The mash-up world, following the release and enormous publicity of Danger Mouse‘s Grey Album, has erupted. Following the illegal mixing and matching of Jay-Z and The Beatles, artists coming together to mash has blossomed into a full industry. Jay-Z was one of the first to take advantage on a massive scale when he collaborated with Linkin Park for Collision Course. Now both the underground and commercial aspects of mash-ups have grown, and this new sub genre has invited a host of interesting questions regarding rights and distribution where two artists are involved. What makes the questions more interesting is, as in the case of Danger Mouse, when an artist goes out on their own to mash others’ music. But what happens when the remixed music is free, and started out free? Somehow, it seems lately that whenever we write about distribution rights, marketing and new music models, Radiohead is omnipresent. This time, it wasn’t Danger Mouse, and it wasn’t using a collection of songs as heavily protected as the Beatles’ library.
A few months ago, we talked about Radiohead releasing their newest album online in a “pay what you will” format. The discussions have been endless in terms of what this new model means for the record industry. The limits of Radiohead’s generosity were tested recently when AmpLive, who most will know from his amazing work as one half of the Zion I duo out of Oakland, came out with a new mash-up. AmpLive, after listening to In Rainbows, decided that he had to have a crack at re-mixing the tracks and adding hip-hop artists like Charli 2na and Del of Hieroglyphics over Thom Yorke‘s lyrics. He started offering these mixes up under the title Rainydayz Remixes, and sure enough, Radiohead’s major distributer, Warner, sent a cease and desist for unauthorized mixes.
That’s when Radiohead, their take on the music industry and distribution rights, and their sensibilities as musicians stepped in to the discussion. Never one to do what the labels tell them, Radiohead has now sanctioned AmpLive’s remixes, allowing him to distribute them as long as they are free (which was his intention initially), and apparently giving the musician stamp of approval to a mash-up album that carries Radiohead’s distinctive sound while taking the music of the band into previously uncharted hip-hop territory. After four listens through the album last night, there’s little wonder that it got the band’s stamp of approval…it’s phenomenal, unexpected, and a fantastic companion piece to the original.
Clocking in at a sparse 8 tracks and 25 minutes, what Rainydayz lacks in length it makes up for in depth. Following the 30 second intro, the remaining 7 songs are a lush assortment of sounds and moods. “Videotapez” is a slick chop of “Video Tape,” with a solid hip-hop beat and an original Del verse. Amp uses the piano portion of the song as the loop, and Thom Yorke’s scratched lyrics provide the chorus. “Nudez” takes on “Nude,” using the airy vocals of the original and lacing them over a thumping bass line. The song takes on an original chorus and provides a Too Short verse before transitioning into a more laid back beat with Yorke on the fade out.
“Weird Fishes/Arpeggi” gets redone here as “Weird Fishez.” Amp doesn’t repeat the fast paced drums of the original, and the song is all the better for it. The beat rolls along with hand claps and an almost jazzy xylophone type sound with electronic glitches. The use of Yorke on this one is more as accent, as all of the clips are jittery and short. He doesn’t use any extended lyrics from this one, and the clips he does use trail off nicely. Towards the end of the song, Amp goes frenetic with the drums before bringing the beat back. “All I Need” brings a more trippy underground dub feel to the original with nicely interspersed horns. The chorus is brought out in a synthesized loop, and the end result is reminiscent of a Massive Attack song. This song is fantastic as it demonstrates the true versatility of Amp. While the majority of his music is rooted in hip-hop, part of what has made Zion I so successful is his constantly changing and incredibly diverse production. Here he shows that off to great effect.
On “15 Stepz,” Amp starts the song with a heavy electric guitar that leads you to believe we’re going to get a Collision Course-esque mash-up, but then a relaxed and groovy beat comes in and Codany Holiday offers up a soulful interpretation of the original lyrics. Part funk, part lounge, this song is perhaps the best example on the album of Amp weaving together his interpretation with the original material. He slows down the glitch tempo of the original and combines it with a great beat of his own. It’s excellent to hear the Radiohead lyrics re-interpreted here. The style of Radiohead is so unique, and Yorke’s voice so distinct that this soulful take on it comes across wonderfully. Holiday doesn’t get caught up trying to emulate, he merely takes the words and gets down to business
“Reckonerz” starts with the start and stop style found in a few songs on True and Livin’ before bringing in the deep and unmistakable flow of Charli 2na. The chorus is completely original, and the verse is backed by eerie samples from the source material “Reckoner.” 2na blasts through the verse in his signature style, making this perhaps the most radio ready track of the 7. The album finishes with “Faustz” which sounds more like it’s original, “Faust Arp,” than any other track here. Amp keeps the main guitar part virtually intact while looping and scratching the original lyrics on top. The head nodding hip-hop over the top sounds right at home, and the stop and go segment sounds like a DJ swapping drum beats between turntables.
If there’s one downfall to this album it’s that it’s under a half hour long. If there’s two, the second is that AmpLive doesn’t tackle the other songs on the album. “Bodysnatchers,” “House of Cards” and “Jigsaw Falling Into Place,” are neglected here. But these are minor points. The creation of the album, free internet distribution, and subsequent Radiohead backing make this album another step in the journey to a revolutionized music industry, and a triumphant addition to the growing collection of mash-ups.