Radiohead front man Thom Yorke assembled Atoms for Peace
to play the music from his 2006 solo album The Eraser
live, but over the years the group has become an entity in its own right, albeit inextricably linked with Yorke’s dark pop vision. On Atoms for Peace’s debut album, Amok
(XL), tightly coiled dance rhythms (programmed beats mixed with live drumming by Joey Waronker and Brazilian percussionist Mauro Refosco) support twitchy synthesizer licks, low-end tones of indeterminate origin, and the occasional guitar squiggle. Flea plays bass, Yorke is credited with keyboards, guitar, and programming, and producer Nigel Godrich does something too, but the recordings have been so thoroughly cut up, processed, and reconfigured that it’s pointless to wonder which sounds come from where or who made them. Robotic grooves and beats dominate the cryptic, minimalist music, but thanks to its constant metamorphosis (not just shifting details and accents but also intuitive structural development) and the emotional strength of Yorke’s introverted, nasal croon, it opens up like wine with repeated listens. Amok
doesn’t have the same heft and richness of Radiohead, but it packs a punch of its own. —Peter Margasak James Holden opens.