Review: Atoms for Peace’s Amok looks forward, not back

Atoms for Peace: AmokAtoms for Peace: Amok (XL, 2/26/13)

“Judge, Jury, and Executioner”

Atoms for Peace: “Judge, Jury, and Executioner”

You know the story by now: A few years ago, Radiohead front-man Thom Yorke started a band to help him perform songs from his 2006 solo effort, The Eraser, live. One thing led to another, and now he’s made the band into a full-fledged project that includes longtime producer/visionary Nigel Godrich and Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea, as well as Joey Waronker and percussionist Mauro Refosco. Needless to say, there’s been a lot of buzz surrounding this one.

With more and more details revealed every few weeks (Yorke wanting to make an all-out dance record but eventually “compromising”; the album art coming from Radiohead’s longtime visual artist, Stanley Donwood; recording the album in LA and getting drunk and playing pool at Flea’s house in the process), the wait is finally over: Amok, the first album from Atoms for Peace, is here.

From the onset, it’s no surprise that this is very much Yorke’s brainchild. He describes the project as “a mixture of live and machine” — an apt description, as it’s unclear where the musicians end and the digitized sequences begin. The music marries real instruments with digital loops, glitches, effects, and other Thom Yorke-isms that have become common practice for the Radiohead singer. The album continues Yorke’s persistence in moving into the realm of dance/electronica, a trait first showcased more than a decade ago on Radiohead’s Kid A and most recently cultivated on The King of Limbs.

Amok feels very much like a more focused, fleshed-out, multidimensional extension of The Eraser, with Flea and the other musicians providing texture, layers, depth — a supporting cast to Yorke’s increasingly mechanizable mindset. This isn’t the fusion of two ’90s alternative powerhouses that resurges the tropes and values of rock and funk and whatever else you’d hoped for. Amok — and Atoms for Peace — is about looking forward, not back.

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