When Thom Yorke wanted to tour his solo album, The Eraser, he called upon his heavyweight musical chums: Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea, REM’s Joey Waronker and renowned session percussionist Mauro Refosco. The shows were a massive success, the band got wasted and listened to Fela Kuti, and decided they were having such fun they’d make a record of their own. Enlisting Radiohead’s uber-producer Nigel Godrich, they headed to the studio. The result is Amok, the first (and possibly only) album from Atoms For Peace…
Opener Before Your Very Eyes immediately reveals the influence of Kuti, with its scratchy afro-beat percussion recalling the image of Yorke’s absurdist dancing in the video for Lotus Flower. Indeed, it’s the danciest track Yorke has been associated with in quite some time – and an unexpectedly fun way to kick things off.
That sense of abandon doesn’t permeate the whole album, however, with things settling into the throbbing, dubstep-inspired grooves which have characterised so much of Radiohead’s recent work. It’s a rich sound, filled with some wonderful basslines (Stuck Together Pieces) and even a touch of Vangelis inspired synth which might have been lifted directly from Bladerunner (Default). Ingenue features Yorke’s best vocal: a sweeping fragile falsetto offset by the unexpectedly percussive sound of a dripping tap.
There’s little here that’ll convert the unconvinced, with Yorke refusing the opportunity to cut loose and experiment a little, and occasionally losing his illustrious band-mates amidst the carefully calibrated production. There are moments where things threaten to erupt and it’s a frustration that it doesn’t, but Amok rewards repeated listens – its intricacies only revealing themselves gradually over time. It’s not a groundbreaker, but until the next Radiohead release, it will keep Thom Yorke’s dedicated fans more than satisfied.