Thom Yorke: minimalism AmokMusic Entertainment
Master's voice … Thom Yorke's latest release is satisfying in its starkness.
This could be Thom Yorke's second solo album (after the excellent The Eraser) or the debut album from the group he assembled to make his second solo album then found was an entity in itself.
The group includes Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Joey Waronker from a lot of great records and Nigel Godrich, producer of most of the Radiohead albums.
It was a rapidly produced album - done in three days - and Yorke has essentially said it was the product of getting together, getting wasted and listening to Fela Kuti.
Atoms For Peace by Amok.
Hearing this was a lightbulb moment for me, a week or two into the job of getting inside Amok - or maybe, more accurately, letting Amok get inside me.
It made sense of something I had been unable to articulate even as I became more and more obsessed with this minimalist piece of art.
Some of the most compelling moments of Kuti - the title track to the album Zombie for instance - create a wholly separate existence for a listener.
The songs cocoon you within their world or, better yet, make that world seem all encompassing so everything else simply becomes background.
It begins with a groove that isn't dependent on bass or drums or percussion individually but seems incapable of being separated into its constituent parts. The song then moves relentlessly, even remorselessly, to weave a compelling and disorienting web.
In a quieter, starker and more electronically enhanced way, that is exactly how Amok works.
This is not an album for parsing or separating but for taking whole.
Its sequence of liquid basslines and beats, which feel as if they're played more on the rims than the skins of the drums, should roll into one. It is a case of constant changes of position rather than outright dancing, with the low humming energy percolating rather than erupting.
You can take a single track and think yourself ready to kick up a gear but the development remains subtle and over a longer time frame.
Take, for example, Default (woody snaps and vibrating low registers, the skitter beat emerging along with the organ chords), which eases up into Ingenue (a distant woodpecker and Eno-esque synthesiser are in the background, but only just behind the shaker-as-high hat) and then steps up more on Dropped (firmer industrial tones and more probing rhythms). You progress but you do it within this tightly framed world.
This is a headphones album, an immersive experience within the mix of electronica and analogue.
That is how you will get the most out of Yorke's voice too, that febrile and yet delicate thing at the centre - but not the forefront, because there is no forefront - of this starkly engaging construction.
ATOMS FOR PEACE