Radiohead front man Thom Yorke proves his electronic mastery on Anima | Music Review | Chicago Reader

Radiohead front man Thom Yorke proves his electronic mastery on Anima 

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click to enlarge Thom Yorke

Thom Yorke

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Thom Yorke may be best known as front man of legendary British art-rock group Radiohead, but he’s also amassed an impressive discography on his own, putting out several solo releases, a 2013 album with his side group Atoms for Peace, and the score for 2018’s Suspiria remake. His third album under his own name, last year’s Anima, is the best expression of his musical philosophy yet. While Radiohead has long incorporated dance music, Yorke fully commits to electronica in his outside work. Anima consists of instrumental sketches edited down to nine tracks by producer Nigel Godrich. The resulting tight mix of dubby bass lines and beat machines is reminiscent of the self-titled 2011 album by Yorke collaborator Sbtrkt. Anima is best heard from start to finish; the way its rhythms and synths bleed into each other makes it feel like a masterful DJ set. Even when the percussion is stripped away, Yorke still has his sharp pen and otherworldly voice. On “Dawn Chorus,” a lyrical collage of trite everyday phrases (“If you could do it all again,” “Back up the cul-de-sac”) is imbued with pathos by yearning keyboards. With its complex mood, this anxious hymn recalls Radiohead’s best work—it feels like suppressing grief and fear in order to find enough peace to get through another day. Yorke’s character in the three-song short film for Anima (directed by Paul Thomas Anderson and streaming on Netflix), begins and ends the production in the London Underground, which when it debuted last summer still unambiguously symbolized the claustrophobia of modernity’s grind. Given that London mayor Sadiq Khan has warned that Tube travel will lead to more COVID-19 infections, the sight of commuters on a packed train car may soon be enough to inspire nostalgia—an irony befitting one of Yorke’s songs.   v

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