Review: Thom Yorke Goes Old-Fashioned and Hyper-contemporary with "ANIMA" Album and Short Film
If you would have told me 15 years ago that Thom Yorke would be filmed by Paul Thomas Anderson on a commuter train in Prague, performing an almost industrial ballet-dance routine, to his intimate and-at-times-harsh 3rd solo album (4th without Radiohead), I would literally say you are shitting me. But it is true, and Thom Yorke's newest solo album, ANIMA, and post-album-accompanying short film by the great PTA (now on Netflix) seems almost organic for what the British artist's output has been in the years since Radiohead were Kid A'ing around the world. Somehhow, Yorke can still turn an album release into an EVENT, and perhaps his past events were geared toward distribution and a bit of tongue-and-cheek mystery. ANIMA, in both music and visual identitiy, feels more direct yet ambitious, honest and ethereal.
This isn't a music review, we can leave that to the music sites that will endlessly chatter about Floating Points and Four Tet influences on ANIMA; but we can talk about the visual language surroudning the music, which seems to be drastically important to Yorke as always. He is, of course, a visual artist himself, a painter who has long collaborated with friend, Stanley Donwood, on all things Radiohead and solo projects. This whole release feels both very much a singular vision mixed with collaboration: Paul Thomas Anderson, Donwood, Tarik Barri, Nigel Godrich, Damien Jalet and the Swedish GöteborgsOperans dance company all take the intricacies of the music and give them a poetic and bleak-to-breakthrough look. I mentioned to a friend this morning that if you find yourself attracted to a contemporary Orwellian dystopian romance story, ANIMA works on many levels.
And that circles back to the beginning. Thom Yorke is making very personal work with the backdrop of what was once thought of as very impersonal artforms: electronic music and dialogue-free film. It's like a connection between the past (silent-era films) and the present (rhythmic dance music), all intertwined and completely natural. In an era where a musical release comes with ease of streaming, Yorke has added some texture and reason, and brought his friends along with him.
ANIMA is now out via XL Recordings, and the short film is streaming on Netflix.