Amok 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