Atoms For Peace - Amok (XL)

It is always worth reminding yourself that Radiohead – and the various side projects they have spawned – exist in a category of one. There is no-one – not a single band – like them in contemporary popular music. They are easily capable of selling out stadia, of crashing ticket websites. A Radiohead gig in your city is still a significant cultural event. They are still, after years of refusing to pay even the slightest hint of interest in producing commercially attractive or conventionally marketable material, a Big Deal.

Released Feb 27th, 2013 via XL / By Adam Corner
Atoms For Peace - Amok (XL) And so, when news emerged last year that Thom Yorke had restarted work on his Eraser solo project with a live band that included long-time producer Nigel Godrich, drummer Joey Waronker, percussionist Mauro Refosco and, slightly bizarrely, Flea from the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, it was treated with suitable amounts of salivation from the music press. Happily, the album meets – perhaps surpasses – all expectations, sounding like the more confident, less anxiety-prone, suave and strident older brother of Eraser, Yorke’s first full solo outing.

One of the strongest tracks is the album opener, 'Before Your Very Eyes' – a lo-fi, staccato guitar line gives way to pulsating, distorted synth line, and Thom’s vocals front, centre and fully decipherable. Lead single 'Default' follows, and listening to Amok as a whole, it is difficult to see why they picked it to showcase the album. But the spooky 'Ingenue' sounds like it was produced by Planet Mu star Kuedo, with Yorke’s vocals floating over a restless, unsettled beat, and 'Unless' is straight out of the Modeselektor book of tricks: a menacing but enticing bass snarl, gothic synth moves, and a claustrophobic rhythm. Final (and title) track 'Amok' spins a delicate web of spluttering electronics, and is then gone before the groove has had a chance to take hold.

Both a fraught tension and a low-slung groove runs through Amok, like machine music that has been given a renewed lease of life by being re-crafted for a live band. On paper, an experimental rock/electronic ‘supergroup’ sounds like Genesis. Atoms for Peace deserve your attention not for the famous faces that comprise the band, though, but for the quality of their music. Menacing and hypnotic, Amok knocks the occasionally feeble Eraser out of the park.