This week, Thom Yorke surprised the music world by dropping a brand new album. The eight song, 38 minute Tomorrow's Modern Boxes arrived via a legal BitTorrent arrangement that Yorke created to try an alternative means of music distribution Thom Yorke shared the following:
It's an experiment to see if the mechanics of the system are something that the general public can get its head around … If it works well it could be an effective way of handing some control of internet commerce back to people who are creating the work. Enabling those people who make either music, video or any other kind of digital content to sell it themselves. Bypassing the self elected gate-keepers. If it works anyone can do this exactly as we have done
In part, Tomorrow's Modern Boxes obviously benefits from being free of any pre-hype and mega expectations. As time goes by, Radiohead's The King of Limbs stands up well and I personally find greater replay value with each listen. But with Radiohead's release of several consecutive classic albums, The King of Limbs most definitely fell victim to insanely robust expectations. In contrast, Tomorrow's Modern Boxes is Yorke pulling a Beyoncé and the benefit of surprise is apparent. With TMB, we also see Thom continuing to explore the options for music distribution. With the legal BitTorrent approach, the "self-appointed gatekeepers" are eliminated from the formula. How much you politically invest in that debate will vary, but it's certainly nice to have a well-known musician visibly pushing the boundaries again. We saw what In Rainbows did with the pay-what-you-want model and its implications. As of today, September 29, album has ben downloaded 400,000 times already. Perhaps TMB will make the self-regulated BitTorrent model more attractive for others.
Musically, as always, I would suggest you check it out for yourself. It's a mere $6. Or you can pick-up album track "Brain In A Bottle" for free here. It's worth separating the glee of surprise from the tunes. However, I'm a fan of this album so far. TMB is a progression from Eraser and digitalism of Atoms for Peace's AMOK. You can hear that lineage of IDM, Aphex Twin-inspired, minimalist electronic explored further. Thom's experience working on said projects and with Flying Lotus has expanded his musical palette. What strikes me about this album is that it feels lighter and more nimble than previous efforts. There's a sense of ease about it. The melodies fit well with the tools he's wielding. There are still glitchy beats, varying drum machines, deep synths, and plenty of space but the songs feel more cohesive, more immediately accessible. If you thought the first few minutes of "Bloom" were no way to begin an album but dug Radiohead's new direction, I think you will enjoy this album. "Brain In A Bottle" gives you soaring, Yorke falsetto vocals within first 50 seconds.
To these ears, it seems Thom's moved much closer to the mark he's been shooting for since Eraser. Clearly, this is not a Radiohead album. But by now, we know not to mix the two. Thom's delivered a very solid, new album here. If you took an interest to the brand of ethereal, abstract, minimal IDM music Yorke's been working on, with and without Radiohead, you should find this album a treat.Thom Yorke - A Brain In A Bottle (OFFICIAL VIDEO) from Tommaso Colella on Vimeo.