Thom Yorke needs Nigel Godrich.
From the moment the two worked together, it was magic — when Godrich, an English record producer, worked on Radiohead’s 1997 masterpiece “OK Computer.” Since then, Godrich and Yorke have been inseparable, producing each of Radiohead’s releases since then and even collaborating with Yorke on his solo work and the 2013 side project “Atoms for Peace.”
Introducing this electronic specialty in the 2014 release “Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes,” Yorke and Godrich, together, refine and master this sound in Yorke’s latest solo release “ANIMA.”
Paired with an absolutely gorgeous short film directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, who worked with Yorke on music videos such as Radiohead’s “Daydreaming,” the duo pairs minimalist and ambient electronic sounds with Yorke’s floating tenor extremely well, creating his best solo work to date.
The first track on the record, “Traffic,” sets the tone extremely well. Depicted in the first scene of Anderson’s short film, a group of people on the subway, in between this real-life and dream-like state, hear this heavy, pulsing and almost infectious beat, leading to this intricate and choreographed hysteria Yorke himself is a part of.
This continues into “Last I Heard (…He Was Circling the Drain),” which begins this incredibly gorgeous vocal layering, repeatedly saying “I woke up with a feeling I just could not take,” continuing with this dreamlike and sleep theme. The bass does not come until near the end of the track, which makes it build very well, creating this ambient electronic sound that makes this five-minute run time fly by.
However, the back-to-back of “Twist” and “Dawn Chorus” make this album the most consistent, beautiful solo record Yorke has performed. And they could not be more different.
With this repetition of the word “Twist” as the backing of the beat, Godrich and Yorke are at their peak with this electronic performance. Brining back in the vocal layering and the children-cheering sample Yorke used on the song “15 Step” from Radiohead’s 2007 release “In Rainbows,” the song begins as a minimalist electronic work, and builds with this deep-sounding piano that fits perfectly, repeatedly swelling through the outro where Yorke continuously says “It’s like weed.”
Even with the seamless transition, Yorke could not transition into something more different. “Dawn Chorus” seems like the first song on the record with this level of simplicity to the backing track, allowing the listener to focus on the lyrics first. Attached with this beautiful visual in Anderson’s film of Yorke dancing with his partner Dajana Roncione, this track is absolutely breathtaking, matching the ambient ideas with a level of songwriting Yorke had not shown yet on his solo work.
While there are moments in each song that are worth noting, from the seamless transition into “I Am a Very Rude Person” to the beautiful bassline in “Impossible Knots,” both Godrich and Yorke find their groove on “Not The News.”
Even with the bar set after the song “Twist,” the beat on this one matches its quality, using, again, different levels with the bass and electronics, sampling the “Atoms for Peace” song “Amok” to make it a highlight of the album as a whole, even though Yorke’s vocal performance on this is really nothing special comparatively.
Listeners may have known what they were getting into with Godrich and Yorke on this album, especially after 2014’s “Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes.” However, “ANIMA” is refined, well produced and shows incredible progress for the duo and what they could do outside of Radiohead in the future.