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Rocket Science: Analyzing Thom Yorke and Flea’s supergroup Atoms For Peace

By ; September 11, 2012 at 7:37 PM 

Let’s take a moment to break this down: Atoms For Peace has been around for nearly three years, we just heard their first proper single last week, and we’re still unsure of their creative dynamic–and more generally, what they sound like.

After seeing Thom and Nigel perform and DJ in Long Island City this past weekend, and hearing debut single “Default” things have sort of come into perspective.

Thom Yorke loves the current electronic scene–as so clearly evidenced by his DJ sets–and although this new upcoming album will deviate quite a bit from previous solo effort The Eraser, it’s quite clear that Thom is still fronting the whole project, and Flea’s funky bass influence will be minimal…at least on record.

My bet is that very much as Atoms For Peace came together and reworked The Eraser for a live rock setting is 2009, the same will happen for this album and its live interpretation. Thom will do the majority of the work on the album while Godrich produces and Flea adds his quips here and there. Upon completion the trio will call in drummer Joey Waronker and percussionist Mauro Refosco to work on live renditions of the studio tracks.

On paper this might be disappointing, but modern music fans tend towards amnesia; the Atoms For Peace shows in 2009 were amazing. The new percussion and Flea’s reworked bass-lines and added fills essentially transformed The Eraser into a whole new creature. Add that Thom and Flea’s chemistry was ludicrous–Flea jamming out just as he does with Red Hot Chili Peppers and Thom Yorke dancing uncontrollably like we’ve never seen before (sorry Colin)–and you’ve got a hell of a lot to look forward to. Just check out this take of “Harrowdown Hill” below:

In a way we’re getting two albums: one electronic and one in the live realm. Well, maybe not, this is entirely speculative, but Thom’s Dead Air Space blog post from Friday goes on to support this little theory of mine:

“You may have heard that I have a new project called Atoms for Peace.

The name comes from some shows of The Eraser that happened a couple of years ago with Mauro, Joey, Nigel and Flea.

We got a big buzz from them and discovered loads of energy from transforming the music from electronic to live, and so afterwards, we carried on for a few days in the studio and decided to make it a loose, on-going thing.
Immersed in the area between the two…electronic and live.

The first tune we’d like you to hear is Default
A 12″ vinyl version will follow next month and an album will eventually follow that next year.

At the end of the day, it’s clear that Atoms For Peace is still Yorke’s project when in the studio. Live, however, he’s at the mercy of four of the best musicians in the world. You might as well start lining up for your tickets now.

Radiohead is about to embark on the European leg of their King of Limbs tour, and the new Atoms For Peace album is expected sometime early next year. Check out our gallery of the MOMA PS1 Warm-up set here and our review of “Default” here.

What are your thoughts on the new Atoms For Peace track? Let us know in the comments below.

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