There has been a lot of talk about Atoms For Peace, dating back to before they had a name and would play the entirety of Thom Yorke’s The Eraser. A lot of talk but very little heard. Amok marks the first official release for the ‘supergroup’, comprised of Yorke, Flea (of Red Hot Chili Peppers), Nigel Godrich (Radiohead producer), Joey Waronker (of Beck and REM) and Brazilian percussionist Mauro Refosco. It’s quite the ensemble. The thing about Amok is it doesn’t sound like the resonant parts. It’s an entirely different whole.
Rather than going for the trademark pop kick, the key ingredient that grabs the ear, tunes it in, gives it something to understand, Amok works by creating vast desolate sonic soundscapes for ideas to run across. It doesn’t sound like friends messing around, creating the jazz odysseys of their predecessors through strung out and wasted jams, this is a wholly dark and different creature. Opening track Before Your Very Eyes starts out with a guitar riff that may well have been stolen directly from The Gossip, but under the rhythm are the pangs of a rhythm section you just don’t hear on a debut album.
This isn’t a band finding their feet as most debuts are. These are musicians who understand, who know their craft and weave in and out of each other. By the end of the song in fact any ‘analogue; instrumentation has given way to the power of tech, and Yorke’s vocal stands alone against the crisp fuzz. Default starts out like a missing Prince track and delves off on an afro beat which makes up most of the album. The stand out track is Judge, Jury And Executioner, the first song the group composed together wholly and aired at Roseland Ballroom in 2010. For the most part the album sounds experimental which is both a positive and a negative thing. On one hand it is a joy to listen to because it feels so effortless and placeless yet there is the question in the air of whether it needed to be released, and if people will only see Atoms For Peace live to gawp at the rock stars.
The key to enjoying Amok as an album is to take the time to listen to it properly. It needs to be opened and left to breath, not rushed. It’s a very purposeful and extensive effort.