Atoms for Peace, if you didn't know, is a "supergroup" sorta thing with Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, a guy who played with Beck and R.E.M., a famous Brazilian instrumentalist and two other dudes.
Doesn't really seem like your sorta...
The other two dudes are Nigel Godrich, producer of every Radiohead album since OK Computer, and
Yeah, but if that excites you you probably already knew about this...
Anyways he brought this band together to support his solo tour but they ended up recording an album together too. And this is it.
So what can you expect from this?
Well, I've been going out of my way to avoid leaked tracks and singles and concert bootlegs because I didn't want to have a good answer for that before this, the FIRST IMPRESSION. Part of me is expecting The Eraser pt II, as TKoL sorta hinted at that sorta thing a few times. That would be amazing enough, I am a huge fan of The Eraser. But this also has some pretty traditional rock-types (like Geodude?) working on it, so who knows?
I will, over the next hour, and I will let you know what I learn in this LIVE REVIEW:
Atoms for Peace - Amok
1. Before Your Very Eyes...
Very beat-heavy dancey sorta thing going on here. Feels less minimalist than it is. AHA HERE HE IS, THOMMY VOCALS GO. Looking out of window lyrics. Oh man I hear da flea coming in with his bass riffz. I like it. I like all of this so far. It is very focused and yet has this sort of chaotic scattered feel. I like this feeling of riff/beat focus. Oh man the famous thommy whine, I love it, and I love how the beat picks up a few extra elements right when it starts, the whole thing just sort of fills out... Thom's voice is probably the most-loved production voice OH MAN this sorta electro fuzz, I love it. I love how it bounces around the stereo. I love that recurring rattle/echo sound in the back that becomes more or less apparent without actually changing. I love the way this electro thing moves to a beat that feels very dancey and yet the tone of it makes you think more droney. Oh man and these keyshifts? There is little I love more than this sort of thing done well. And before your very eeeeeeeeeeyesssss. Oh man and yes this deep deep sorta blooming sound, swallowing up everything else. I love how there was a sort of unresolved feeling to the introduction of that sound, probably something crazy gonna resolve that later. TWO VOCAL LAYERS. This is good. This is a sort of dancier feeling "These Are My Twisted Words". Yes, this was very good. **
Woahahaoh, this is pretty cool. Really mechanical and WOAAH YES, okay, so the sound of the one beat, that sort of... echoey emptiness... you can hear it on the Rival Consoles' track "Preoccupied Fashion Bastard" or a song called "Yeah Yeah" by Bodyrox. I LOVE IT. It is among my favorite things. And here, subtle as the devil, it is. But yeah this is really really cool. Yes, I love this. Almost reminds me of the ol' James Murphy. But with this deep in a forest almost mystical Radiohead allure. It doesn't engage on the irony-sincerity gradient of LCD Soundsystem, it is making you dance for a whole 'nother reason. But yeah the beat patterns, and the type of beats, and all that stuff, I just can't overstate how interesting they are. They're SUPER INTERESTING. This sorta frantic scattered stuff contrasting with the slowness of the vocals and the longer scraping beats... ahhh, genius. And these round and swelly synths with the choppy fuzzy tones, how, HOW? "I've made my bed, I'm lying in it", can you guys think of a song Thom has done with bad lyrics? I think he is number one most consistent in the game. Don't say Creep. And this thing at the end here with the conversing vocal parts, Jesus H, wow. And that intro. Amazing. **
Hmm, what is this? Sorta like... babby manipulates 80s Casio synth for the first time? and then is joined by a HAUNTING FROM DEEP WITHIN THE MACHINE. Wow the way they expand in and around that very bare and stark tone is just... well it's the sort of thing you let out one really long exhale to. This sort of beat-based soundscape construction... it's just really amazing when you think about it. "I'm always before you". The atmosphere is just compelling. "Fools rushing in". I might actually be terrified. It's so rich and perpetual but there's such a drive to it. How can something so loop-based OH MAN ARE THOSE BACKWARDS SAMPLED DRUMS? OH MY GOD. This has EVERYTHING I LOVE. If Lil B raps on the next track that will BASICALLY BE LITERALLY TRUE. And then the ending with the same as the beginning but richer and more expandjoe;welhdc we **
This is cool. This is really like the ol' Murphy. Very aggressive beats, feeling like they're pushing or building to something. That's the genius of how LCD Soundsystem would get a feeling of drive to the tracks, everything would rally around that beat building up steam. Here some stuff goes with it and some stuff just like... uses the energy of it to be able to really space out Tourist style. Like the vocals. AND THEN OH MY GOD OH MAN. At the minute mark. That progression. Wow. This is just bbbburnin' up! MAmazing. Those chaotic exploding beats around everything. Intricate! So intricate! And yet there's nothing unnecessary, there's no failed attempts to add artificial complexity or anything. Everything just WORKS. Wow the layering of the vocals here, that's insane. And then this lonely Burial kick pattern emerging in the right ear, AND THIS SORTA PIANO PULSE SOUNDING THING, this is all just SO CRAZY. I gotta turn this UP yet AGAIN. The beat is like running back and forth in my brain. Superb. And then this minimalism thing here with just the bass and that kick and stuff's gonna come back in again, aha, that works so well, so so well. And the way that one snare rush thing in the back, that echo, that like... sonar pulse. ALL SO GOOD. **
Woah this is freaky. Real ghost in the machine sorta stuff here. The slight bends in the organosynth genuinely unnerve me. "Care less... I couldn't care less..." And this mosquitoey hyperbeat coming on here, amazing. "I know it's useless"... And these slightly delayed reverby upper synths, that's so Burial. And these pulsing empty sorta haha oh wow and the synth goes into this sorta loop, and then oh man, I can't even keep up a basic play by play. Amazing things are happening, and there are a lot of them. All things happening. Omnithings. And at 2:20 yet another change, everything shifts down into that range where if you're on phones, and you should be, proper cans pls, everything gets all lovely and rumbly, and you're really feeling it now. I love when everything is WOW THAT SQUELCHY OUTERSPACENOISE coming in wow. I love the density of this. This is black hole core. Everything exerting itself in one rumbly little ball, only the distinction of the beats allow you to navigate, and thusly they are sharp and precise and interesting. Can I restate yet again how cool it is how all the parts feel loopy and sort of static and yet the whole track together feels very driven and forward minded? ***
