Hit play, yo.
In case you missed it, Thom Yorke has a new album out. Should we care? Not really. There is a fair argument that he (and by extension, Radiohead) has become pretty redundant; constantly ploughing the same furrow with lesser and lesser success (though I should save that discussion for another time). We must simply see it for what it is, a lack of focus brought on by a lack of ideas. Simples.
Art-electronica is a tricky genre to navigate by simple fact of your total freedom, constricted only by your imagination and equipment. It is also incredibly simple. Don’t believe me? An experiment for you: record a sound, any sound. Slow it down. Reverse it. Add reverb and a glitch beat (glitching is easy; cut up any ‘other’ sound randomly). Play it all together. You are now in ‘Atoms For Peace‘. That’s it, that’s all the brain function when making this music. Sure, there might be a deeper concept and the process may be repeated many more times but you don’t need that to to make a successful piece.
What I’ve heard of this ‘new’ album has no clarity. But like I said, Art-electronica is tricky. A lack of clarity is almost guaranteed. Troels Abrahamsen has clarity. He has it in spades. His 2010 album blck is a masterclass in using concepts and techniques found within electronica, making them arty and then actually creating awesome songs from the result! Proof that it can be done (and further evidence to show how Thom lets us down).
‘The World is Listening’ [TWIL] is subtle genius. And yet it starts so simply, a solitary rhythm like a muffled ringtone. That’s all. “That’s not genius!” you say; “That’s dull!”. My friend, this is only the beginning. This song; man, this song gets good. You just have to think in terms of space and body. The first rhythms are muffled while the incoming melodies in the piano/bass/voice are not. There is this audible space between them which helps you hear each element distinctively. It’s like looking at the inside of a multicoloured balloon; you can see each colour vividly whilst having mental space to move and appreciate the whole. Lovely stuff. And the whole song is like this, there is just so much space that each melodic/rhythmic entry fills an area you didn’t know needed filling. Come the climax my brain melts. That’s the audiophile in me I’m afraid; unintelligible, simple but very enthusiastic.
Of course, all this talk of sound is worthless without a clear melodic direction. This is where Troels gets bored keeping pace with Thom and easily pulls away, leaving the Englishman in the dust. TWIL has so many ideas. So, so many ideas. On first listen I didn’t think it would amount to much, the piano pattern was a little clichéd and Troels with his marmite voice (either love it or hate it), I originally thought it were filler. Then the bass pedal crept in (a pedal being recurring bass pattern) and suddenly we are trapped in a groove. We groove hard. Rhythms flying all over the place. I lock into the lyrics as Troels casually asks to ‘take out that family/make them pay for what I’m missing’. Hmm, a little Emo-lite but effective imagery nonetheless (take note Thom). Vocals build, squelching synthetic bass morphs at the break, samples are overlaid and we find ourselves striding through verse, mid-verse, partial break, second verse, breakdown and slow build climax. No chorus, we’re in art territory here. Still, there is a hell of a lot of depth for so little harmonic material, just melodic layers swimming and shimmering over one another. An oil stained balloon. A particular beauty. Impressive.
I love this song. Naysayers will disagree. Laymen will disagree. You may think I’ve gone loco but that’s the point of these blogs. Discussion. After all, the world is listening.
Take note Thom.
Naysayer? Layman? Start the discussion below, yo!