Date of Release: 25-Feb-2013
Experiments in Rhythm, or What I Did On My Summer Vacation.
Thom Yorke is not the sort of fellow that will sit quietly for very long – he is driven to create things. A few years ago, while on sabbatical from his day job as the mouthpiece of indie-rock titans Radiohead, he and longtime Radiohead producer / confidante Nigel Godrich cobbled together an album project called The Eraser on Yorke’s laptop computer. An opportunity for a brief promotional tour presented itself, so Yorke and Godrich enlisted a dream team of friends to help play the songs live. On bass was Red Hot Chili Peppers’ human groove machine Flea. On drums they borrowed Joey Waronker from Beck’s band, while Mauro Refosco provided electronic beats and percussion. They played a limited number of gigs, but were very well received.
Fast forward to 2012. The loosely-affiliated ‘band’ reconvened in Los Angeles to record some ideas for songs. From what I have read, the guiding principle was to experiment with Afrobeat-infused rhythms and unusual syncopation. Once again, ideas were collected on a laptop computer and subsequently assembled into songs by Yorke and Godrich. The results emerged in early 2013 as a new album under the Atoms for Peace moniker.
Amok is a collection of songs that sound looser and less claustrophobic than the tightly-wound Eraser album. While never likely to be confused for Day-Glo pop, up-tempo songs like “Default” and “Stuck Together Pieces” sound like great fun to play. “Before Your Very Eyes…” starts out as a cool triumvirate of percussion, Flea’s bass, and Yorke’s vocals before a bed of fuzzy synthesizers add a twist of tension.
The heavily-programmed “Dropped” would fit in, stylistically at least, on a latter-day Radiohead record. As would “Judge, Jury, and Executioner”, although one is left to ponder how much the complementary guitar stylings of Jonny Greenwood and Ed O’Brien would have added to the mix. The album closes with the clipped and unsettling title track, clicks of percussion underpinned by snippets of echo-chamber vocals and synths.
As experimental and (yes) slightly self-indulgent albums go, Amok is an interesting and engaging piece of work. It’s not for everyone, but those with an appreciation for something a little different will find much to enjoy. My special-edition gatefold vinyl copy, with foil accents highlighting Stanley Donwood’s stark, retro-futuristic artwork, still comes out for an occasional spin in my “man cave” all these months later.