Premature Evaluation: Atoms For Peace AMOK

By ajcolores

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Lately, I’ve been thinking about Thom Yorke as a musical version of Steven Soderbergh: An insanely gifted popular entertainer who’s come to think of himself as a trickster auteur type, someone who will concoct dizzily difficult artistic scenarios for himself and then solve his own puzzles with breathtaking ease. The thing about Soderbergh is that even when he’s not in Erin Brockovitch/Ocean’s Eleven blockbuster-entertainment mode, even when he’s pretending to be difficult, is that his movies tend to have gratifying, easily understood emotional arcs. He can fill his movies with nonprofessional actors or bizarre filmmaking flourishes, but you still feel like you’re in the hands of a master entertainer, not a challenging visionary. Yorke has his own blockbuster-entertainer mode, too; when they feel like being that, Radiohead are still probably the best arena rock band currently working. But even when he’s linking with Burial or Flying Lotus, Yorke’s voice has an ineffable float to it, something recognizable to anyone who’s ever enjoyed “Paranoid Android” or “Optimistic” or maybe even “Creep.” On AMOK, the debut full-length from his newish band Atoms For Peace, Yorke devises all sorts of traps for that voice: Endlessly twitchy rhythmic beds, hall-of-mirrors synth-blips, time-signatures too convoluted for a roomful of metronomes to chart. At times, he sounds like he’s singing for a warm, low-tech version of Autechre. But that voice always hovers over everything, triumphantly soothing, offering an uncomplicated form of beauty that ultimately overshadows everything else.

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