Originally published in the Hindu Sunday Magazine on March 17th, 2013
Atoms For Peace – Amok
Rs 120 (iTunes MP3)
Back in 2009, Atoms For Peace assembled as the latest supergroup on the block – Radiohead’s Thom Yorke on vocals/guitars, Red Hot Chili Peppers’ bassist Flea, producer Nigel Godrich, sessions drummer Joey Waronker (who’s played with R.E.M and Beck) and Brazilian percussionist Mauro Refosco. Knowing supergroups, especially ones which include members from bands who were readying their own releases (Radiohead’s King Of Limbs and Chili Peppers’ I’m With You), it’s only four years later we’re seeing the full-length album Amok, borne out of Yorke’s old and new jams.
Amok is pretty much about Thom Yorke, less than he likes to admit. Despite Flea’s menacing bass grooves on this album, the one thing you’re really waiting to hear in the opening seconds of the first track ‘Before Your Very Eyes…’ is Yorke’s falsetto. He emerges 30 seconds and several anxious bars later. Most beats on this album are digital, although you can hear overdrumming on songs such as ‘Stuck Together Pieces’, in which a very Radiohead-esque sound meets Yorke’s guitar and his words: “You don’t get away/You don’t get away so easily.”
Some of their more popular songs like ‘Default’ are strategically placed early on in the album to hook in listeners, while the superbly-haunting ‘Judge, Jury and Executioner’ has lush interludes and a jumpy drum loop, exactly what you’d to come to expect six tracks down. It sounds like a beautiful mess when the drums just crash over each other, almost sounding clumsy on songs like ‘Reverse Running’, but you just can’t ignore Yorke’s vocals and one (just one) incredible riff.
With danceable songs like ‘Ingenue’, a synth-led electro number (we’re sure you’ll agree once you see the video for it), Atoms For Peace intended to reflect current EDM trends with Amok. It’s not surprising to find a lot of elements of house and ambient, even nodding towards the obscure genres like footwork. If nothing, it’s interesting to see the ever-experimental Yorke not just handling, but leading the whole sound along with Godrich. For newer fans, it’s more surprising to see the funk-happy Flea digging into this territory, just like drummer Joey Waronker, who is more used to playing in rock and roll bands.
It’s difficult to call Amok an experimental rock or an alt rock album, since it leans heavily on to electronica elements. Radiohead fans will have no difficulty in getting hooked to this, but we’re not sure about the mainstream alt rock fans.
Bottomline: Experimental music that features diverse musicians taking on electronica.