"Amok" by Atoms for Peace is Thom Yorke's latest neon enigma. The experimental electronic band led by the Radiohead vocalist includes Flea, the legendary bassist from Red Hot Chili Peppers, Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich on synthesizer, two-time R.E.M. drummer Joey Waronker and Mauro Refosco on percussion. The first studio album for the band was released Tuesday, Feb. 26 on XL Recordings, but really it is just an extension of Yorke's exploration into electronic music as a solo artist that began in 2006 with "the Eraser."
The band was assembled in 2009 to perform songs from that album live which led to a brief tour. Since, the band has only released two songs up until this album; "Judge Jury and Executioner," in 2009 and "Default," in September; both of which appear on "Amok." Even the band's name comes from a song on "the Eraser," according to Yorke on the Radiohead website.
Atoms for Peace uncovers new ground on this album, particularly the seemingly unending layers of instrumentation on each track. Most interesting is the clarity of each loop that manages to blend together to enhance the total song.
The 9-track, 40-minute electronic adventure that comprises "Amok" is creative and enjoyable. Each song is different from the last while maintaining some loose connection to the album. Even in the same song, the transitions are jittery, abrupt and sound awkwardly purposeful.
The first track "Before Your Very Eyes…" starts with a funky melody and Yorke's mellow crooning. Then, Flea jumps in with a precise and complicated bass line that is overpowered by a futuristic dub step synth melody.
My favorite sound on this album is percussion that begins on "Ingenue," that sounds like a steel drum played inside the cave where the “Goonies” gang found "One-eyed" Willie's pirate ship.
Most of the songs take their lyrics from a few lines that are repeated or echoed. The techno-pop "Default," includes the meta lyric, "I make my bed and lie in it."
"Unless" sounds like an 8-bit orchestra with the weirdly repeated "Careless/ I couldn't care less." Like most of the songs, there is a lot going on the track but "Unless" has the most sound effects including a breaking circuit, an 80s-era laser firing and what sounds like a microphone rattling inside a potato-chip bag. The song even incorporates an African drum beat complete with a few rounds of chants.
"Stuck Together Pieces," has the most Flea on it, which is absolutely a positive. I only heard a bass line on three tracks so I'm not sure what exactly Flea was doing on the rest of the tracks but I can only assume it was adding background vocals to tracks like "Judge Jury and Executioner." That is probably the most recognizable song to Radiohead and Thom Yorke fans and not to mention it showcases some of his extraordinary guitar work.
"Reverse Running," does indeed include a drum machine played reverse with a neat guitar riff that breaks for a bridge that sounds like the first verse replayed at super speed over the drum beat.
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