Atoms For Peace - AMOK

Fans of Radiohead rejoice! AMOK may have another bands name in front of it, but peel the label off this and you're listening to the newest work from the iconic band.. Just without the iconic band.

In fact the band could in all honesty be called a super group. You already know Flea, the enigmatic bass player for Red Hot Chili Peppers, and one of the architects of their genre defining sound. An absolute monster celebrity in bass music, he has carved a spot as one of the top musicians of the world through the insane funked out grooves he has contributed to the worlds great funk rock band. Joey Waronka, Nigel Godrich and Mauro Refosco are also on the team sheet, so it can be assumed a heavy influence of both R.E.M. and Beck will contribute to the sonics of this project.

AMOK, however, is no melting pot of entrenched styles or sounds. Godrich ensures a more electronica focus, and the immediate reaction is to compare it to The King Of Limbs remix album, or even a Radiohead live performance. The jittery, staccato, math rock approach is backed up by some thumping electronics, and I mean thumping. It's an odd segue from projects for Thom Yorke. It serves to highlight a couple of things. Firstly, even when he surrounds himself with individuals who may not be so musically like minded (Flea, Waronka and Refosco), his creativity seems quite focused and one-dimensional. Secondly, he is an imposing personality when it comes to the project he is working on. More than one commentator has re-christened AMOK as the follow up to The Eraser, Yorke's 2006 solo album, which fell quite flat on that key word 'solo'. Another Radiohead clone, making it clear who is pulling the strings here. Thirdly and finally, the man is quite deep. More on that.

It starts quite nicely, Before Your Very Eyes delivers that jittery, anxious guitar riff, with a basic yet strong Flea bass line harnessing the songs inherent energy. At 2:20 we're treated to something you will encounter countless times over the next 9 songs. A stable base is elaborated on via an introduction of synth, as Yorke hazily croons over the top. It can be viewed one of two ways. Yes, it is a simple structure. Don't confuse the busy-ness of the sounds you're hearing for complexity. If you break Default down to its individual parts, for example, you'll hear a basic drum line, a child-like bass line, Yorke wailing and some very simple synthesizer work. So the formula and structure is simple. But it doesn't result in a simple sound. Combining all of these elements fills the music out. It's classic electronic production, filling the empty spaces. Dropped is a wonderful example of this. The first 1:15 of the song feels under-done, lonely and malnourished. When the drum and bass combo are introduced, the song finds its feet brilliantly, it all clicks nicely in to place.

The first real influence from Flea that we can hear is on Stuck Together Pieces. He slaps quite an intricate bass line that gives the track this jungle rhythm quality. This performance actually endears the rest of his work to you, you realise how much he has been contributing to providing such a forceful sound. It's still, however, a reminder that we needed more from Flea, his influence is muted and that's to the detriment of the record. Godrich and Yorke's synth work is what keeps it afloat the majority of the time. Ingenue pulses forwards through the use of a low-end string section that sounds as if it is being tormented and stretched. Judge Jury and Executioner is held together by another strong yet lazy sounding string-ish synth that brings a church-like quality to the song and to Yorke's vocals.

On his vocals. Default provides the strongest performance, he wails about an anxiety ridden existence 'But it's eating me up' and one that is coloured by struggle and trials, 'I'm still hanging on / Bird upon the wires / I fall between the waves'. Generally his method is to use his voice to soothe the music along, almost always to compliment rather than dominate. Default is probably the only example on the record where your attention is drawn immediately to his content. There are many moments of insight, on Stuck Together Pieces he sings 'Why be rain when you could be sun? / Why tie yourself to anyone?', a peek in to a relationship filled with anxiety, dread and low self-esteem, it's just a pity these words are so hard to get in to due to the way they are delivered. Matching the music, much of his content is extremely jittery and anxious, describing situations and mind-sets of doubt and self-deprecation. On Unless he provides a brilliant release, repeating over and over 'Care less, I couldn't care less, such a mess, I know it's useless'. He paints a picture not of defiance but submissive resignation, acknowledgement that the fight cannot be won. Overall I found the lyrical content to be excellent, the perfect compliment to the nature of the sound. If you take the time to look up what you can't make out it paints a rich picture and adds significant weight to the record.


AMOK exists within a couple of hyped genres. There are periods of the new school of R&B, as Yorke extends his vocals out over lo-fi beats and depressed synthetic grooves, reminiscient of James Blake or How To Dress Well. The trend now of pop artists rejecting the huge budget sounds of EDM, Grimes and Crystal Castles, is also touched on. Youth Lagoon, Beach Fossils, Toro Y Moi. All artists peddling the new school of lo-fi and existing in a similar air space to Atoms For Peace. The point I'm trying to make is that AMOK is brilliant when viewed amongst these contemporaries. I doubt very much that Thom Yorke sat down and tried to write a record that would be viewed as the best amongst company such as this, but he has. AMOK just sounds better. It's much more polished, it's denser, Yorke is more enigmatic and insightful. It is an evolution. I think the best work to compare it to is TKOL remix record. It takes all the solid (not brilliant) moments from that and condenses it, binds it tightly in an accessible package.

8/10. Depending on how you view this record I think you could range between a 4 and a 9. I am basing my figure on the paragraph above. If you wanted a supergroup record, you will be giving it closer to a 4. Flea is cruely muzzled, and the sound is too close to Radiohead to be considered much other than that. View it as it is, an extremely good electronica record, and a good addition to the Radiohead collection 

Best Tracks: Default, Unless, Stuck Together Pieces















Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Iggy Azalea is Australia's Most Courageous Rapper

Comprehensive Ranking of Cakes

Australian Arnott's Biscuits, Ranked

Don't Be The Person Who Kills A Cyclist

Placebo's Sleeping With Ghosts is one of the Best Concept Albums of the 2000s

Best Ambient Albums of 2017: First Quarter