Much speculation has surrounded the conception and release of Atoms for Peace’s debut album, AMOK. Leaked tracks have, to mixed reception, come to sound like the type of material that Thom Yorke might play during DJ sets; structured on a purely basement techno-like tempo.
Having started off as Yorke’s live band while on tour for solo album, The Eraser, Atoms for Peace is an experimental rock group made up of stellar musicians that also include Radiohead’s legendary producer and multi instrumentalist, Nigel Godrich, and Red Hot Chilli Peppers’ bassist, Flea, as well as Beck and R.E.M drummer, Joey Waronker, and Brazilian percussionist, Mauro Refosco.
Opening track, ‘Before Your Eyes’, starts off with a bouncy melancholic riff, which instantly had us wondering what might have become of a Yorke collaboration with long-time Red Hot Chilli Peppers’ guitarist, John Frusciante. The song extends into Yorke’s weeping vocals, the product being something that sounds like a soundtrack to space and time travel.
The second track, ‘Default’, was the first single to be released back in September 2012 and is everything The Eraser was meant to sound like. It takes Yorke’s signature sound, perfecting and twisting it into a futuristic techno hyperspace that could only have existed in Godrich’s head.
The use of delay and filters on percussions is defined throughout the whole album and their effects on this track are genius, as Kid A signature synths follow as the chorus kicks in. While one may find the use of heavy reverb on the vocals to be overdone, it works on this track because it creates more of a stereo feel. Overall, ‘Default’ definitely has all the right elements to be worthy of the album’s first release.
‘Judge, Jury and Executioner’ is another masterpiece on the album and is considered to be “the band’s first official collaborative song”, according to Yorke.
Flea’s funk and groovy musical stylings are clearly present across the whole album, which is one of the reasons AMOK sounds much more mature and developed when compared to The Eraser and even Radiohead’s latest and most disappointing effort, King of Limbs.
Still, the dominance of Yorke and Godrich’s roles in the songwriting has some-what limited the direction of the album. It would have been great to see more of the other musicians’ input and how it would affect the overall writing process and outcome – as well as push the two a little further out of their comfort zone.
Though it’s difficult to argue against the impact of the Ok Computer Radiohead sound that Godrich created, it’s a little underwhelming that this eclectic group have not evolved Yorke’s sound. One may argue that AMOK is a step forward, others may argue that it was a total waste of time and self-indulgence; we’ll just have to wait and see.