Album Review: Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool

By on Monday, 23rd May 2016 at 12:00 pm
 

Now that the hype train has (almost) stopped rolling for new Radiohead material, we can finally take a look at what we’re left with in the aftermath. The initial social network buzz that started by the band, ironically, removing themselves almost completely from the internet, soon turned into a tangible video. ‘Burn the Witch’ is a terrifying and prowling song whose main objective is to build an extreme amount of tension before simply dying. Using strings to create the initial urgency, it’s when the electronic instruments kick in that the urgency becomes a chaotic mash of analogue and digital. In short, a more than apt metaphor for Radiohead’s general modus operandi.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yI2oS2hoL0k[/youtube]

The key component to Radiohead’s sound is experimentation. Truly no two of their albums sound the same, even if on the outside they may appear to. The genius behind Thom Yorke and co.’s approach is hidden within the detail. Every track on ‘A Moon Shaped Pool’ is expertly crafted with not only an auditory reaction but an emotional one too. Taking you from sad to terrified to elated, all within one song, Yorke is able to orchestrate our minds just as he is able to instrumentation.

Track two ‘Daydreaming’ is an vast change of pace from its predecessor, though it retains the gradual descent into madness with a crescendo that sees more strings wrapping around a haunting vocal accompaniment that turns into demonic roars. At this point, it almost feels like Radiohead are just trying to haunt every aspect of your head, ‘Decksdark’ takes on a more standard appearance with a classic drums, bass, guitar and piano compositon. Of course this doesn’t last: when the verses break, we’re met with an array of sounds that echo around the sonic spectrum. ‘Desert Island Disk’ revolves around a repeating acoustic guitar line, which marries well with the dark and brooding electronic atmosphere.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TTAU7lLDZYU[/youtube]

It’s clear that the 5 years between 2011’s ‘The King of The Limbs’ and ‘A Moon Shaped Pool’ has not been in vain. Evolving their sound to incorporate more electronic elements than ever before has allowed them to branch into an entirely new strand of menacing alt-rock. ‘Ful Stop’ uses more of the build up approach as seen on the opening two tracks, but instead of leading to a string laden eruption, it becomes this determined and furiously thick guitar riff that once again swells with atmospheric sounds and a pace quickening drum beat. ‘Glass Eyes’ is a sombre, piano-led ballad that has Yorke’s voice sporadically drowned out by overbearing strings, it’s also the shortest cut on the record that flows nicely into ‘Identikit’. Opening with a complex drum pattern, another consistency throughout, the rhythm section is always a structure Yorke plays with the utmost respect. Building the compositions around this complex network of drums is a part of this records beauty.

Within the undertones of the album lies within love, loss and life. ‘True Love Waits’, a track that’s been in the works since 1995, is a barren and exposed track that tears away the majority atmospheric elements and instead leaves the mind play left to the lyrical content. ‘The Numbers’ concerns the state of the earth and our responsibility to rectify our mistakes before it’s too late.

With some of the tracks dating to decades before this release, what Radiohead have done is created a conglomerate of past and future. An orchestration of time and how it doesn’t dwell in one central point. In classic Radiohead fashion, they’ve given us everything we could’ve wanted and more.

8/10

‘A Moon Shaped Pool’ is out now in digital form on XL Records. A physical release follows in June. Read more on Radiohead on TGTF here.

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