Thom Yorke Recalibrates And Digs Deeper Into His Dread Of Technology With 'ANIMA' | WOSU Radio

Thom Yorke Recalibrates And Digs Deeper Into His Dread Of Technology With 'ANIMA'

Jul 19, 2019
Originally published on July 22, 2019 10:53 am

In his vast catalog of music, Radiohead's Thom Yorke has trembled like a broken man on his knees. He has screamed in tormented six-part harmony; he has manic-whispered diaries worth of existential fear. Still, he just can't shake the techno-dread. Most recently, that dread has manifested in Yorke's third solo project, ANIMA, released on June 27.

ANIMA is a nine-song album accompanied by a short "one-reel" Netflix film set in an Orwellian urban dystopia from director Paul Thomas Anderson. The projectfinds new ways to dig into Yorke's old anxieties and represents his most harrowing solo work to date.

Ever since Radiohead put out the visionary OK Computer in 1997, Yorke has artfully expressed his misgivings about technology and its potential to fray social fabric. By now, you'd think, he might have exhausted the theme. But with the dreamlike atmospheres of ANIMA, he opens up another zone of exploration.

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Yorke is not one to repeat himself, however. ANIMA represents a recalibration of his creative process. Like his previous solo efforts and his vivid score to the 2018 film Suspiria, it's built on the orderly loops of electronic dance music. But the scale is different: He's not making big pronouncements about the culture. Instead he's sharing bits of a personal reckoning. The songs unfold fitfully and don't always follow conventional verse-chorus-hook structure. Yorke has cited the jump-cut collages of LA producer Flying Lotus as a direct inspiration.

A simmering sense of menace runs through the album's music. It comes from the locust-like drones, the not-quite-steady clicking of simulated cymbals and the blurry, indecipherable chants that could be rituals from long-lost religions.

ANIMA has been streaming since June 27, but CD and vinyl versions of the record are out starting July 19. In that time, it's hit me in different ways. At first, the tone felt awfully familiar. Then, in headphones, it was easy to immerse in the dreamlike atmospheres – and impossible to miss the intimate menace lurking within them. That seems to be Yorke's approach with ANIMA: Rather than talk at length about existential terror, he's embedded the feeling deep into the tracks where it's inescapable.

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AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Radiohead's Thom Yorke has released a new solo album. It's called "Anima." And it's accompanied by a short Netflix film of the same name. The album, just like the film, evokes an urban dystopia right out of a George Orwell story. Tom Moon reviewed the music and declared it Yorke's most harrowing solo work yet.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TWIST")

THOM YORKE: (Vocalizing).

TOM MOON, BYLINE: He's trembled like a broken man on his knees.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TWIST")

YORKE: (Singing) To you, who brought me back to life.

MOON: He's screamed in anguished six-part harmony, manic-whispered whole diaries of existential fear.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TRAFFIC")

YORKE: (Singing) I can't breathe. I can't breathe. There's no water. There's no water.

MOON: And still, Thom Yorke can't shake the techno dread. He was on it early. See Radiohead's visionary 1997 album "OK Computer." And since then, he's built a catalogue of foreboding about technology, the effect it has on human interaction and its potential to corrode the soul.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I AM A VERY RUDE PERSON")

YORKE: (Singing) I have to hope this spell's going to break. I have to destroy to create.

MOON: Yorke is not one to repeat himself, however. "Anima" represents a recalibration of his creative process. Like his previous solo efforts and his vivid score to the 2018 film "Suspiria," it's built on the orderly loops of electronic dance music. But the scale is different. He's not making big pronouncements about the culture.

Instead, he's sharing a personal reckoning. The songs unfold fitfully and don't always follow conventional verse-chorus-hook structure. Yorke says the jump cut collages of producer Flying Lotus were an inspiration.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE AXE")

YORKE: (Singing) I thought we had a deal. I thought we had a deal. I thought we had a deal.

MOON: At times, these momentary episodes are disarmingly beautiful. On this tune, several Thom Yorkes are multi-tracked into a corral of despairing angels.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

YORKE: (Vocalizing).

MOON: This record has been streaming for a couple of weeks now. Physical copies are out today with a bonus track. In that time, it's hit me in different ways. At first, the tone felt awfully familiar. Then, on headphones, it became easy to immerse in the dreamlike atmospheres and to notice the intimate menace lurking within them. That seems to be Yorke's approach with "Anima." Rather than talk at length about existential terror, he's embedded the feeling of it deep into the tracks where it's inescapable.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "IMPOSSIBLE KNOTS")

YORKE: (Singing) There's no room for mess.

CHANG: The latest from Thom Yorke. It's called "Anima." Our reviewer is Tom Moon.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "IMPOSSIBLE KNOTS")

YORKE: (Singing) I'm tied up in impossible knots. I'll take anything you got. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.