Adam Williams reviews Atoms For Peace for Northern Transmissions



Atoms For Peace

It bursts with flavor, full of intense ingredients that are wonderfully strange yet similar, there are textures that overlap but skew off into different realms altogether. What are we describing? Amok of course! Firstly, this is the moniker for a traditional Cambodian curry that is a delicious coconut and fish based dish savored by the Khmer people, and secondly it’s the title of the new album by the Thom Yorke fronted project, Atoms For Peace. As to whether Yorke took inspiration from South East Asian cuisine is a head scratcher, however the similarities between the flavorsome meal time treat and Atoms for Peace’s debut record are all in the opening sentence. Both are chocked full of thrilling twists and turns for the mouth and soul to relish, Amok (the album, not the curry) simmers with multiple layers of texture, constructed around processed beats, swathes of ghostly electronics and Yorke’s trademark soulful croon. Amok is definitely a meal for the ears and for the belly to appreciate.

Right then, less about food more about music, Yorke assembled his merry band of men (Flea on bass, Nigel Godrich on guitar, synths and keyboards, Joey Waronker on drums and finally Mauro Refosco on bone rattling percussion) to bring his solo record, The Eraser to life during a host of live shows throughout 2010. The group galvanized such a bound they decamped to a studio to flesh out what would become Amok. The fruits of their labours began in the frame of freeform arrangements all centered around beats and laptop glitches. Rhythm is the order of the day for Amok, each track is steeped in a wide range of multifaceted beats that ricochet of one another whilst being absorbed by waves of synths all bolstered by Flea’s throbbing omnipresent bass. Amok is an ever evolving body of work, like a musical lava lamp, the songs seem to take on their own lease of life as if they are free to mould around anything they choose.

Amok can be likened to a not so distant relation to Radiohead’s last record, The King of Limbs, purely by its recognizable percussion and beat driven tracks that bleed into Amok. Saying that, ‘Dropped’ sounds like In Rainbows opener ’15 Step’ but it’s more nimble brother, as the tracks turbulent electronic ebb and flow coupled with oscillating noise drapes itself across the crackled, broken beats at the song’s core. ‘Reverse Running’ segues in a more organic leaning by introducing weaving guitar riffs and chopped up vocal ticks that treat Yorke’s voice like another instrument as opposed to a vehicle to deliver lyrics. This track grows to a thrilling finale then erupts like a horde of robotic bees trapped in a phone box.

For years Yorke has confessed his love for electronic artists like Four Tet and Burial, and this beat driven fixation has truly manifested itself in the shape of Amok. There is something fundamentally hypnotic about the melting pot of varied percussion and digital soundwaves almost like modern day psychedelia. Amok feels intricately made, like a patchwork quilt of ideas all sewn together with obsessive precision but not at the cost of a good tune, this isn’t a clinical chin stroking record, there is enough heart and soul amongst the machine driven nuances to ensure an organic touch is plain to see.

Words and Thoughts of Adam Williams


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