6. Stuck Together Pieces
This is pretty cool. Very noodly bass riff driven. Of course I have learned by now not to trust that sort of thing. But hmm the vocals are here already and nothing has gone completely crazy yet. Bass pushing doing it's thing and Thom singing the title a few times. I'ma, I'ma getting pretty comfortable, you know? I like the idea of a few tracks being more simple and song-y. The problem with the idea of really complex stuff, even if it's all very unique, is that it shares in an aesthetic of complexity, that starts getting almost samey. OH man but here comes an interesting super fuzzy synth. And there was that beautiful empty spacey cymbal hit. And this tappity rhythm. This is all very cool. I love how clearly the bass line is still going AND THEN IT MIXES IT UP. I like it. "You won't get away so easily". Thom likes the phrase "so easily". It works well in his voice. I like this guitar part playing a variation of the bass line. I think I am hearing the distinctive blurt of a saxophone as seen in the ol' National Anthem. This feels like a jam more than anything. Is it just because of the more emphasis on live instruments and less on programmed synths? It's cool. Ah, here's that fuzzy synth again. But even it feels more like keyboarded than programmed, even this shift. Feels like a live track sorta track. Woah I liiiike this ending though, that is pretty amazing. And these drum loops deep in each ear. AND THEN IT'S ALMOST 8-bit, WHAAAAT. **
7. Judge, Jury and Executioner
Hand claps and ghostly wails, this is... POSTGOSPEL. Not actually. WITCHGOSPEL. No idea what I mean by any of this. This is the shortest track and like the previous one we're spending awhile in the intro. I love this acoustic guitar where the sound of sliding on the strings is louder than the pluck. Something about a reptile crawls upon the earth? I like it. These wails are something else man. The beat is at it's most minimal in this song and you can really tell how much work was put into the patterns, they're simply amazing. And this sort of vocals man... this sort of "tense swagger"? And the claps get more echoey there. This is a COOL song. Like really just COOOL. I love this outro. I dunno when that bass line showed up but I love it too. *
8. Reverse Running
Wow the title feels very very apt like right away. How da heck does that work? "I'm reverse running, it doesn't mean anything"? haha? Lel? "Snake's uncoiling", this is pretty cool. This is a very cool song too. Thom in his "cool voice" with such graceful lifts up into his "transcendental angel voice". Wow like... even more than ever this idea of this album being like... half the most breakbeat scattered sort of sound they've ever done and also half some of the most traditional Radiohead Thom Falsettocore ever. And then the absolute magic isn't in either half, which we have seen, but in the synthesis. And WOWOW, this subterranean roots and earthworms sort of feel on the stuff starting around the 2 minute mark, what is that even? What is that aesthetic, that atmosphere? Ridiculous. AHhhh, and the single chime, and these ghostly wails, and all of this over this ridiculous drum kitting. And the piano, like, if everything but the piano and vocals were gone, it would be like... well, I WOULD LIKE TO HEAR THAT. And this buzzybee sorta synth, I love that too. AND WOW, THIS BASS STUFF COMING. And the way the drums have become more minimal, and the DRONE ON TOP OF DRONE, the INTENSITY of this "doubling up" feel. Haha if it was replaced by the Major Lazer sound that pattern would be the most natural thing in the world. **
Nice transition. This beat is unlike anything before. And this synth. Wow. So like... Yume Nikkicore? I don't even know. Haunting and full and yet really low-rez. And then we smoothly transition out of that whole thing. This is on like a whole other thing. The vocals coming in from the depths of space and/or death. So cool. Just this feeling of opening, of blooming open. I love that one super crisp snapping sound right at the foreground. And the way these other beats work their way in, oh man. So smooth and yet jagged. And that piano! Wow. Those chords. The shortness of them. The abruptness. And that bassline is so cool. Wow, the synth from the beginning working back in, oh wow! And the piano chords! Everything! Everything is so amazing! And now that synth from the start has like, EXPLODED. It has moved from a restrained line to just bursting all up and down this thing. Wow. Boom! Kaboom! And then silence! AND THE PIANO CHORDS. Okay perfect everyone go home. ***
WELL THAT WAS PRETTY COOL
Yeah, that was crazy! Super dancey without losing that unique haunting Radioheadey aesthetic! Structured out of two static-type components - long, long beautiful chord work and loopy beats - and yet it has this constant sense of forward motion and development! It's super complex, like, really intricate and such. And yeah that idea I mentioned earlier of "the aesthetic of complexity" sounding a bit samey is true... like, all the songs have a sense of like "well here's the core elements of this track, and now they're gonna evolve thirty or forty times". It's the same way all fugues sound like fugues, I suppose. But what's really cool is that on further listening all of those tracks will just define themselves more and more in my mind as I figure out more and more what's going on in them.
At the same time is this whole idea of like... beat-driven soundscapes which I just CANNOT get over and yet really can't begin to articulate an idea about. Just like... compare Reverse Running to Kid A's The National Anthem. I'm not saying one is better. If I was I'd be saying The National Anthem is better. But I think comparing them says a lot about where the band has come from and gone to and where they've stayed the same, and it's amazing, and I can't wait to see what's next, and listen to this about a million more times.