Atoms for Peace proves Yorke's genius
Atoms for Peace, side project-turned supergroup of Radiohead’s Thom Yorke, has finally released AMOK, its debut album. Following in the footsteps of The Eraser, Thom Yorke’s debut solo album, AMOK combines the ethereal, unmistakable sound of Yorke’s post-millennial experimentation in electronic music with the supergroup’s artistic talent.
If you are brave enough to experience the lyrical liaisons of Yorke’s voice or are willing to let your brain dive into Yorke’s consciousness, AMOK is crooning your name. If this isn’t enough to grab your attention, consider the fact that Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers plays bass for all nine songs on the album. Yorke casts his spell over Atoms for Peace, and the result is a voodoo you can groove to.
Those familiar with Radiohead will appreciate the unforgettable experience of falling into the depths of Yorke’s mind. His sound is intoxicating, otherworldly and occasionally a mind-opening experience. The album’s sound echoes Radiohead’s latest album, The King of Limbs, as much as it does The Eraser, so don’t expect anything revolutionary. What makes this album kick is the band’s collaborative effort, as if each individual band member jacked into Yorke’s vision and became one larger than life entity.
Although AMOK is unquestionably Yorke’s baby, the rest of the supergroup deserves notable attention. Nigel Godrich, Radiohead’s producer, uses his years of experience in the studio with Radiohead to ensure that every sound effect capable of stroking the soul is included, bringing consistency to Yorke’s unpredictability. On drums, Joey Waronker uses his experience from Beck and R.E.M. to give spot-on accents to the group’s eclecticism. Mauro Refosco, a Brazilian percussionist who has toured with the Red Hot Chili Peppers, brings a cacophony of snaps and cracks that breathe danceable life into AMOK. To top it all off, Flea, one of the most accomplished and acclaimed bassists of all time, is there all the while, providing the stabilizing spine to the constantly evolving sound of Atoms for Peace.
Though it might frustrate some listeners that the members’ own unique talents are somewhat contained under Yorke’s yoke, this is highly intentional. Atoms for Peace isn’t your typical supergroup where everyone turns their own amp up to 11. Rather, Atoms for Peace is a calculated experiment in complimenting Yorke’s vision, and the artists treat it as such.
Each of the nine tracks on AMOK feel like one of a kind, but the general musical landscape of the album still manages to gel. “Before Your Very Eyes…” opens the album by instantly sucking you into Yorke’s characteristic lyrical hypnotism, and by the time you finish the album with the eponymous track “Amok,” you can’t quite seem to remember where the last 45 minutes went. This is par for the course for Yorke’s later work, and as such is pleasantly anticipated.
The tone of the album is somewhat dark, a likely result of AMOK’s minimalist and mechanical sound. At times, the album can seem downright apocalyptic, an idea sharply underscored by AMOK’s unforgettable black and white dystopic album art.
If this really is Atoms for Peace’s vision of the apocalypse, music lovers should embrace it. Led by Yorke’s genius, AMOK proves that supergroups can excel at both simplicity and extravagance. AMOK is seductive like a siren and a worthy addition to the repertoires of the members of Atoms for Peace.