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Published on August 20th, 2019 | by voxx

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Thom Yorke – Anima

The Radiohead frontman fears for the future on a tense, dystopian solo venture…

In mid-June, a series of strange ads asking, “Do you have trouble remembering your dreams?” began popping up in various locations. They were placed on Tube carriages in London, phone boxes in Milan and, most randomly, in the ad pages of The Dallas Observer, on a page next to a promotion for a full body massage by a man called Garry. Dialling the number on the advert took you through to an automated message about a company called Anima Technologies, and then to a piece of music that sounded a bit like a police siren being played through a ’90s game console. It was soon identified by probing Radiohead fans as the intro to ‘Not The News’, a track that Thom Yorke has been playing live as part of his ongoing Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes solo tour for almost four years.

The mystery was solved when Anima, Yorke’s third solo LP (fourth if you include the record he made under the Atoms For Peace handle in 2013), and an accompanying short film of the same name by Paul Thomas Anderson, was unveiled at the end of June. But while all those things give the sense of Anima as a big event release, the sort that might offer up some sort of immediate satisfaction, this is an LP that takes time to get to grips with.

In many ways, Anima is the inverse of the core tracks that made up Yorke’s soundtrack for the horror film Suspiria last year. Those songs were stark and skeletal, relying upon airy melodies and haunting acoustics. But here he sounds digitised and disturbed. In a recent interview, Yorke alluded to his new record being born out of urban anxiety and dystopian unease, a feeling that the world has reached what he describes as “crisis point”. That sense of restlessness underpins everything on Anima.

Opener ‘Traffic’ sets the tone, its claustrophobic beats and swarming synths sliding into place under an urgent vocal, while ‘Last I Heard (…He Was Circling The Drain)’ grows out of a series of disparate hooks and hazy droning into something dark and symphonic. Other songs are pulled in the same expansive direction: the seven-minute long ‘Twist’ begins as a maze of samples and loops before untangling into a dazzling crescendo, and even better is ‘Not The News’ – a meld of glitchy beats and ominous, lurching strings. ‘Dawn Chorus’ is a beautifully restrained ballad that offers some respite to a frenetic album.

With its detuned guitars and heavily-treated vocals, closer ‘Runwayaway’ stands oddly apart from everything else, as if Yorke is trying to make sense of what’s come before. “That’s when you know who your real friends are,” he sings through a pitch-shifting filter, his vocals disappearing under another wave of contorted keyboards.

Heavy on themes of dislocation, suburban horror and broken moral compasses, Anima often comes across like Yorke’s very own Black Mirror. It’s an excellent album born out of modern dread. He’s in his element.

- By Jake White


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