Out There Music Review: ANIMA by Thom Yorke

Listen to ANIMA by Thom Yorke on Spotify

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Thom Yorke’s inward-focused, melancholic lyrical tones don’t necessarily scream “dance music,” but his solo efforts have always married his esoteric style with forward thinking electronic production.

While his newest effort may not be material to fill a dance floor downtown on Saturday night, don’t be surprised if you hear a few tunes from ANIMA in some of the more obscure back room and basement parties over the course of this summer and beyond. 

Photo by Alex Lake

Photo by Alex Lake

ANIMA is named after a particular element of analytical psychology theorized by Carl Jung, one poetically appropriate for a talent like Yorke’s. Anima is Jung’s name for the unconscious feminine aspect of a man’s personality, which is reflected by the idea of animus, or a woman’s unconscious masculine traits. Jung believed, in a proto-feminist fashion, that feminine characteristics are among the most repressed by men, and spent considerable time analyzing anima since he thought it significant. 

This feels apropos of Thom Yorke. His career with Radiohead and beyond into his solo work and side project Atoms For Peace have always maintained a significant undercurrent of emotional openness and vulnerability. Lyrically, ANIMA is focused on technological malaise and isolation in the current digital age, certainly a common theme in all of his work, but in this case the sound used to express it is as cohesive as his solo work has ever been.

The record is ultimately a collaboration between Yorke and longtime Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich, and the beats and synths read like a constantly shifting puzzle comprised of bits of the most legitimate underground house and techno. Yorke’s name has often been attached to highly regarded producers like Modeselektor and Four Tet, and the level of creativity on ANIMA rivals the most esoteric and advanced electronic producers of today. That is, if those producers were working on uneven ground where their music’s tonality and rhythm were constantly in precarious balance and skittering about with organic, humanistic arbitrariness.

ANIMA is also notably the soundtrack to a new 15 minute short by Paul Thomas Anderson, recently debuted on Netflix. 


James Nason