Atoms for Peace | AMOK

XL (2013)
By RYAN REED  |  February 26, 2013
3.5 3.5 Stars


Kid A
, Radiohead's confounding electro-rock masterpiece, is officially hitting puberty. It was 13 years ago that Thom Yorke, the band's restless, iconic frontman, pushed his quintet's psychedelic tapestries into the digital unknown, blending guitars and synthesizers with glitchy programming and sampled hysteria. That synthesis of organic and synthetic resulted in a groundbreaking about-face — but replicating it hasn't been a cake-walk. Yorke's debut solo album, 2006's laptop-spawned The Eraser, was melodically beautiful yet sonically cold, sorely lacking his main band's muscle and textural sprawl. The last Radiohead album, 2011's The King of Limbs, was a frustrating and fractured affair, littered with muted beats and jittery riffs — a jigsaw falling out of place. Kid A may be nearing bar-mitzvah age, but in a roundabout way Yorke has finally delivered its spiritual sequel: AMOK, his debut recording with quasi-super-group Atoms for Peace, expands and colors that album's template, connecting the dots in often fascinating ways. The seeds were sewn in 2009, when Yorke recruited a high-profile gang of collaborators (longtime producer Nigel Godrich, percussionist Mauro Refosco, session-ace drummer Joey Waronker, and Red Hot Chili Peppers funk-bass wizard Flea) for a belated Eraser jaunt. Those songs gained a funky, visceral edge onstage — and that primal vitality has oozed into AMOK, an album that blurs the line — thrillingly — between human being and machine. Refosco and Waronker combine their respective pitter-patter percussion into complex webs, while Godrich and Yorke twiddle with West African guitars (the fittingly titled "Stuck Together Pieces") and icy synth pads that blur in and out of focus. The real MVP is Monsieur Flea, whose meaty basslines anchor the explosive climax of "Dropped" and punch up the ghostly campfire tale "Judge, Jury, and Executioner" with a glacial 7/8 goo-step. AMOK is as heady and immersive as any great Radiohead album, but those comparisons eventually wilt: Yorke's new band has discovered a symmetry all its own.


Related: Radiohead | The King of Limbs, Skipp Whitman | Skipp City, Review: Tyler Perry's Good Deeds, More more >
  Topics: CD Reviews , Radiohead, Thom Yorke, review,  More more >
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