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CD review: Atoms for Peace’s ‘Amok’

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Annie Zaleski

The Details

Atoms for Peace
Amok
Three stars

When Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke decided to tour behind his 2006 solo album, The Eraser, he pulled no punches with the live band, recruiting longtime production collaborator Nigel Godrich, Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea, noted LA session drummer Joey Waronker and Brazilian percussion ace Mauro Refosco. The live collaboration went so well, the quintet recorded a bunch of music, which Yorke and Godrich then spent two years molding, augmenting and refining to create Atoms for Peace’s debut album, Amok.

Unsurprisingly, that extended gestation shows. Instead of having the energy of music played by a band, Amok sounds like a meticulous Yorke and Godrich studio creation. Beats resembling common sounds—creaking crickets, dripping rainwater, footsteps on hardwood floors—crackle underneath Yorke’s untethered falsetto, fractured programming and keyboard splashes indebted to early house music, space disco and proto-synthpop. Highlights include the drum and bass/dark techno-flecked “Dropped,” the chaotic “Default”—alien hip-hop shot through with analog warmth and hole-punch beats—and the delicate electronic squirm “Ingenue,” whose unintelligible vocal murmurs and tranquil rhythms conjure Sigur Rós.

Still, surface bustle can’t overcome Amok’s stilted overall vibe. Perhaps the problem is that its music never fully integrates the strengths of Atoms for Peace’s individual members. Anyone searching for Flea’s distinct basslines will be disappointed; apart from the undulating low end on “Stuck Together Pieces” and the pulsating funk blips on the Afrobeat-tinged “Before Your Very Eyes,” his contributions are overshadowed. For a band so full of talent, the lack of urgency—and unique alchemy—is disappointing.

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