Rating: 8.7/ A
Format: Vinyl (2x140 gram LP at 45 rpm)
- Flea: bass guitar (tracks 1, 3, 5, 6, 7)
- Mauro Refosco: percussion (all except track 9)
- Joey Waronker: drums (all except track 2)
- Thom Yorke: vocals, keyboards, programming, guitars, piano
- Nigel Godrich: programming, production
- Engineer [Additional Engineering]: Drew Brown
- Engineer [Live Recording]: Darrell Thorp
- Mastered by: Brian Gardner at Bernie Grundman Mastering
- Artwork [Lost Angeles Lost]: Stanley Donwood
In Amok Time, Spock must try to suppress his inner emotions in order to reign control over the natural demons that coexist within his usual logically-linear demeanor.
As for vocalist Thom Yorke (on keyboards, piano and guitar also), there is no such Metamorphosis; the Radiohead lead singer simply slithers in smoothly as if this was his natural habitat or a plausible prospective avenue his English cohorts could coalesce in the near future. In fact, - prior to reading the credits - I was under the impression that the drums and percussion were 'under the baton' of Brit bandmate Phil Selway when in reality, Beck drummer Joey Waronker and Brazilian percussionist Mauro Refosco - who worked among others with Federico Aubele - more than hold their own on the groovy metronomic pulse.
The album was released in two versions. A deluxe triple gatefold limited edition with debossed foil stamped on 180 gram vinyl including a download code and a regular edition also comprising two 45 rpm LPs but on a lighter pressing of approximately 140 gram. Being limited to 3000 copies the former sold out almost immediately. British artist Dan Rickwood aka Stanley Donwood designed the front and back covers on both editions - a close collaboration reaching back to 1995 on The Bends LP - which mainly differ in their respective monochrome ratio, the limited version sporting more black and a hint of greenish bronze at some places. For this edition, the squared-side black and white carton jacket does not unfold and therefore both records share the same compartment. These are inserted in their respective plain white carton sleeve with a label cut-out. Although nicer than a regular paper sleeve, there is no further vinyl protection so care should be taken during insertion and removal steps; thankfully the sleeves are not too tight to cause static charges.
The labels are stylistically identical to one another consisting of 3 black circles somewhat similar to a 'tic tac toe' pattern horizontally aligned over a white background. The medium-weight LP is pressed at RTI in California. The first record was flat but the second one was a touch dished and caused a mild 'wave' sound in the lead-in groove before the music started - certainly the tight cellophane wrap did not help matters; fortunately the music 'drowned out' any wave (pardon the pun). All four sides were shiny lustered and black, with nice wide groove patterns hinting at good frequency bandwidth. Only a few minor 'tics' appeared before or between tracks but by and large, the vinyl noise floor stayed pretty quiet the whole time.
Working in Hollywood California at Bernie Grundman Mastering, famed funk-disco-hip hop engineer Brian "Big Bass" Gardner chose a groove-spacing travel of 3 1/4 inches for side A and a hair over 3 inches for side B; 3 1/16 inches for side C and 3 3/8 inches for side D. With roughly 11 minutes of music on side A; 9:30 on side B; 10 minutes on side C and 14 minutes on side D this translates to approx. 3.4 min./inch; 3.2 min./inch; 3.3 min./inch and 4.1 min./inch of linear cutting displacement respectively. At 45 rpm, there should be no problem regarding the side-timings apart from side D which is slightly over the usual 12 minute recommended limit before high frequency distortion becomes intrusive. Inscribed in the dead wax are the following phrases: 'LITTLE FIREWORKS OF JOY' on side A; 'TYING ROUND REELS OF STRINGS' and 'THE SOUND MASTERS' (indicating where the lacquer was cut) on side B; 'JUST HAVING THEIR FUN' on side C and 'TRYING TO GET YOUR ATTENTION' on side D. All 'wax' inscriptions appearing on both editions reinforce the probability that the latter are sourced from the same metal stampers and differ primarily in vinyl weight - assuming all other steps remained identical (no small feat when it comes to all things vinyl). The album was recorded in Los Angeles and London at The Hospital, as well as at Joey's and Ocean Way. Engineer Darrell Thorp handled the live recording with additional engineering by Drew Brown.
Because the entire album is quite uniform in style and sound I will refrain from repeating the same comments on a track by track basis as I usually do - most albums are often quite variable in both aspects. From the onset right through the end, the cutting level was average for the perceived volume with some analog-like compression and mild to medium intended saturation to produce warm, fuzzy, felt-like textures and not surprisingly, sharing similarities with Radiohead's The King of Limbs [Ticker Tape Ltd. TICK001LP], for many of the same personnel were reunited here. This type of compression is not to be confused with aggressive gain maximizing like so many modern productions that want to 'pull-out' your eardrums after 30 seconds. Also noteworthy was that the first track - "Before Your Very Eyes" - had a small distinct veil in the treble that diminished when the second track - "Default" - started and was mostly gone on the following track - "Ingenue" - opening side B.
By the time the fourth track - "Dropped" - came on, all veils were off and top end detail shined through, widening and deepening the soundstage boundaries. What is particularly interesting in this 'unveiling sound evolution' is the reciprocity with The King of Limbs' own 'track sound incrementation'. Are we to assume that Nigel Godrich and Darrell Thorp are experts in the sly art of sneaky-sound-striptease.
Let's just hope we won't have to wait another seven year interval for the next Pon farr to materialize. Live long and prosper Atoms For Peace.