MAY 8TH 2PM EST
After 1906 days of waiting, we are getting a new Radiohead album. Yesterday I was going on and on about the length of Death Grips' career and how Jenny Death felt like the end of a whole psychological era and stuff but all of that took place within this waiting period. Really, everything in my life has been defined by that. Well, maybe not "really". It's sort of like the Japanese year system. We're currently living in TKOL6. It might not matter all the time, and people still might defer to the Gregorian calendar (just on occasion), but it saturates the global consciousness at a low level, this awareness.
In all likelihood, I will be in the car driving back from my cottage at the moment LP9 is released. That is a bit unfortunate, sure. But I got lucky in that I saw "Burn the Witch" 10 minutes after it was uploaded, and this only one minute after uploading. This is maybe more due to the fact that I'm a NEET that sits around refreshing his youtube subscription page then any sort of cosmic Radiohead synchronicity, but ummm who's responsible for me not finding a job??? Probably Radiohead????? Anyways as soon as I get home you know I'm gonna be coming at you with that live review, because everyone knows the best way to experience a much-hyped album for the first time is by sitting at your computer and typing continuously. Ha haaaaa.
I am extremely much-hyped, by the way. This song/video is huge, both in itself and in the space it creates for the album. It is so different than "Burn the Witch" thematically/aesthetically, and yet shares a few core principles of structure and instrumentation that I think are giving us our first glimpse at the album's greater whole. The video, too, displays both that range and similarity. Here we got Thommy Thom (in Geobaskets???) wandering through libraries, apartments, parking garages, mountains, et al. before collapsing in a primitive cave. PTA shot it and I think you can just tell. Maybe that sounds hella pretentious, or maybe I watched the "Sapokanikan" video too many times, but I really could tell.
When the instagram teaser came out, people were joking about how it was Thom looking for his car, which leads to the question, when the full video emerged, of "what is he really looking for?". I think this is maybe not the correct question. Sure, his movement is fairly urgent, and he glances about with a sometimes-frantic, sometimes-paranoid wildness, but I feel like this is more a video of observation than "looking". In this I think we see a commonality with the "Burn the Witch" video... both protagonists aren't setting out to find something specific, but to reach some understanding through observation. They both end with fire too hey maybe I'm on to something!! Or maybe not.
Either way, this mode of "wandering about, neutrally observing" is one of my absolute favorites. It reminds me of Gondola, or Yume Nikki (especially the way this video features a labyrinth of doors that don't make any spacial sense). I have a lot more to say about this some other time, I have been thinking of it often, in another bit of synchronicity (aka coincidence or bias). It seems like Thom is attempting to survey the various emotional/aesthetic environments of this "world of humans"... like is he in the same parking garage where these HTTT promotional shots were made? There was that tweet from early April about "light coming through a window into a white room" (recently deleted), and now he sings about it, is he trying to see it? To experience it?
And then the music, oh my god. Again we get this blending of the compositional models of things like The King of Limbs or Tomorrow's Modern Boxes, that fractal fracturing of beats and sounds, but achieved largely through acoustic and orchestral voices. Comparing it to "Burn the Witch" is enthralling... this one is much less aggressive, with a more melancholy feeling, but could you say it's "darker", or "brighter"? Their various element are well shuffled on this metric... and although it seems reductive to try to rank them on this one subjective quality, it actually reveals just how complex these interwoven feelings are.
The piano is just gorgeous, oh my god, how can they make their piano sound so wonderful? And the way the synth contrasts it at around 3:10 with the mirrored melody? The snippets of backwards vocals, that lush bloom at 4:00, the slow, omnipresent feeling of decay that accumulates in the haunting outro? The way strings sneak in at the moment of tension, perfectly mirroring your empty, but racing, thoughts? It really does seem to perfectly soundtrack the feeling of dreams in sleep... these strange, disparate, simple ideas that mutate and grow into something that flirts with the edge of the edge of meaning, of significance, but, before any questions could be answered, settles back in to the warm, rumbling, slow-wave sleep.