Atoms For Peace-Amok

amokAmok is a record not about stories and narrative.  It’s not a record about capturing that magical spark created by five musicians playing together in the studio.  It’s not even a concept record about a dystopian society.  No, Amok is a record about feel.  It’s  a record about movement and flow.  If you haven’t been under a rock for the last 13 years then you’ll know that Thom Yorke and Nigel Godrich have been experimenting with this sort of music for sometime now.  Radiohead’s Kid A was the door swinging open in the beat lab and Thom and Nigel screaming “It’s alive!  It’s alive!!”  From that moment on electronic music has been an integral part of Radiohead’s(Thom Yorke’s) DNA.  Thom Yorke hasn’t made it a secret that he loves dance music as well, dj’ing at clubs and rubbing elbows with the likes of Four Tet, Flying Lotus, and Modeselektor.  Christ, he’s even spent entire videos dancing like a replicant getting electrocuted.  The man likes to shake his odd groove thing.

So, Amok is about movement and flow.  So are bowel movements.  Why should I, you, or anyone else except the men that make up Atoms For Peace and Thom Yorke’s bank account care about this record?  Well, I’ve been asking myself that question for two weeks now.  Ever since I received my ‘complimentary’ download of the record, in lieu of the vinyl I purchased but still have yet to receive(hey Sandbag, WTF??).  But I’ve decided to put those bitter, unsavory feelings to the side so I can be objective in my view and/or review of this album.  And you know what?  I’ve come to the conclusion after many headphone sessions and workout sessions and staring at a computer screen sessions that the reason we, collectively, should care about this album is this:  it’s really, really good.

Beneath all the hype -the amazing group of musicians(Yorke, Godrich, Flea, Waronker, Refosco), the shadow of Radiohead lingering over the proceedings, and Yorke and his freaky deeky dancing- this is an amazing album of dark, electro beauty.  It’s the musical equivalent of John Henry and the steam-powered hammer not in a race to the bitter end, but actually working together to get it done.  Man(or men) and machine coming together to create something mysterious and engaging.  I don’t liken this to a Radiohead side project as so many have.  This is Thom Yorke and Nigel Godrich drinking coffee all through the night cutting and pasting, assembling like a couple mad scientists.  I see this more as a Miles Davis/Teo Macero-spirited affair.  What were inspired performances in the studio have become the veritable limbs of a musical Frankenstein’s monster.  Pieces sewn together, carefully stitched on digital fabric and powered by five guys’ love of making music together.  Making righteous sounds and releasing those sounds onto the world.  From the ‘Born Under Punches(The Heat Goes On)-inspired opener ‘Before Your Very Eyes’, to ‘Defaut’ and it’s blippy, low frequency ear drum abuse, to the slithering synth of ‘Ingenue’,  this record has one agenda and that is to feed a carnal urge in our minds.  ‘Unless’ opens like a 1970s Dario Argento film before the percussion rushes in to save the track from morbidity.  ‘Stuck Together Pieces’ brings that spirit of Remain In Light back, will Flea’s prominent bass line carrying this track the whole way through.  You can almost picture a Live From The Basement session with these guys zoning out to this excellent song.

This album is sensual, calculated, and has a mainline into a subconscious located in some chromed-out future.  This album plays like a cyberpunk novella written by Henry Miller on an LSD binge.  All funky, futuristic, and slithery.  It’s being swallowed by the whale, and liking it.

8 out of 10

17 thoughts on “Atoms For Peace-Amok

  1. WARNING: Discussion of bowel movements in the second paragraph is likely to lead to convulsive laughter making further reading difficult … as well as challenging the over-tax bladder sphincter (i.e. #2 could lead to #1).

    In more seriousness, and not in a confrontational way: why the strong interest in vinyl when it seems your listening time is better served by a digital-only format? Is it the tangibility? The fragility?

