thu 05/12/2019

CD: Thom Yorke - Tomorrow's Modern Boxes | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Thom Yorke - Tomorrow's Modern Boxes

CD: Thom Yorke - Tomorrow's Modern Boxes

Radiohead frontman's second solo LP exudes a mournful electronic loveliness

Thom Yorke’s second solo LP arrived unexpectedly this week via BitTorrent as a paid-for fileshare, a medium Yorke and producer Nigel Godrich hope to promote to empower artists to sell direct, without the need for a corporate hosting system. In a striking dissonance of form and content, the upbeat, seize-your-destiny message of the BitTorrent medium has conveyed to us a set of tracks that, never less than intriguing, are nearly all on the downbeat mood spectrum, from pensive to virtually apocalyptic.

As expected from a Yorke solo project, this is an electronic collection: Radiohead guitar nostalgics will again be disappointed. Yorke’s exploitation of the variety of sounds you can get from electronic beats, his use of distortion, and the powerful left-right swaying in the balance - more than most, it’s music that demands a good sound system or headphones for full impact - create an unusual depth and attention to detail. Though there moments of techno atmosphere, this isn’t an album you should try to dance to, and the vocals, part spooky falsetto effect, and part mournful lyrics, shade the mood further.

Individually, the tracks are neurotic, the fidgety, unbalanced rhythms and feverish melody and lyrics (where you can make them out) creating a mood of deeply unsettled introspection. Lines like “staring into each other’s eyes like jackdaws” (from “Inteference”) or “Wild dogs are howling / I hold on to my children / The creature’s staring in” (from “Guess Again!”), decorated by vocalisation that’s part weeping and part howling, evoke a world of darkness and misery. The mood only lifts in the last two tracks, “Mother Lode”, which comes the closest to being a dance track, with a melody that’s almost uplifting, and “Pink Section”, the final track, which mixes a left-hand acoustic piano bassline with a quavering soprano, like an ambient remix of solar wind, distorted to the point of hilarious absurdity.

Of course, we’re misrepresenting this album by including it in the CD section, because it isn’t one. Vinyl fetishists can pay £30 for the 180g white vinyl version, but its existence will primarily be digital. However it arrives, if you can bear the prevailing gloom, Yorke takes his electronic artistry to another level of intricacy. It’s mainly for purists, but in its lugubrious way, it's rather lovely.

If you can bear the prevailing gloom, Yorke takes his electronic artistry to another level of intricacy

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Average: 4 (1 vote)

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