Monday, 18 February 2013

Atoms For Peace - AMOK Review

Atoms For Peace - AMOK [Electronica / Indie]

It's hard to ignore this album with two juggernaut artistes on it, namely Thom Yorke of Radiohead and Flea of Red Hot Chilli Peppers. I will be the first to admit that I am a Radiohead fanboy, especially in the wake of their last two beautiful albums, that could easily be in my best of lists for albums any time. I am going to try and review this impartially.

Thom Yorke's presence is huge here though, and his electronica washes completely dominate any other analogue music here even if he was expecting a harmonious marriage. Not that experimentation is a problem, but Radiohead's prime was in guitar-centric anthems on OK Computer, and Yorke has been a supporting guitarist himself. Does his electronica sound convincing? Yes and no.

On the plus side, there is 'Default'. A fantastic track with an angry, futuristic electronic beat that juxtaposes superbly well with Yorke's famous nasal croons, and Yorke effectively uses the synth here because no instrument could reciprocate the beat of the song here. This is forward thinking music that does not neglect the songcraft of the 90s, and could easily be one of the best non-metal songs of the year.

Another thing that strikes me here is how energetic and colourful the album is, as compared to Yorke's earlier career. The percussionists are really good in bringing out complex, yet palatable rhythms, and the album has a lot of syncopated polyrhythms, a rarity in popular music though the DNA has had its straints on Radiohead's The King Of Limbs. This are all, again, pitted against Yorke's sleepy vocals (you have got to admire his abstinence from vocal effects though out the album) and they create a dense sonic sound although this pretty much the norm on electronic music.

The problem however, is when both sides fail to gel well with each other. Flea's bass is pretty much in your face, even more obvious with the deliberate absence of guitar texture, and when he brings in the funky rhythms, Yorke is still in sleep mode. The music, even in its uplifting tempos and complexity, sound flat. Thom Yorke should have allowed his voice to be more dynamic, because the clash works on some songs ('Defualt', 'Dropped', 'Judge, Jury & Executioner', 'Reverse Running' and the title track), but overall, it sounds overused, bland and well, disappointing. I may dig this album, but as far as professionality goes? This is below the standard of the Radiohead we come to love. Decent, not too good.


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