ATOMS FOR PEACE – Amok

THE ‘DON’T CALL US A SUPERGROUP’ SUPERGROUP ATOMS FOR PEACE RELEASE ALBUM AMOK NEXT WEEK… HE WON’T THANK YOU FOR SAYING SO, BUT IN ALL BAR NAME THIS IS PHASE 1.5 OF THOM YORKE’S SOLO CAREER.
AMOK - Atoms For Peace
With long-term Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich, Yorke has machined up 45 minutes of laptop-lab electro-noir from three days of post-tour jamming by the band which took his 2006 album THE ERASER on the road.
AMOK features the impressive talents of Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea, percussionist Mauro Refosco and REM and Beck drummer Joey Waronker, all cut-up into neat cubes, everything in its right place below Yorke’s cool and controlled vocals.
Hypnotic single JUDGE, JURY AND EXECUTIONER – ghost-gospel backing vocals, crisp handclaps and pent-up organic acoustic guitar – feels closest to being a performance, the song ‘written’ in comparison to what surrounds it. It’s no surprise to discover that it was the first track to arrive – in the midst of the tour – nor that once removed from the constraints of the band’s concert set-up most of what followed seems to have Yorke and Godrich keeping it in view – consciously using it as an anchor point, but backing ever farther away into deeper outré IDM.
BEFORE YOUR VERY EYES is, similarly, a highlight and like the other seven remaining tracks, the studio is employed more as an instrument of composition than a mere recording tool. Repetitive afro-guitar sample and low maintenance bass dance around processed carnival polyrhthyms which scurry with tiny percussive detail, as analogue keyboards arrive in the back end to buzz, wash and linger like it’s 1981. The lack of a defining melody from the instrumentation divorces Yorke’s voice from the groove-out: “Sooner or later…” he sings in disembodied falsetto, coming on like the spectre floating way over the feast. STUCK TOGETHER PIECES repeats the trick but with metronomic beat, low-key fluid bass funk and warmer vocals. The curious effect during both tracks – across much of the album, in fact – is that of finding yards of space, inch by inch, where you know there was none before.
AMOK is stimulating minimalist head(phones) music though it’s, perversely, perhaps in keeping with the general aesthetic that at what feels like an overlong 45 minutes the heart eventually says less is more.