Kid A and Amnesiac were released, both vinyls were pressed at ten inches, not twelve inches. It should be remembered that ten inches were the primary format before the establishment of long plays, in the golden days of Sarah Vaughan and Sinatra. If the music they both contained sounded out of context to Ok ComputerIt was not accidental.

The band will reissue both albums plus a third with alternative and unreleased takes of the sessions. The track If You Say the Word has already been released.

But the electronically-tinged albums of so-called alternative rock bestsellers weren’t very strange in the mid-2000s. Two years earlier, the Smashing Pumpkins had released the brooding Adore; REM had done his thing in the minimalist Up; and PJ Harvey – with whom Yorke collaborated on three songs of his Stories from the city, stories from the sea– had sculpted the intense and formidable Is this desire. And, just a year before Kid A, the Mexicans Café Tacuba had published their own electronic double Reverse / YoSoy, not far from what Radiohead was trying to build.

“The ice age is coming, the ice age is coming… this is really happening,” Yorke sings in Idiot. And the law of ice was made. If in 1993 the mantra in the debut Pablo Honey era Anyone can play guitarWell, now no one had any intention of picking up a guitar. Thinking about U2, in the same year the English sang Creep, they stamped the dynamic Zooropa, it doesn’t sound like such a far-fetched idea.

While the separation between Kid A and Amnesiac it existed in practice, both plates being published with little more than half a year apart, for Radiohead all the material emerged simultaneously.

“Our perspective is very different, by doing everything often we know the two albums very well and it is more difficult for us to talk about them as if they were separate things. If you put all the songs from the two albums into one, you would not be able to recognize which ones are from one and the other. It was such a relief to listen to the songs and just divide them into two blocks. We were recording a lot of material and we never stopped to edit anything specific, but we continued recording and recording ”, Yorke declared in 2001 to Mondosonoro.

Testimony of the joint creation of both plates for almost 400 days with producer Nigel Godrich was in those days the online diary of guitarist Ed O’Brien, available today on the Radiohead fan portal O’Brien’s diary gives an account of the group’s process between July 1999 and June 2000. A button: on September 8 the band rehearses Optimistic and Everything in its right place, and the next day Knives out; February 29 is mixed Pyramid song, and on March 1 the drum arrangements of Morning bell. Shortly before, in April, Yorke confessed to the press that the band had already recorded 20 songs and that they planned to release a double album.

Pyramid song and Everything in its right place they were written the same week, “which was the week I bought a piano,” joked Yorke on Mojo.

The tracklist of Kid A, the first of the two to see the public light, seems to make a point with his tracklist, almost like a coded message. The first song is titled Everything in its precise place, as if it were a manifesto. After, Kid A write down the name of the new address, self-referentially. Later, The National anthem and How to disappear completely they ensure the intentions. In limbo seems to show the state of the band and Optimistic, your expectations in front of what is coming.

In sync with the turn of the millennium and the Y2K paranoia that has the planet fearing for the loss of all data stored on the Internet, Radiohead forged a new identity. In the successor of Kid A, the siamese Amnesiac, snippets of the past are outlined in Knives out and its left to the Smiths, or in Dollars and cents and its epic, but they appear more like corrupted, genetically modified versions – like the bears that were the flagship of both albums – of a previous sound.

If an aura prevails in both volumes, it is the spirit of improvisation typical of jazz, stamped more directly in Pyramid song (inspired by Freedom of Mingus) and in Life in a glasshose, whose inspiration comes from a story that Yorke learned through the British media: the wife of a famous actor, besieged by the tabloid press, decides to respond to the photographers by wallpapering the outer walls of her house with the same newspapers that they harassed him.

Yorke, in a way, also replicated that same scheme in Kid A and Amnesiac, I capture a mirror depending on the listener. While the lyrics of the songs in OK Computer They were textual and cinematic, like scenes from a film, propping up images of flying saucers, aircraft accidents and life-saving airbags, in both productions the verses appear cut off, the cryptic phrases and the singer’s own voice breaks through mediated, either by a vocoder or an autotune. Literally, in the middle of the popular OK Computer, on Fitter happierThe germ of a new language was beating.

Short sentences, almost dehumanized, detached, operated far from sentimentality or storytelling. Rather, they functioned as collages, scraps that appealed to flashes and fragments of reality, backdrops onto which listeners would have no choice but to project their own anxieties. It is not in vain that the title of the last cut of the frozen Kid A sea Motion picture soundtrack.

After his own life in a glass house, Radiohead went cryptic in this two-headed album, sculpting the morphology of a sound that, since then, has been inescapably associated with it, becoming its inevitable synonym. The creative process from which he was born, which sonic cubism, made it possible to emerge songs from the chaos, and two sister albums from the avalanche of material, the result of the anxiety to distance himself from the rest, from the critics and the fans.

Inspired by the philosophy stamped by Naomi Klein in her influential book No logoNot only did Radiohead and designer Stanley Donwood fill the pages of the booklets for both plates with verbiage and disjointed slogans, but they found in those “modified bears”, or genetically modified bears, representatives of themselves. With paranoid eyes and sharp teeth, these alienated animals appeared in short videos dubbed blips, intended for who knows what purpose, less to promote the band’s new material.

Despite there being no official singles, a video made for Idioteque (Blinking bear version) its protagonists are two of these hybrid bears orbiting one around the other, approaching and stalking each other never to touch. At first, in an extreme close up, we only see a blinking black spot, until, as the video progresses, we are able to distinguish its shapes.

And while the song You and whose army originated as a repudiation of then-British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the meaning it takes on in hindsight ultimately goes far beyond immediacy, and can easily be interpreted as a hymn of self-affirmation, a self-accolade in view of what the next twenty years of career brought with them for the band. Because, twenty years are nothing but, at this point, no one can dispute the character of the great milestone that so much Kid A What Amnesiac demarcate. Whoever disagrees, well, bring an army.

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In Limbo: Radiohead, Kid A, and self-amnesia