We’re talking about a legend or about reality? Everything started with Thom Yorke appereantly joking with a journalist, talking about the stackability on herself of the album track Idioteque. Since then, the web has gone mad and you can find theories about the fact that if you start on a player Kid A, and after 17 seconds you start the same album on another player, you could have a pretty surprising result.
Let’s be clear: if we were not talking about Radiohead, maybe the issue would be shipwrecked without too many stories, but here we have some incredible musicians and especially an album that has revolutionized contemporary music, mixing electronics and fusion, free jazz and post rock. We can’t forget that Kid A was also revolutionary in a marketing way: no singles and no videoclips produced, but only small videos called “blips” distributed for free on the Internet, a real pioneering stunt.
But next to the blips and MP3 formats, Thom Yorke and Co., also gave much importance to the vinyl production of the disc: we are talking about a double LP 33 laps 10 inches (not the classic 12 inches). Thanks to this choice we can really appreciate every minimal facet of the different sounds produced: the result is a real gem that every respectably collector must have in his collection (and certainly the vynil’s return in recent years has increased the mythology).
In the production’s field we can’t also forget the various cover art smade by Stanley Donwood: pixelated mountains that express an alienation dictated by a technology more and more pervasive. So here we are a thousand years ahead of contemporary production, especially compared to the mainstream rock market (because as much as the album is anything but commercial, Radiohead were still coming from the global success of Ok Computer).
After this premises, we can finally check this legendary Kid 17. First of all let me tell you that I have conducted my listening with as a first player Kid A on vinyl and with as a second player the same album from a computer.
Let’s start from the beginning, from Everything in Its Right Place‘s intro: we have and higher alienation level than the original one. However, the libido of the average Radiohead lover rises drastically when Thom Yorke duet with himself chaining the verses “Everything” and “in its right place”. The verse “In its right place” is the background also to the other verses, reinforcing that feeling of alienation already present in the original text. The final instrumental part is noticeable, too, thanks to the new electronic dissonance that resembles the live version of the track.
So after the first track, I can feel quite satisfied: maybe these geniuses are really so crazy that they have devised such a thing. There is also to say that the randomness of the match could be a possibility: the album’s dissonant electronic structure that leaves ample room for the improvisation, combined with the technique of the cut-up used in the texts, make possible an overlap of this type.
Yet the title track sweeps away all my uncertainty: the match is perfect from the first two sequences, then the stanzas are interwoven to perfection without overlapping and the drop becomes rhythmically even stronger when the drum machine is doubled: we are facing a better version than the original.
The National Anthem confirms the good things that we have listened to in the first two tracks, on the other hand this piece lends itself easily to an operation of this type: the free jazz structure is perfect to be overlapped. The result is a tidy jazz chaos that expresses real cries that mingle with the keen of Yorke.
Also How to disappear completely works at a rhythmic level, although personally I do not think there can be comparisons with the original one: yes, the verse “I’m not here” works good as a fixed background, but the doubled guitar gives a too excited rhythm that does not match with the real meaning of the track. The match is not even too happy in Morning Bell (we don’t have that drum drop in rhythm that is the salt of the original song) and in the wonderful Motion Picture Soundtrack, the closing track (Yorke’s voice overlaps the arp, and the electric organ becomes too dissonant), but I admit of being too emotionally bound to this song to accept any change in the original structure.
The real discovery, personally, is Idioteque: Yorke’s voice duet to perfection with itself, and it overlaps masterfully in some ways as “Who’s in a bunker” and “Everything all of the time”. Also the drop at 2:17 minute, if it’s wanted by them, is really a moment of tremendous good music.
So we’re talking abou a legend or about reality, then? At the end of the listening we can’t eliminante at all this doubt, because in some cases the match is perfect (Idioteque 17 and Kid A 17 on all), in others does not seem very successful and especially not really wanted (How to disappear completely 17 and Motion picture Soundtrack 17, which definitely pay the non-dissonant and harmonic rhythm of the original songs). But as said, personal taste and emotional attachment to the album may have influenced me both negatively and positively in the judgement, so if you want to get an idea directly, below you can find the entire album overlapped, the mythical Kid 17:
And if you’re still in the mood for goodies to get out of Kid A, I recommend you these two slowed down version of Treefingers and Idioteque, on which I came across after mistakenly putting the turntable platter speed on 45 laps instead of on 33, and with which I’ve immediately felt in love.
(Note: To listen quietly on the bed of your own home, listening on the street or in good friends’ company, relatives and acquaintances can have side effects. Keep away from the reach of children).