Oh how Mr. Yorke loves to mess with the mind. Those infected with the contagion that is his work, it can be both an enjoyable event and nerve wracking to keep up. If you have Yorkeitis very badly, this week has been a roller coaster of, “is there a new album or isn’t there? Mr. Donwood said,” There was art work waiting to be wrapped around an album.” Then there were mysterious sightings of an album on turntables, etc, etc. Thom Yorke, Nigel Godrich and Stanley Donwood are skilled at building mystery.
So cut to this morning my side of the pond, when after checking my Twitter and seeing nothing of note, all of a sudden I get the heads up that this will not be like any other Friday. Today Mr. Yorke has dropped his second solo effort via the internet, and it was not bought and paid for by ITunes. YES! Not be outdone by other performers efforts of late, Yorke has yet again attempted to break new ground distributing his work. Remember this is a down and dirty quick review and I am sure more will emerge in coming days. So without further ado let’s give it a go.
If you dig the Polyfauna app you’re going to get this song, “Brain In a Bottle” is the most accessible tune of the eight tracks. The beat is driving the music. Yorke’s falsetto weaves in and out of the electronic keyboards, sending you swirling around the room. There is also an enthralling video to accompany this song. “Guess Again” is an atmospheric song with lyrics that paint threatening imagery, with dogs on chains barking at children as a creature stares out and just when it all gets a little dark the lyric “as one door shuts another opens”, lightens the mood ever so slightly.. Yorke’s voice is in the forefront of this song. A mantra like chorus with a piano accented clap track rounds out the tune.
A trippy keyboard into to “Interference” guides the way into a lonely melancholy song. The track is very stripped down aurally, but there is actual warmth to the song you would not expect. The chorus,” I don’t have the right to interfere”, maybe asking the question of is that statement just rationalization or being non judgmental. “The Mother Lode” has this heartbeat rhythm loaded with glitchy computer looped keyboards. A more upbeat song that lands somewhere in the region of “The Clocks”and“Skip Divided” off of Yorke’s first solo disc “The Eraser”.
The song “Truth Ray” again has all the wonky organ keyboards, reverse looped computer, heart beat drum loops you have come to expect from Yorke. At first listen it comes off as the most sonically out there song in the collection. But then it actually turns into this really personal song almost like a prayer. The chorus of repeating, “Won’t let go, don’t let go, have you no mercy.” Is the set up for the lyric “What is God awaking? Oh my God”, some deep stuff going on here on a many layered track.
The next two tracks, “There is No Ice (For My Drink)” and “Pink Section” are both spacey wonky distorted tracks. The first sounds very Four Tet inspired. The second is an almost sinister sounding tune. They are not for the faint of heart and a familiarity with Yorke’s other solo/Atoms For Peace efforts helps understand these selections. On the first listen, I was picturing Thom and Nigel Godrich messing around in the wee hours of the morning at the studio and then someone pressed record. Also of note, and I could be wrong, but sounds like on “There is No Ice” there is a vocal loop of Thom saying his children’s names. These are the “headphones are mandatory” tracks on the album.
The last track is “Nose Grows Some”, could the title come from the beloved Dr. Seuss book “Fox In Socks”, time will tell. The intro is reminiscent of “Black Swan”. A beat driven song overdubbed on a continuous groove like “The Gloaming” off of Radiohead’s “Hail to the Thief”.
This release is another trip through Yorke’s musically gifted mind. The work is another addition to the fine collection of sonic work Yorke has released outside of Radiohead. He demands you enter his experimental sonic world, allowing him to then be accessible and personal to a point. He only provides glimpses and you have to be on your toes to catch them.
As with his other releases each listen will no doubt reveal more. All in all there is always a reason for rejoicing when Thom Yorke releases new material, for those of us who enjoy his voice more than his electronic programming skills there is a little disappointment with tracks six and seven, but all in all another stellar effort from the Pied Piper of Alternative. I give it a solid 8/10. The download can be obtained through Radiohead’s W.A.S.T.E. website utilizing Bit Torrent and vinyl can also be purchased on that site. It is to be noted that the entire album is only $6.00.