Saturday, 27 September 2014

Recommended music: 'Tomorrow's Modern Boxes' by Thom Yorke

Another day, another new way of releasing an album...

It's hard not to dwell on the delivery method of this record, when Yorke made such a big thing of it. Dropping it on us all by surprise just over 24 hours ago, he decided to release it via a new version on BitTorrent, which features a pay gate on the front end so that you can charge for files instead of giving them away for free. One of the stated aims of Yorke's experiment was to see if people could get on with the technology - well, at the time of writing 119,000 people have downloaded it, so it seems OK so far (also, at $6 a download, it also means that York is approximately £440k better off than he was this time yesterday).

So the question is - is he coming up with all of these new ideas to distribute his music to hide the fact that there's nothing new in the tunes themselves? Well one of the most noticeable things about this record is that, despite spending a couple of years on the road with his 'Atoms For Peace' band, this is his most electronic album yet. Apart from a (heavily treated) piano you'd be hard pressed to spot any 'real' instruments. Taking 2006's 'The Eraser' as its starting point it develops the musical ideas even further, and becomes more experimental as it progresses. If it wasn't for Yorke's distinctive vocals you'd be hard pushed to know that this was one of his records rather than one of the many electronic artists that he loves. 'A Brain In A Bottle' opens the album sounding very much like Pink Floyd's 'On The Run' when it starts, but once it gets going it could have been on his last album, as could 'Guess Again!'. 'Interference' sounds like Radiohead on downers (yes, it's that happy), but when we get to 'The Mother Lode' things start to get interesting. 6 minutes of skittery beats and looped melodies over which Yorke sings quietly of 'hollow men' who 'can't see their way out of this'.

Side 2 (as it will be on the rather over-priced £30 vinyl copy) starts with the slow-paced 'Truth Ray' - simple and hypnotic, it's the most emotional piece on the record and provides some humanity amongst the electronic heartbeats. 'There Is No Ice (For My Drink)' (which may or may not be a comment on global warming) is a heavily repetitive, mostly instrumental track with just some backward-spun spoken words and a few warbles in the background. It leads into 'Pink Section', all warbled tape loops and distorted piano and the most unsettling thing on the record, which takes us on to 'Nose Grows Some', which could probably have been on 'Amnesiac'.

Overall then, it's a development on from 'The Eraser', rather than a complete reinvention. With Radiohead back in the studio this week, maybe this has got the electronic leaning out of Thom's system and they'll return with an album of Bends-era guitar belters. We'll have to wait and see...

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