Album Review: Atoms for Peace – Amok

Given its slightly dark imagery, and menacing title, it’s rather a surprise that Thom Yorke and (new) friends have made an album that, while having its moments of doubt and even sadness, is largely an upbeat listen. With a line-up that includes flea of the chili peppers amongst other, suspicions that he would make (I say he because this definitely has the feel of a Thom Yorke solo album) a rockier album are unfounded, indeed if anything the electronic elements take more of the stage.

Album opener before your very eyes is a good insight into te album. Essentially electronic, loops and effects to the fore, with Yorke’s distinctive voice (fragile or whiney, depending on your opinion) with the drums providing a driving pulse to the song. Default, the albums second track, inhabits a sort of Hyperdub crossed with warp vein, beats, experimentation, Yorke’s vocals immediate and near, and rinsed in echo. Like all the tracks on the album,the more attention you give it, the more it gives you back in return.

Atoms For Peace – Amok

Ingenue, the third of the nine tracks on the album, sounds like what you imagine Tubeway Army would be doing if they had started out six months ago, rather than 30 years ago. It also begins to dawn on you around this time the influence, or importance that Nigel Godrich, band-member and producer of The Eraser takes. Interspersed with dripping tap type electronics and with some yearning interjections that mock those who still say electronic music can’t sound emotional, it’s a highlight. Dropped maintains the electro-almost stepping into Burial ground (I’ve wanted to write that for SO long) with its sound exploration again not distracting from it being a pretty good pop song.

It’s not till Stuck together Pieces that Flea‘s real contribution becomes evident. His melodic (and let’s be honest, irresistibly funky) playing dominates throughout, with guitars also in the mix of things, which adds contrast to the electronic-dominant record, and gives it extra life. Judge Jury and Executioner follows, and its about this time in the album that the whole thing becomes a bit sticky to listen to. Maybe its the, absence of real contrast, real highs and lows, real tempo changes, but it’s just slightly…..frustrating. Take nothing away from the song, which bounces along with pulsing hand claps, and flea again trading – it just feels like its time for a break.

Atoms for Peace – Judge Jury and Executioner

Reverse running, pulls things back on track. The percussion is stunning, albeit looped in all probability, and the whole thing has a more relaxed feel to it, Yorke’s vocals even sounding bright and floating. The album’s title track also finishes off the album, and mines much of the same territory, nodding towards house almost with some of the sound choices, again the song taking precedence over any sound experiments.

Yorke has said of his project ‘We formed to learn to play The Eraser record, if you don’t know that, and discovered a really good energy doing that… and it fell into this record. Atoms is an ongoing and open-ended project, where it leads I know not for certain’ What you can take away from the album is that whether your listening to Radiohead or Atoms for Peace, Thom Yorke is one of the most creative and ambitious talents out there. Some people have complained that he contrives to make the same album over and over again. That’s as maybe, but he continues to make the same record better and better.

Rating: 8/10

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