ANIMA plays on internalized fear and pulsating frequencies to deliver a riveting take on the voices inside a person’s mind while begging the listener to question their place in society.
Thom Yorke, lead singer of alternative rock band Radiohead, is back in the music spotlight after releasing his third studio solo album, ANIMA. This album is his follow-up to 2014’s Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes and latest project since the release of Radiohead’s A Moon Shaped Pool in 2016.
Yorke uses transcendental frequencies and rhythms to produce a set of wavelengths, tapping into the listener’s emotional core.
“Traffic” is the beginning of the journey, blending the worlds of trance and techno with Yorke’s voice to create an unsettling void within the listener. The song seeks to liberate Yorke from the shackles of materialism and explore outside the confines of society.
Yorke sings, “No body. No body. It’s not good. It’s not right. A mirror. A sponge. But you’re free.” As the song progresses, it becomes evident that the only way Yorke escapes this existential journey is by enduring it.
The album continues with “Last I Heard (… He Was Circling the Drain)” and “Twist” — songs that raise your blood pressure and take Yorke to a solitary place. As “Twist” begins to end, the feeling of isolation seem less daunting and Yorke’s head calms.
Along with the album, Yorke released a straight-to-Netflix short film, “ANIMA,” directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. It depicts the world of his internal consciousness and the emptiness within society. Anderson is an Academy Award-nominated director, notable for creating films such as “Punch-Drunk Love” and “Phantom Thread,” which are simple in nature but tackle the complexity behind consciousness and personality.
The pairing of Anderson and Yorke is perfect. Yorke is the neurons firing within a brain, and Anderson is the pathways connecting them to produce a beautiful choreographed adventure of anxiety, exploration and what it means to be human.
Anderson’s sense of cinematography and framing complement Yorke’s material. The short film moves from “Not The News” to “Traffic” to “Dawn Chorus.” Mid-album, it falls on “Dawn Chorus” to create an endless loop of thoughts much like his consciousness. The film uses the song to mark the journey’s ending.
“Dawn Chorus” is the best song off the album and serves as the soundtrack to any emotional state someone could find themselves in. It sounds like the morning when the sky is a special mixture of pink and orange if it were a song, and it feels like the first ray of sunshine to an endless night. It’s the sound of tranquility and a fitting end to Yorke’s state of anxiety and loneliness.
Yorke’s mastery of trance beats and a repetitive source of pulsating frequencies elicit emotions within the listener throughout the course of the album. The lyrics behind his songs are vague and soft, forcing the listener to pick out rare fragments that can be understood.
ANIMA is special not because of how the songs are put together but because it is a loop of songs that tie perfectly to each other and pushes the exploration of emotions forward. Yorke’s latest release proves he has a lot more to create outside of his hit band.
4.5 out of 5 stars
Listening time: 47 minutes and 48 seconds