Smashing Pumpkins’ James Iha and Taylor Hanson in Tinted Windows, Mick Jagger and Damian Marley in SuperHeavy – the concept of the supergroup has thrown up some unlikely alliances over the last few years. But perhaps none more so than Atoms For Peace, the side-project of one of rock’s great miserablists, Thom Yorke, and a bassist perhaps just as renowned for the unusual way in which he sports a sock as his musicianship, Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Flea.
But also accompanied by Beck drummer Joey Waronker, Brazilian multi-instrumentalist Mauro Refosco and long-time Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich, their debut album, Amok proves that their random line-up isn’t the only intriguing thing about them.
Underpinned by an array of glitchy percussion, waspish synths and ghostly falsetto melodies, the majority of the album’s nine tracks repeat the pattern of the record Atoms For Peace performed in its entirety at their first ever live performance, Yorke’s hypnotic solo debut, The Eraser–particularly the aquatic effects of “Ingenue” and the cryptic musings of lead single “Judge, Jury and Executioner.”
But having recently shown off his maniacal dance skills in the video for Radiohead’s “Lotus Flower,” Yorke seems keen to continue his unexpected foray into club culture. “Unless” gradually adds Burial-esque nocturnal beats and pulsing synths to its initial monotonous drone; “Reverse Running” provides a two-step garage backdrop to his stream-of-consciousness ramble; and “Dropped” suggests Yorke has definitely been taking notes whilst working with experimental IDM Berlin duo Modeselektor.
Flea’s rumbling bass-lines alongside the rippling electronica of “Stuck Together Pieces” are one of the few times on Amok when he really makes his presence known. Indeed, it’s hard to shake the feeling that despite the talent on offer, Yorke found it difficult to relinquish much control during the recording process.
But it’s not exactly a negative that Amok is definitely much closer to The King Of Limbs than I’m With You, and whilst Chili Peppers fans may be puzzled by the record’s restless sketchy nature, it’s arguably the best thing Flea has put his name to this century.