'The King Of Limbs' was Radiohead's eighth album released in 2011 and saw the band again doing what they do quite well which is vaguely unsettling experimental rock with electronics, beats and a high pitched whinny on top. Here, they added sampling and loops to their repertoire on an album that was more of an insidious creep than the previous more hurried 'In Rainbows'. Another worthwhile effort from a band who don't do bad music.
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Who the hell are these weird bastards? I've obviously no eye for art as I love the sleeve for this album - some sort of amorphous jellyfish ghosts in some psychedelic woodland setting. But everyone else here thinks it sucks. 'TKOL' has divided opinion like every Radiohead album does. It's not experimental enough for the chin strokers & is a bit too off-beat for the anthemic pop kids. There's no anthems on here! Oh no. But as far as sublimely metronomic, minimalist rhythms, cascading electronics & smoky little grooves 'n' licks go, this album has plenty to delight. The drums are played strangely off-centre, in a hypnotic, cyclic manner on many of the initial tracks, giving off a beautifully lopsided impression, and in conjunction with the warm, spacious & sometimes dubby production, these fascinating, ever-evoving flecks and splashes of sonic detail give the opening salvo of songs a really cohesive feel. Nothing odd here, or particularly tuneful - they just sound like a progressive-minded band having a loose cerebral jam. It all sounds slightly Can- inspired but you cannot deny the originality of their own palette of scintilating production techniques here. Thom's voice is always a bit inpenetrable to me, I usually just let it flow & don't pay it much heed. I merely marvel at the production; the organic & the electronic merging to create a vibrant, swirling intoxicating soundworld - all you can ever wish from these lads. Curiously, Side two's opener, the project's "flagship" track 'Lotus Flower' is to my mind one of the leanest, laziest & least enjoyable tunes here. I love the ambient ephemera & the melancholy organ line beneath , but alas, the track seems quite dull & empty (yet strangely, I dig his vocals on this one the most) The album starts to sag a little for me with the more ballady tracks although there's plenty of loving touches that impress. This (relatively short) album closes with another steady percussive track called 'Seperator' which is once again full of pleasant detail but seemingly less lush than the tracks on Side One. Probably the most satisfying album by them, from a personal perspective, since Amnesiac, however it possibly has more in common, sonically, with either 'Kid A' or 'Hail to the Thief'?
9/10 Sam 26th November 2014
Radiohead really are a band that need no explanation nowadays, but 'The King Of Limbs' maybe does. Sonically it is a sharp change in direction for the band, perhaps even more so than the 'Kid A' / 'Amnesiac' era, and it leans over into what Thom Yorke is trying in his solo work, i.e, even more of an electronic sound. The worry that comes with this is always "have they lost their humanity? have they become those computers they warned us against?" Actually I'm not sure anyone has ever worried that, but in case you have. Don't.
In fact, to me it is one of Radiohead's finest works.
The thick layers of instrumentation built up through samples are dense, very dense in the case of the opening track 'Bloom', but these walls of sound are also the albums strong point. This is perhaps the audio equivalent of a trek through a jungle: lush, thick, always changing, always growing, surprising, dark, scary, hopeful. You swat a bug that has landed on your face, and wipe at the sweat on your brow. Over your head you hear the whispers of Thom Yorke floating down the breeze and rustling through the leaves. Perhaps you pass by a lake, cool and green, with lotus flowers growing on the water. You see dragonflies skim the water as they fly above, and jellyfish surfacing and causing ripples on the blank shore. Truly I cannot express the feeling of becoming so deeply taken away by this album, it can only be experienced first hand.
But this is not an easy journey to take. Learning your way around is difficult and certainly a challenge. But once you are there, you will never be able to come back. Just like the tree it's named after, The King Of Limbs is complex, beautiful, confusing, winding, growing, dying, blooming, and far more than what is visible on the surface.
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