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Jul 19, 2019
Originally published on July 19, 2019 4:48 pm

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Radiohead's Thom Yorke has released a new solo album. It's called "Anima." And it's accompanied by a short Netflix film of the same name. The album, just like the film, evokes an urban dystopia right out of a George Orwell story. Tom Moon reviewed the music and declared it Yorke's most harrowing solo work yet.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TWIST")

THOM YORKE: (Vocalizing).

TOM MOON, BYLINE: He's trembled like a broken man on his knees.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TWIST")

YORKE: (Singing) To you, who brought me back to life.

MOON: He's screamed in anguished six-part harmony, manic-whispered whole diaries of existential fear.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TRAFFIC")

YORKE: (Singing) I can't breathe. I can't breathe. There's no water. There's no water.

MOON: And still, Thom Yorke can't shake the techno dread. He was on it early. See Radiohead's visionary 1997 album "OK Computer." And since then, he's built a catalogue of foreboding about technology, the effect it has on human interaction and its potential to corrode the soul.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I AM A VERY RUDE PERSON")

YORKE: (Singing) I have to hope this spell's going to break. I have to destroy to create.

MOON: Yorke is not one to repeat himself, however. "Anima" represents a recalibration of his creative process. Like his previous solo efforts and his vivid score to the 2018 film "Suspiria," it's built on the orderly loops of electronic dance music. But the scale is different. He's not making big pronouncements about the culture.

Instead, he's sharing a personal reckoning. The songs unfold fitfully and don't always follow conventional verse-chorus-hook structure. Yorke says the jump cut collages of producer Flying Lotus were an inspiration.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE AXE")

YORKE: (Singing) I thought we had a deal. I thought we had a deal. I thought we had a deal.

MOON: At times, these momentary episodes are disarmingly beautiful. On this tune, several Thom Yorkes are multi-tracked into a corral of despairing angels.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

YORKE: (Vocalizing).

MOON: This record has been streaming for a couple of weeks now. Physical copies are out today with a bonus track. In that time, it's hit me in different ways. At first, the tone felt awfully familiar. Then, on headphones, it became easy to immerse in the dreamlike atmospheres and to notice the intimate menace lurking within them. That seems to be Yorke's approach with "Anima." Rather than talk at length about existential terror, he's embedded the feeling of it deep into the tracks where it's inescapable.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "IMPOSSIBLE KNOTS")

YORKE: (Singing) There's no room for mess.

CHANG: The latest from Thom Yorke. It's called "Anima." Our reviewer is Tom Moon.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "IMPOSSIBLE KNOTS")

YORKE: (Singing) I'm tied up in impossible knots. I'll take anything you got. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.