Collaborative Masterpiece Boasts Positive Energy
Published: Friday, March 1, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, February 27, 2013 23:02
Music doesn’t usually floor me the first time I listen to it; I might like some aspects of it, but it can take a while for an album to fully set in and wow me. Of course there’s the rare exception, but they’re few and far between — Radiohead’s Amnesiac, Björk’s Medúlla, Metric’s Grow Up and Blow Away, Brooke Fraser’s Flags and Avril Lavigne’s Let Go are the only examples I can think of. But as of recently, a new album can be added to that list. Atoms for Peace’s debut, album Amok, released this past Monday, left me stunned and incapable of thought or movement after just my first listen.
Formed in late 2009 to support Radiohead lead singer Thom Yorke’s tour for his solo album The Eraser, super-band Atoms for Peace consists of Yorke, bassist Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Nigel Godrich — a producer who has worked with everyone from Radiohead to Paul McCartney — and lesser-known artists Joey Waronker and Mauro Refosco. After playing a few shows throughout 2009 and 2010, they began recording their full-length album in 2011. Amok, however, has a sound totally distinct from any of the members’ other work. Although it’s definitely Yorke-and-Godrich-esque, it is not like anything done by Radiohead in the past.
I first heard the album after a digital stream was released through NPR while I was attempting to do some work one evening, but no work was done. Maybe it was my sheer excitement and the general anticipation surrounding the album’s drop, but from the first note of the exceedingly rhythmic opener "Before Your Very Eyes," I was incapable of doing anything except listening. For the rest of the album, I sat, eyes closed, completely drawn into this incredible album. Even if this was due to my enthusiasm for Thom Yorke, I have continued to be floored with each subsequent listen, finding new and exciting layers and elements I hadn’t noticed before.
While Amok still contains the heavy synth and rhythmic elements found on The Eraser, Flea’s deep, heavy bass adds a warmth the latter album lacks. This element makes Amok immeasurably more accessible to the average listener than Yorke’s other recent works, which appeal to a specific type of listener. Tracks like "Stuck Together Pieces" and "Judge, Jury, and Executioner," with their strong bass lines pulsing throughout the song, exemplify this incredibly groovy warmth.
However, Amok still shows Yorke and Godrich’s preference for the experimental: Each song consists of layers upon layers of different musical elements — analog and electronic alike — that somehow all magically mesh together to form the beautiful music that makes up this album. Look to "Ingenue" to hear this particular variety of experimentation, supplemented by the highly rhythmic nature of Waronker’s drumming, which can be heard clearly on the tracks "Reverse Running" and "Unless".
All of the various components — the floating guitar, the bleep-bloops and wub-wubs of the computer generated sounds, Thom’s soaring falsetto, the weighty bass and the percussive drums — come together in a remarkable fashion. Listen to the album’s closer, "Amok," in order to hear the blend; while each layer exists on its own, the way all the layers interact is truly stunning. Even so, the album isn’t perfect. Even as every track is striking and beautiful in its own right, the album can seem a little scattered. Perhaps it’s the high energy of the music, but at times the album can be a little overwhelming. Nonetheless, Amok is an extraordinary, energetic treasure chest of an album, full of musical gold doubloons; the more you listen to it, the more you discover within each song. Its sexy, spirited rhythms make it hard to resist dancing along in your seat to nearly every song.