ANIMA (XL/Remote Control)
No one has to tell Thom Yorke to use his inside voice. Mr Yorke makes inside albums.
Not necessarily barred windows and locked door albums, though he’s been there for sure. Not really lie down and let it happen to you albums, though there have been times when lying down and letting it pass through you has been the smartest option.
But this album, like its non-Radiohead predecessors – The Eraser, Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes, the Suspiria soundtrack, and Amok from his side group, Atoms For Peace - is not made with the intention of sunlight soaking everything and space opening up to offer an avenue of escape or distraction.
ANIMA (yes, it is meant to be written all in caps) exists quietly, disturbs without shock – The Axe for example is an accretion of small discomforts like horror film mordant synthesisers, an intermittent heartbeat bass, and his placidly resigned voice, that have chilled you before you’ve registered it - and contains not just its expression but its listener, much in the way the compact, modest dramatics of Not The News holds itself within a narrow band.
To that last point, extremes of emotion are not visible and expressions of abandon are unlikely. Less paranoid than The Eraser, more subdued than Amok, this is an album where Impossible Knots suggests interaction, with its mobile rhythm and momentum, but doesn’t actually seek it out; where Dawn Chorus peers over the rim of a deep pit of low keyboards and repeated patterns which feel like hummed notes, but drops a slowly tumbling feather, in the form of his muted singing, that never reaches the bottom, rather than throwing in a pebble to emphasise the starkness.
Still, and this is important, ANIMA doesn’t play in shadows or grimness: that would a narrow and incorrect assumption just because something like Last I Heard (… He was Circling The Drain) brings both the suggestion of incoming helicopter, so familiar to anyone who’s been near a war movie of the past 50 years, and the uncomfortable intersection of multiple voices.
However, any listener will have to come to this record to a fair extent rather than have it hit on you. This is notwithstanding the funk-ska bass lines in Impossible Knots and the revolving express of Twist; or the Pink Floyd On The Run-like urgent space burble of Runwayaway at the album’s end and its quasi preamble in Traffic, the album’s opening with Bernie Sanders explaining why corporate socialism will always win the business vote even if democratic socialism is demonised. Or for that matter despite the brief, rising clouds of voices in the final 30 seconds of the otherwise creeping I Am A Very Rude Person.
Now you will often move with/to Yorke tracks – and here, Twist is one which induces sprung limbs and twitches and Traffic is busy and burrowing - but the dancing is private, not communal. Even if you were in a club dancing to Twist you’d have your eyes closed and your responses would be to something playing out inside you, not whatever is being done around you.
This is not a bad thing: I am not certainly complaining. After all, there should be a place for private communion, for talking to yourself with your inside voice. Just maybe don’t stay there all day.