ZaRecords Mixtape 8: Books

Time for another mixtape! A true one this time, not a simple top. I’m joined in this new musical discussion by my friend Ștefana, author of the ZaBooks blog, which some of you might know is the reason I started writing ZaRecords in the first place. I’m very glad to finally be able to catch her on a free day – we’ve been planning this podcast for years (literally). So, the 8th Mixtape is all about music inspired by or based on literary works – as you’ll see, we cover everything from novels to poetry, stopping by the playwright wilds and sending a wink to Edgar Allan Poe along the way. As you might expect, this one is a bit more wordy than the others – blame it on the theme! Enjoy, and be sure to leave us a comment with your impressions!

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Thom Yorke – Mix featuring solo material, Radiohead and Liars remixes (2013)

I have to thank Dazed and Confused Magazine, or rather Dazed Digital, for today’s post, folks. I by no means wish to rip off their achievement at getting Thom Yorke to make a mix for them, to go along with the release of the Atoms for Peace album and an interview published in the February issue of the magazine; I just feel this sort of musical event needs to be spread around as much as possible.

This mix is one of the weirdest, most hypnotic gatherings of music I’ve heard in a long time. Thom Yorke is treading ethereal paths indeed lately, and it’s a real treat to see him cut loose like this and just do things entirely his own way – something he hasn’t done since 2006’s The Eraser. If this mix is any indication of what goes on inside Thom’s head, then it must be like a perpetual acid trip in there – patience mating with explosive wonderment, a sort of subdued, diaphanous narrative of few words and chilling depth, the constant shade of a body in motion being projected by smoky beams of clarity.

I haven’t been able to recognize a single familiar tune in this mix, so either it’s comprised of completely unreleased material, Thom performed some freakish macro-mutations on the songs, or I’ve become “a cloth-eared nincompoop”, to quote Mike Oldfield. Either way, the end result sounds to me like something almost completely novel – I say “almost” because, truth be told, it does remind me a bit of the work performed on the Split/Sides bootleg, along side Sigur Ros. But that was so long ago, and in such a different context, that the comparison doesn’t really stand up to scrutiny, even though both mixes seem to be very focused on dancing. Or rather, in this case, on kinetic energy being discharged by an abstraction of the androgynous human body, given the ice cold, perfectly aseptic, lab grown feel of the music.

At first, there are tribal echoes, the fierce metallic litany of primitive rhythm rearranging time to suit movement, slowly dissolving into the digital – from feet stomping in the dust, to the involuntary twitch of the finger on the keyboard, lit by the diffused glow of the monitor, the journey really doesn’t take very long, but is constructed with breathtaking clarity. Thom Yorke shows and requires patience here, but the return is spectacular – and I say this without being generally known as a big fan of this type of music. There’s a gentleness here, a velvety quality which is simultaneously sickening and mesmerizing, like an unknown something, cold and soft, rubbing against your bare feet in the dark. Yes, that sounds terrifying, but who could look away, who could ignore such a thing? Whether the reaction is along the lines of “KILL IT WITH FIRE!” or some form of fascination, that’s up to the listener, but the initial contact remains just as startling and magnetic.

I highly recommend reading the interview on Dazed, although not necessarily while listening to this mix – the inevitable mundane nature of the conversation clashes with the profound oddity of the music. Either way, enjoy!