2.5 stars (out of 4)
There’s a skip to
Atoms for Peace includes
The vibe carried over into Radiohead’s 2011 album, “The King of Limbs,” and its agitated single “
"Amok" (XL Recordings) takes that a step further, a twitchy dance album populated by ghosts flickering in the shadows. The rhythm lines are foregrounded, often three or four at a time, intersecting and squiggling alongside one another like parallel streams. Just what instruments exactly are producing these grooves is never readily apparent; a hi-hat or bass guitar is identifiable here and there, but mostly it's a matrix of syncopated, squirming sounds that take solid shape, slowly vaporize and then drift off, as in the mesmerizing "Before Your Very Eyes" and "Dropped."
“Amok” references ‘80s acid-house, dub-step, glitch electronica, Afro-beat and the skewed funk of fusion outfits like Herbie Hancock’s Mwandishi Band (particularly the 1973 “Sextant” album) and
Heady stuff, for sure, but Flea is conversant with them all, and his bass playing lends not just ballast but elasticity to these arrangements. The rhythms rule, especially with speakers cranked to the maximum, but they never oppress. The percussion doesn't smash the senses so much as swarm through them.
Yorke's airy vocals sound disconnected from it all, nonetheless. Rather than joy or any sense of release, he still conveys a haunted sense of dread, particularly on the furtive "Unless," the choir-crying-from-the-depths title track and the anxiety-ridden "Judge, Jury and Executioner." Texture and rhythm trump melodies, the tracks blurring together in a procession of snap, crackle and anti-pop.
As technical achievement, "Amok" is an amazing album in many ways. As a collection of songs, it's as slippery as its rhythms.