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    1. When I listen to music at home, as opposed to my desk at work, is when I truly enjoy listening to music. Plopping the vinyl on the platter and letting it spin has become a ritual for me. I do get a lot out of listening on digital format, and I would never begrudge anyone who prefers their music delivered in megabyte form, but for me listening to music on vinyl is how I get to know the music. I usually play it 3 or 4 times in a row when I’m home. Since I’ve started re-listening to everything on a turntable I’ve gotten to know so many records that had I been listening on my iPod, or even in my car on a cd, I may have given up on them.

      As new age-y and pretentious as this may sound, I feel more connected to vinyl. It’s tangible. The double gatefold sleeve, the lyrics in front of me, the beer by my side…it’s the ritual.

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      1. I do understand the ritual part, intellectually at least. I’m probably too impulsive in my listening to that the added inconvenience of vinyl might help me. The packaging? That’s what I miss. The art, any liner notes. If they could package my preferred portable 1’s and 0’s in a nice vinyl-sized package, I’d be in heaven. I can’t relate to the electronic equivalent.

        If you’re pretentious (you probably aren’t), I’m probably more nihilistic (I’m not). I still tear up over a pet lost years ago, but I haven’t saved his cute little collar.

        As for vinyl, it always pissed me off how easily it was damaged although they’re still listenable even then. My heartless digital files? They stay true until some electronic disaster and they’re gone forever. Maybe that’s just my speed.

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      2. Well, it helps I’m completely anal retentive with my stuff, so all my records are kept quite comfortable and in pristine shape. And thanks to streaming services I’m allowed to hear it before I buy it. So it’s not like the 80s when I was told I should get that Autograph record cause it “rocks”(never again!!)

        My kids have all been trained on how to properly handle the vinyl, too. My youngest, Owen, he’s 8. He’s had enough canings that I think he’s almost to the ‘care’ level that his sisters are. My wife? She still needs supervision.

        In the end, it doesn’t matter what format you listen to music on, it’s that you listen. Period. Well, and that you pay for it. Starving musicians need to starve a little less.

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  2. I am a huge Radiohead fan, but I haven’t gotten to this album yet. I was disappointed by Radiohead’s last album, and not really pleased by the direction that Thom Yorke has taken then in the last two albums. Remember when Ed O’Brien used to actually do something in the band?
    That all being said, I would love to hear Thom Yorke’s experimental work in its own arena rather than forcing Radiohead to do it.

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    1. I hear ya. I miss the days when Radiohead could play like a rock band, but could still be creative and experimental.

      I have come around to the electronic side of Radiohead(Thom Yorke). I didn’t get into Kid A till close to five years after it came out. Once that clicked Amnesiac was the same way. I did love King of Limbs, but you’re right, it feels more like an extension of Thom Yorke’s electronic ventures. I would say this, if you ever get a chance to see the Live From the Basement video of them performing King of Limbs, watch it(that is if you haven’t already). I felt it puts that album into a whole new light.

      Poor Ed O’Brien. He deserves to have his amp turned back on.

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      1. I’m not saying that they should go back strictly to guitar rock, but maybe someone else in the band should wrest a bit of power away from Yorke.
        I was disappointed in King of Limbs. Just more of the same. Since OK Computer, every album they made was more groundbreaking than the last until King of Limbs. I think it is a pretty boring album.

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      2. Oh, I’m saying they should go back to guitar rock. At least just one more straight up guitar-based record before Thom Yorke transcends into merely a ray of light that emits nothing more than a high-pitched noise.

        You listening Thom? Plug that guitar in, just once more! Please??

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      3. Yeah. I hate to harp on this, but it has been a real bone of contention with me for the past 10 years or so. Have you seen them in concert in that time? Or seen a live concert video? Thom is doing more guitar than anyone else. Even Johnny plays more synth than guitar, and poor Ed just stands around with his guitar strapped on, doing nothing. I would be pissed off if I were Ed! Thom has taken over, and I do not think for the betterment of the whole band.
        Also, they have a second drummer now. For what? What does he add that Phil cannot do himself? Nothing, that’s what!
        They have turned outright weird!

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      4. Feel free to harp. I like hearing other points if view, especially when they’re informed and passionate(which yours is).

        Maybe the band needs an intervention.

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