On Deck with Bryce Perry
AMOK – Atoms For Peace Radiohead front man Thom Yorke has returned to add another project to his musical repertoire. His latest project is born from the talents of Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist The Flea, Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich, and drummer/producer Joey Warnoker of Beck and R.E.M.. Together these pieces make up the whole known as Atoms for Peace. In traditional Yorke fashion he presents to the masses either a critiquing message—this time concerning pursuits of the American dream—or a collection of pessimistic love songs.
The eerie low-key beats of AMOK, the super group’s debut album, does not sound like the next step in the front man’s musical evolution. Rather, it is a decedent of Yorke’s 2006 solo album The Eraser, from which the band’s name is derived.
The opening track “Before Your Eyes” immediately spurs thoughts of a convulsively dancing Thom à la “Lotus Flower” music video. The quick pitter-patter of the guitar and high-hats could even trigger an oxymoronically dark Charleston. Now enter the voice of Yorke: the soft ambience that he projects echoing off into the night is the ghost that haunts this album, floating in and out of each track and in between each layered instrument.
Electronic sounds of dystopia in tracks like “Default” and “Unless” begin isolated, catching our attention. Gradually each new layer meshes with the last, building upon one another until they reach a brief congregation of harmonious sound before gliding back down into isolation.
However, the sounds that emerge from this album seem to limit the talent that is in the group. To hear that the RHCP bassist is a good bass player is like being slapped in the face by the hand of understatements yet his presence on the album is lacking. Why not work his talent into the record? How amazing would it be if in “Stuck Together Pieces”, where the bass is perhaps most prominent on the album, Flea churned up the track with an anarchistic bass line? To have a resource such as this available and not to use it is like a prospector knowing exactly where to dig for gold but bypassing the riches. However, music isn’t necessarily about showcasing talent. The creation of a record needs to be about the product as a whole and not concerned with the individual parts.
AMOK as a whole works, even if it sounds like Thom sat down with his laptop and played around. It is a seamless collaboration of multiple talents that hacks into the pleasure centers of the brain and offers a fair amount of reward.
Wondrous Bughouse – Youth Lagoon
Returning for what is going to be his sophomore year, Trevor Powers aka Youth Lagoon wants to take us on a journey into the mind and beyond. His second album Wondrous Bughouse is a bold turn from his 2011 debut Year of Hibernation. Powers’ introduction to the world was full of reminiscent solitude whereas the latest to come from the seemingly introverted artist is expanded contemplation.
At first impression it sounds as if Powers accidently fell into a large vat of LSD and had to drink his way out. Beginning in the quiet apprehensiveness of “Through the Mind and Back” we are transported through exactly that. Resonating tones drop like sporadic rain against robotic communications, rippling the muffled sound. It is a world full of mystery until we discover what lies beyond, moving into “Mute”.
Immediately Wondrous Bughouse defines itself apart from its predecessor. It is a magnificent splash into the big sound that was absent from Year of Hibernation, bringing in very present drums and guitar. With arrangements that could be described as progressively psychedelic it is an album that would have no trouble fitting into the mind altering sounds of the late 60’s and early 70’s. That does not mean there aren’t remnants of Youth Lagoon’s first album.
“Pelican Man” offers the catchiness of a pop hit while still staying true to the album and could team up well with psych rock band MGMT. A familiar piano can be heard in “Raspberry Cane” with a hopeful sentiment telling us to “pour the ashes into the cup, mix with wine—here’s to death drink up”. This morbid request paints part of the picture of what Powers is trying to deal with on this album. That is the knowledge of the inevitable move into death and our true ignorance or denial of it, as portrayed in the repetitiveness of “Dropla’s” chorus emphasizing, “You will never die”.
With Trevor Powers’ investigation of our grasp on death, his second study of it seems ironic. He contemplates a subject that is obviously quite serious, but he does this in a very lighthearted way. If he is trying to emphasize our own nonchalant attitude on the subject he does a very good job. Yet, even with such a heavy message we can’t help but be transported into the cosmos on a neon purple butterfly as we dance to the serenades of the man on the moon that is Youth Lagoon. Wondrous Bughouse is a journey that assuredly should be taken.