*** (out of four)
Radiohead's Thom Yorke has always explored quiet mental spaces, so your instinct when listening to his music might be to turn down the volume. The swelling guitars, swirling vocals and sweeping washes of sound that characterize Radiohead can feel too pretty to exist in anything but crystalline miniature. Or are you the one person that really blasts "Kid A"?
It's possible to listen to “AMOK,” Yorke's side project/sort-of solo effort that enlists the help of Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich and Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea, among others, this way. Yet the album deserves to be played loudly, in a place where its constant, heavy basslines can be fully appreciated. The individual clattering rhythms that flit over said basslines--which might pass for minimalist Neptunes beats or Aphex Twin songs in isolation--should be fully absorbed as part of the maximal landscape they form when piled together. Songs like the muscular “Dropped” and frenetic closer “Amok” ask to be treated as overwhelming and explosive.
Played quietly, the electronic production/live instrumentation blend of “AMOK” might pass for any Radiohead album since “Kid A,” in fact, particularly suggesting some lost link between “In Rainbows” and “King of Limbs.” At times the album can resemble that band's recent, occasionally indulgent noodling. But turned up, its low end is smothering in the best way.
While it's clear we're in familiar headspace, particularly on tracks such as the restless, keening “Ingenue,” here it becomes a place that is as pulsing and vibrant as it is confused and delicate.
Kyle Kramer is a RedEye special contributor. @redeyechimusic
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