Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Song of the Day #301 - Radiohead - Burn the Witch

This is a low-flying panic attack


Song of the Day was sorta on vacation while I work on some other stuff but it has to return now and today for this monumental occasion. Radiohead has been teasing LP9 in more and more explicit ways, all the way up to these mysterious clips late last night. In my hype over this, I was united even with the enemy, which isn't really too surprising, because my love of Radiohead is older and stronger than even my love of Melee. Then, last night, because of magic (what witches used) being unleashed by my watching e04 of the wonderful flying witch (probably the AOTS), this video was conjured into existence. It is the lead single for LP9! LP9!!!! After over five years, we're finally getting LP9!!!!

And what will it be like? Is it a Drake collab? Is it called Dawn Chorus? Will it be electronic? Will it be orchestral? Will it have guitars? Will it have samples of birds? Will it have [insert mysterious track played at concerts]? Will it be good? Yes, it will be good.

The video is a sort of Wicker Man via Postman Pat sorta thing. It's extremely well done. The aesthetics of a really cheerful, colourful place that belies a really arcane, brutal, "medieval" sort of evil is amazing. The way they kept inverting expectations - the seesaw becomes the dunking chair, the maypole becomes the gallows, the painter is really just painting an X - is perhaps a bit on the nose, and puts us a little too much into the perspective of the "inspector" character, but that in turn belies an even stranger supernatural element. Like, what was with the town model that contained animate versions of themselves? Why would children be playing with instruments of torture if those instruments were also used in actual ceremonies of death? Instead maybe I think the idea is that this village has some sort of transcendental mastery over death, also explaining how the inspector was alive again at the end of the video... On the other hand, it feels like it has that extremely sharp but distanced political blade that has fueled much of Radiohead's most era-defining work, thus making the video an allegorical documentary of... Something.

Geez, I dunno. What's more important are the mysteries in the music. We got Johnny Greenwood on his orchestration flow, with these insane choppy strings, so bare and weirdly "medieval" too. I remember reading something about OK Computer that was like "all string sections in rock music sounded like 'Eleanor Rigby' until 'Climbing Up the Walls'". But now it seems like all string sections since then sounded like 'Climbing Up the Walls' until this one. Good lord.

The way it seems like such a "bright" orchestra, like birds in the canopies on a sunny day, right up until a minute in, when everything bends underwater, and suddenly that "chripy" plucked sound becomes so aggressive and claustrophobic, the birds all turning to you with "demon" eyes... Amazing. I love the way noisy/dissonant and electronic elements are brought in with a sort of parallel purpose... they're both sort of "disruptive", like... the way that rumbling synth is brought in the near the start is sort of a muddy foundation to all these rapid chords, and then at the end, when the strings are their most intense and dissonant, you get a staticky ceiling with the same "feeling". To me, this signifies a sort of aesthetic unity in the world of acoustic/electronic, and harmonic/dissonant sounds. This seems like they're putting everything on the table for this one, nothing is off limits.

Thom Yorke is of course gliding over top of all of this in his signature falsetto, that unrelenting mixture of angelically gliding and also very human drive. Apparently this vocal melody and lyrical work dates as far back as Hail to the Thief... and I mean, it's pretty great, haunting, and everything, but since then I feel like he's evolved in ways that I miss here. But like... if Thom's vocals are my least favorite part of this song, that's uh, that's pretty telling of how in love I am with this instrumentation.

So it's happening now.


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