Music’s own master of surprise, Thom Yorke, is up to his old tricks again (see: In Rainbows and The King of Limbs), releasing his new album, Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes, out of the blue on Friday, September 26th. This time, however; Yorke released his latest work via file sharing website BitTorrent.
While he and longtime collaborator, Nigel Godrich, previously voiced their displeasure with Spotify and other means of music distribution, they aim to “(hand) some control of internet commerce back to people who are creating the work,” utilizing BitTorrent’s easy-to-use system for sale purposes.
The specific release method may be a change for the Radiohead frontman, yet the artistic output remains the same. Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes, rich in texture and machine-made, picks up where his first solo album – The Eraser – left off.
The piece begins with the paranoid, whirring synthesizers and pulsating digitized beats of “A Brain In A Bottle.” Yorke’s patented melancholic falsetto builds and builds against harmonious echoes; drums palpitating into explosions of 8-bit madness. “Guess Again” follows appropriately as synthetic drum claps crash through corridors of saddening piano chords with Thom’s breezy, lower-register vocals guiding the way. A track that would not sound too out of place on aforementioned, The King Of Limbs, he warns of “wild dogs,” “creatures,” and other ominous threats, possible incarnations of his escalating loneliness.
8-bit sonics reappear throughout the album, continuing with “Interference,” as Yorke prophesizes above a post-apocalyptic synth-soundscape: “in the future we will change our numbers and lose contact.” This foreshadowing of isolation drifts off into darkness, transitioning to album highlight, “The Mother Lode.” Arpeggiated tones, spliced samples and Thom’s hushed howls slink against scattered percussion, calling back to 2006’s The Eraser.
Painfully crooning to his lover, “I won’t let go, I won’t let go,” over minimalist production featuring encroachingly distorted high-pitched keyboard dissonance on “Truth Ray,” Thom gets most dance-y on the tongue-in-cheek, “Idioteque”-ian, “There Is No Ice (For My Drink).” Blips and snippets abound alongside reverberated vocals floating through a deep space of sprawling sound. A technological snowstorm initiates album closer, “Nose Grows Some.” Throbbing rhythms and distant, fading keys mature into an eerily droning melody, with Yorke’s delicate vocals trickling upon it.
In an age where ‘friends,’ likes, and electronic messages strewn across a screen fill our daily lives in lieu of personal, face-to-face human contact, Thom Yorke’s Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes paints textured, complex portraits of alienation due to the growth of technology.
Fans of his previous work with Radiohead, as well as his initial solo album, will certainly enjoy what Yorke’s most recent effort has to offer.
Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes is available now via http://tomorrowsmodernboxes.com/
(Photo courtesy of JS)