Thom Yorke's ANIMA: What You Need To Know
After nine albums with Radiohead, one with Atoms for Peace and two released under his own name, Thom Yorke ventured into new territory with his most recent musical project, following in the footsteps of Radiohead bandmate Jonny Greenwood to create his first score for a feature film.
This week Yorke returns with his third solo album, ANIMA, which not only sees him delving further into the electronic experimentation featured on his previous solo records,but also sees him team up with regular Greenwood collaborator Paul Thomas Anderson to create an accompanying short film for the new album, which enjoyed a run in IMAX cinemas last month before being made available on streaming service Netflix.
This week the album arrives in stores in physical form on CD and vinyl, here's everything you need to know...
A little background...
Before he began writing material for his third solo album, Yorke had reportedly been enduring a period of writer's block and “incredible bouts of anxiety” which, ironically, coincided with the time he spent creating his first film score for Luca Guadagnino's remake of Dario Argento's horror classic Suspiria.
One of the things that helped him overcome this was thinking back to watching Flying Lotus, who had been a support act on a previous tour, improvising with loops live on stage. Yorke had the idea of using that approach as a new way of writing, creating sprawling, unfinished tracks and then handing them to his longtime collaborator Nigel Godrich, who would pull out some of the more interesting sections, turn them into loops and send them back, with Yorke writing lyrics over the results.
Who's producing it?
Godrich is producing the album alongside the Radiohead frontman, as he has done with Yorke's previous solo efforts The Eraser and Tomorrow's Modern Boxes.
Any special guests?
Not in terms of featured artists or guest vocalists, although Radiohead drummer Phil Selway contributes drums to 'Impossible Knots' and Atoms For Peace drummer puts in an appearance at the end of 'The Axe'.
What does it sound like?
Broadly speaking, ANIMA continues York's journey into experimentation with wonky electronica that has characterised his solo work to date, but where The Eraser teamed this approach with more traditional song structures, on ANIMA the structures themselves have dissolved into something much more fluid. 'Not The News' is perhaps one of the most extreme cases in point; over half the track has elapsed before the vocals really kick in, after which the song eventually dissolves and melts into the next.
The album takes its name a term coined by philosopher Carl Jung to describe the unconscious feminine qualities present in the male mind (animus being the masculine equivalent in women), and when Yorke's fragmented vocals do surface at various points his lyrics are often preoccupied with themes relating to sleep, dreams and anxiety in a dystopian environment. The album's centrepiece, 'Dawn Chorus', is one of ANIMA's standout moments and finds Yorke delivering an almost monologue-like vocal on the themes of nostalgia and regret.
Does it deliver?
Despite the often fragmented nature of the music on ANIMA, as a whole it feels like Yorke's most cohesive solo offering yet. To use a slightly clumsy analogy, if The Eraser was the sound of Yorke dipping a toe into the pool and Tomorrow's Modern Boxes was him swimming in the deep end, ANIMA finds him fully submerged and completely without fear.
Some of the album's tracks may take a few listens to really get into, but even on the first spin 'Dawn Chorus' is a powerful and emotive moment on a record filled with electronic music of a very human kind.