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Radiohead singer’s side project debuts album

Radiohead singer’s side project debuts album

March 01
00:15 2013

Matt Wood

Copy Chief

The formation of “Atoms for Peace” is about as foggy as origin stories can be.

Radiohead lead singer and principal songwriter Thom Yorke was originally touring on his solo album in 2009 when he teamed up with Flea, bassist for the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich.

The group made several unexpected performances under strange names, and even announced on their website that “??????” would be playing at in New York, Chicago and Boston.

The group reappeared out of nowhere and collaborated in the studio in 2013, with the release of the single “Judge, Jury and Executioner” on Jan. 7.

On Feb. 25, they released their first full-length album “Amok.”

The album seems to be an on-going power struggle between the powerful visions of each collaborating musician. Tracks are either eerily electronic and synthetic, or warmly organic and acoustic.

The first track “Before Your Very Eyes…” actually bridges the gap between these two.  It starts with electric guitar, bass, and tapping drumsticks, and progresses to be more diverse as synthesizer meanders into the mix.

Aside from the vocals, it has a very jazz-influenced feel to it, with the constant barrage of percussion and sporadic bits of guitar that seem more improvisational than structured. The transition occurs about halfway through the song, when synthesizer floods out the guitar tones, and the jazz influence is lost to an electronic one.

The following song, “Default,” strays very far into the synthetic territory. It is very reminiscent of Radiohead’s “Kid A,” with a chorus that sounds like a missing track form the album.

“Judge Jury and Executioner” blends artificial rhythmic noises and claps with a soothing acoustic guitar to create a very jarring atmosphere. Yorke’s haunting vocals only add to it, but the sounds all still manage to tie together. It sounds as though it was recorded in a reverberating airplane hanger, with each sound ricocheting off the walls.

This song in particular highlights the individual visions of the  ‘supergroup.’ Flea’s persistent, progressing bass line warbles forward throughout the song, and Yorke’s voice and guitar lock-in perfectly with the rhythm section. Godrich weaves synthesizer chords in and out of the song, with enough subtlety to mesh with the heavily layered track.

The end product is incredibly cohesive and original, and is a good example of the kind of cross-genre music that ‘supergroups’ can produce. Several tracks, however, do not achieve this same kind of synchronicity between the very diverse musicians.

There are several instances where Godrich’s synthesizer playing seems tepid and uncertain.  Particularly in the intro to “Unless,” the song feels a bit shaky until Yorke steers some direction into with rhythm. But even with this, the song feels unpolished and aimless.

Though the album as a whole makes numerous jumps between styles, the wide range of styles offered by the group should allow listeners to pick out their favorite tracks to add to their new song addictions.

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