Don’t Forget the Songs-365: Mach Tres: Day 35
Sat, March 2, 2013

Atoms for Peace


“♫ The
will is strong
but the flesh
is weak/ I guess
that’s it/ I’ve
made my bed
and I lie in

“Default” is already getting heavy airplay during my highway adventures in L.A. is one of my choice cuts from Atoms for Peace’s debut album Amok. Radiohead fans might just recognize the familiar backbeat of Atoms for Peace 2012 single, “Default.” One of my favorite Hail to the Thief b-sides “When Bluebirds Sing,” is slowed down and resurrected into a more hip hop heartbeat rhythm; less atmospheric and more lyrically adventurous than in its original incarnation. You can actually hear Thom’s lyrics on “Default” and Yorke sounds like a man trying to absolve his sins within the glorious electronic canvas created by producer Nigel Godrich, bassist Flea, drummer Joey Waronker and percussionist Mauro Refosco.

Not many Radiohead supporters know that the roots of Thom Yorke’s romance with electro rhythms goes back to his love of producer and electronic music genius Richard D. James, better known as Aphex Twin. Yorke talked about the influence of James techno alter-ego Aphex Twin when he explained, “Richard D. James burns a heavy shadow. I used to have this big hang-up when I used to DJ at college, and the most exciting thing that used to happen was when a new Warp record came out. That’s what I used to DJ, and the sound system would come alive. Aphex opened up another world that didn’t involve my fucking electric guitar and I was just so jealous of that whole crew. They were off on their own planet. I hated all the music that was around Radiohead at the time, it was completely fucking meaningless. I hated the Britpop thing and what was happening in America, but Aphex was totally beautiful, and he’s kind of my age too. He’s a massive influence.”

Making music with Atoms for Peace has become a learning experience for Thom Yorke. “Default” was actually created as a happy accident in the studio as Yorke recalled to Rolling Stone Magazine when he said, ““Default” started with a mistake on a sampler in my studio [makes telegraph-like drum-machine noise]. I hadn’t patched it in right. It was giving me a tone that, when I put it with a melody, I was like ‘That’s nice!” I had that when Nigel and I were doing The Eraser.” As soon as Thom finished showing Nigel he played the sample to the rest of his A.f.P. band-mates as he explained, “We literally played it with the band. I asked Flea, “Can you scribe that out?” It was horribly complicated, everything in a weird length. And they could all physically play it. But actually, it didn’t sound as tight as the machine. It’s one of those things that if we ever get it right live, it will be fucking mental.

When talking to Resident Advisor.net, Yorke talked about the differences of making Amok and creating Thom’s first solo record The Eraser when he said, “With The Eraser, after a period of time having my laptop on the road, I’d built up a series of beats, chords, bits and bobs. I gave that to Nigel without any vocals, and as soon as I sat there listening to it with him I thought, “Actually, maybe there’s something here.” But with [Amok] there was so much material, and depending on how we chose to put it together it became something completely different. And I came to [Nigel] with less stuff done than beforehand; It’s important to me, I think, for things to be moving just a little bit faster than I can remember quite how I’m getting there.. I’m much less methodical with [my solo work]. By nature I’m very sketchy. Apparently I’m a doodler [laughs]. And very occasionally the doodles will amount to something.”

One of those happy accidental doodles became “Default” or as Thom eloquently explained his aim creatively and musically for Atoms for Peace, when he told Rolling StoneIt’s fucked up! I’m going, all the time, “Hmm, this is too human. Can we make this a little more mechanistic?” But as much as I try to resist the temptation, I really want to say, “This is the beginning of something.””

There is no mistake; “Default” is the perfect introduction to the electronic canvas of Atoms for Peace. Get ready to be sucked inside Thom Yorke’s lyrically mental mainframe, with help from his Flea, Godrich, Waronker and Refosco mates who invite you to plug in, download and trip out to the well crafted electronic pulses that are the genesis for the futuristic sound escapes that create the musical explosion that is Atoms for Peace.