BY OSCAR NICHOLAS
Thom Yorke’s new album, Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes and added IQ test have released a storm in the past weeks. The status that is Thom Yorke and his alternative systems for releasing music mean that everyone now knows about the album as it spreads across social media.
It is Yorke’s first solo album since The Eraser in 2006 and first material of any form since Atoms For Peace released Amok in early 2013. Besides all the commotion behind the record it is an interesting addition to the Radiohead frontman’s armoury.
In a letter written by Thom Yorke and producer Nigel Godrich, they explain “As an experiment we are using a new version of BitTorrent to distribute a new Thom Yorke record.” BitTorrent bypasses the hosting costs, or “‘cloud’ malarky”, as they put it.
Whether this adds or subtracts from the album is an argument in its own right.
As a record in itself, Yorke has created something based highly on samples and synthesisers. Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes appears to be just as much an experiment musically as it is through distribution.
Guitars are out the window completely and electronic alternatives are embraced. Glitchy textures and ambient noises merge with Yorke’s vocals to create an album that sounds like a futuristic Radiohead without all the participants, it has charm to it at points.
Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes is certainly not something to throw on casually, a level of dedication is needed. Opening track A Brain In A Bottle is a key example of Yorke’s use of progressing sound. Almost in a indie house style, if such a thing exists. The song comes with a music video that consists of Yorke in a white room moving about, edited in the style of a scratched DVD. So that’s a bonus.
The album definitely has a contrast to The Eraser, which had much more melody and less abstraction to it. Guess Again is the closest Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes gets to a Radiohead track of any sort. Although is not easily recognisable on first listen, the track uses a piano loop from Radiohead’s Pyramid Song as a foundation.
Mid LP Yorke gives a six minute long track The Mother Load .The song is created from a selection of vocal and instrumental samples. It sounds clean and well produced, it peeks through the digression of samples and Yorke’s vocals merging into a reverbed mist.
Of course it wouldn’t be a Thom Yorke record without some sort of statement in there. There’s No Ice (For My Drink) is supposedly a message on environmental issues, yet all I get from it is ambient sounds and obscure vocals. It is a interesting listen and Yorke create a transition of layers beautifully at points but it certainly doesn’t make me want to donate to Greenepeace.
The rest of the album literally blurs together, with a repetition of sounds transgressing behind the final three tracks. Nose Grows Some is the last song on the album, its a slow tempo piece with soft vocals and organ like synthesisers.
Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes is Yorke’s most electronic record to date. The album however viewed is a record that has created attention. It may not be the revolution in music distribution Thom Yorke was hoping for but it’s certainly going to get people excited for Radiohead’s next move.