Atoms for Peace – “Amok”
This is Atoms for Peace, better known as “Thom Yorke’s new band.”
The Radiohead frontman got together with the band’s producer, Nigel Godrich, Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea and a few other fellows to make music bloggers’ new favorite thing.
“Amok” is intriguing for at least a few listens. The fluctuation of digital and analog elements is a fun aspect to monitor; the center of every song is the Afrobeat-influenced rhythms, and their makeup is an ever-shifting mix of live percussion, funky bass lines, synthesizers and other electronic hijinks.
The resulting nine-song album is as ear pleasing as one could hope for, though it has little weight. It’s dance-y in its own way, creating an atmosphere of controlled fun while still retaining a sense of critical care and serious musicianship.
Yorke’s voice is present throughout, but a bit ephemeral. Whether what he’s saying can be understood comes off as inconsequential; his instantly recognizable wails fade in and out, interwoven throughout as a subtext to the dominant rhythm.
What can also be fun about “Amok” is the videogame vibe it has at times. The album-closing title track sounds like the soundtrack of an ‘80s dungeon sidescroller given a modern facelift. The next “Tron” sequel should be locking down the rights to one of these songs now.
The most resounding traits here are the professionalism and self-assuredness of Atoms for Peace. This cast of veterans knew what they wanted to do and nailed it, impervious to outside opinion. That doesn’t make the album any better or worse, but it’s a mentality meriting respect.
As for “Amok,” it is a nice, well-done, enjoyable album. It won’t be remembered or revered as “Kid A” was, but that wasn’t the goal. The goal was for something good, different and fun—and that’s what “Amok” is.