Thom Yorke’s Anima: A Peek Through One’s (Unconscious) Comfort Zone

By: Claudia Siregar |

During recent years, Radiohead singer Thom Yorke has evidently been busy with various projects with his band and outside of Radiohead. The singer released the horror film soundtrack album “Suspiria” last year, his first feature soundtrack album and a followup to his previous solo albums “Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes” and “The Eraser”. “Anima”, Yorke’s third solo studio album, was released on June 27, 2019, produced by Radiohead’s regular producer Nigel Godrich. The album is a dystopian take on history and one’s unconscious self (“Anima” itself refers to the Jungian theory of unconscious inner soul in men), with a good use of vocal layering and mixes of various real-life electronic sounds.

The album opens with “Traffic”, a rather upbeat song for an artist such as Yorke, who is known for his drawling vocals and slow-tempoed instrumentals, with fading synths present in this song remaining throughout the album. A memorable intro since it defies Yorke’s usual way of opening an album – whether it’s a solo one or a Radiohead one. “Last I Heard” presents us with impressive vocal layers and soft, jingling synths, somewhat reminiscent of those present in Bjork’s Vespertine album – seems like Yorke just can’t get enough of alternative Iceland pop influences. Moving on, we have “Twist”, a rework of one of Yorke’s older songs. A haunting track decorated by Yorke’s smooth falsetto, more vocal layers, crystalline melody that only gets chaotic as the song progresses combined with a contrasting bassline, a smooth transition during the bridge, and slight new age influences.

The album only gets more intense as we enter “Dawn Chorus”, a peaceful play of contrasting guitars, basslines, and synths over the sound of Yorke reading out a poem – repeating the words “if you could do it all again” throughout the track, with a historical reference to the 30-second OK Corral shootout in 1881 Arizona. “Rude Person”, however, takes a more easygoing direction, with slight bossanova influences on the basslines and guitars – the only track off the album in which electronic sounds do not dominate the production aside from “Runwayaway”, which is more lo-fi and guitar and piano heavy compared to the rest of the album. “Not the News” considerably ranks the first on production value, with vaporwave-influenced synths sounding like sequences of computer sounds and a chaotic play of vocal layers and melody, followed by “The Axe”, which includes a choirlike intro and “I thought we had a deal” repeated over and over again over monotonous beats and eerie synths, accompanied by ringing sounds, which would get even more chaotic after the song breaks into climax and turn into fast “pings” reminiscent of a dying person’s EKG right before flatlining. “Impossible Knots” is also a play in vocal layers over electronic synths.

If anything, “Anima” is remarkable yet it doesn’t showcase any growth in Yorke as a musician. Reminiscent of Radiohead’s Kid A album, “Anima” sounds like its recycled version. Though the album is purely experimental, it beats the purpose of musical experiment in the first place. Evidently, Yorke is still comfortable in his electronic music zone, unwilling to experiment with more “traditional” instruments to create new sounds. However, his vocal experiments, this time, wins over everything else. Yorke’s play on vocal layering is considerably a benchmark for production, and a good takeaway off the album despite the ironically comfort zone-inclined electronic production.

Rating: 6.8/10
Favourite track: Not the News

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