28 September 2014

Thom Yorke - Tomorrow's Modern Boxes


Well we were all expecting a new Radiohead album, so this release has took a lot of people by surprise.  Mr Yorke is already known for trying to release music to his fans via alternative methods.  For instant when they first released 'In Rainbows' via the "pay what you want method", or 'King Of Limbs' with a newspaper edition.  He is also famous for taking any of his solo work off Spotify and other streaming serves due to the pitiful amount that the artists get for each play.  That is understandable and honourable in many ways.  It can also sound a bit aloof for people who cannot afford to get albums all the time and the prices sometimes tend to be a little bit pricey.  But on this one, he has come with another idea to side step conventional methods and tries something new.  This time using BitTorrent technology for the price of $6 (in the UK, this will work out around £3.90) for the digital download of the album.  There is also an option to purchase the album on vinyl, with the added choice of downloading the opening track with video for free.  The message with the album is that they are trying to find get the music to people without have to go via a label medium (or as the statement says 'bypassing the self elected gate-keepers'.  Now this is a better statement of intent than the recent U2 release when it was forced onto everyone's iTunes account, there is the choice element for this surprise release.  Well, let's see what the album sounds like?

Heads up first, anyone expecting guitars and indie might want to steer clear; with that out of the way, time for the music itself.  The opening track is called "A Brain In A Bottle" which instantly brings to mind the 'Kid A' era of Radiohead. It is an interest piece of electronica which starts with a looping bass that slips from side to side of your speakers, then the drums are introduced to the mix, add a few other noises, Mr Yorke's high-end vocals and various effects on his notes to create a rather strange and abstract piece.  Whilst there is a lot of stuff happening, it all feels minimalist and almost empty in places.  "Guess Again!" is the second track, this piece centres on a strange and off-key piano loop and clapping drums.  There is still a cold feeling coming from the music, but it is still interesting to say the least.  Next is "Interference" which is just under three minutes of cold, calculating minimalist trance noise; it is another empty piece of noise that drifts by and whilst there is nothing particularly wrong with it, there is also nothing that is making me shiver with anticipation at the thought of listening to it again.  The fourth track is called "The Mother Lobe" is the first track that makes the whole minimalist, random indie noises mix together to form an interesting and exciting number.  This may have something to do the fact that it brings some bass being brought to the forefront, which works a lot better than when it has been kept to the side.  Out of all of the songs on the album, this one is the track of the album.

Next is "Truth Ray", which sounds like a trance dream heading towards the end of the road.  The empty haunting dream like feeling has returned to the album at this point and it almost feels like pan pipes in places.  Like other songs album, it is well played but incredibly cold and empty.  "There Is No Ice (For My Drink)" follows on and the beginning sounds a bit like those pipes that were used on the musical 'Stomp' and whilst it starts with a bit more in the way of vibrations and good noise, it once again feels haunted by this drive to be as quiet as possible so not to disturb the dreamer from the random crazy images of their dreams.  "Pink Section" is the penultimate track of the album and it feels like the space between thoughts has been given a transparent layer of musical clothing, brushed down and pushed into the world to stand awkwardly in the daylight.  It is very reminiscent of the Nine Inch Nails project "Ghosts" in both delivery and feeling.  Ending the album is "Nose Grows Some" which feels like the natural progression of "Pink Section" and ends the album as it started really - with that dream like status of suspense and transport between the dreaming and waking worlds.

As an experiment on alternative forms of releasing your work to the general public, I have to applaud the thought behind it.  If this is the way to deal directly with your public, then I hope it is the start of something special.  I cannot see the difference between this and something like Bandcamp, but I do not work behind the background difference between such sites.  Musically, it is a strange beast this album.  Very much a chill out album in the form of 'Kid A' and as I mentioned against one of the other songs, it does remind me of the Nine Inch Nails album 'Ghosts'.  It is a little too cold, a little too chilled and empty to make the album something you would reach for unless you needed something to nurse you down from some sort of euphoric high.  I know that sometimes you have albums which give their hidden beauty on repeated listenings; this album is not one of those records.  You get it all in one barren delivery.  The emptiness of the music (which is well play) makes this nothing more than an interesting experiment in alternative consumerism.

6 out of ten - Now I see where you were going, but not quite there

Top track - The Mother Lobe

You can purchase the album via an official BitTorrent here set up by Thom Yorke

This is also the only place where you will be able to hear it officially, as Thom Yorke is not a supporter of either Spotify or Deezer; not making any judgement, just stating the fact.

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