Atoms For Peace
September has arrived. The new season begin, after the overdose of summer festivals there is a multitude of tours about to starting. A lot of new albums are about to being released and need promotion.
I’ll be following as many as possible, to add some new bands here, in the meanwhile there is something I still have to post from the nicest summer England had since I moved onto this island.
Big names. Supergroup: Atoms For Peace.
Thom Yorke new band, which is not his solo project but it is not dissimilar from that too. Follow me…or just look at the pics.
The fans of Nick Cave should remember a tour, outside of the Bad Seeds, called “Nick Cave solo” which went around UK in the early 2006.
It was nothing else that a proto Grinderman test. Nick Cave was in need to get out of his creature, the Bad Seeds, to explore his more aggressive side.
He got back to play guitar after many years and, without Blixa (for a while now) and Mick Harvey (who was not part of this stripped down four member Bad Seeds band), it gave Warren Ellis the final place as his twin partner. In fact, they have been inseparable this millennium.
Also in 2006 Thom Yorke recorded his first solo album, The Eraser. It was released after Radiohead’s less exciting phase, their departure from EMI following the world tour for Hail To The Thief which was neither their best tour nor their best album.
The Eraser substantially is an electronic album. Even the “sort of” acoustic show of it that I witnessed for a special night in Cambridge in support of Green Party candidate kept those synth loops and effects when played on a grand piano.
If anything, Yorke solo moment helped Radiohead creativity. Their new album, in Rainbows, was a resurrection from all perspectives. No label (well XL being present), ground breaking “pay what you want” policy and, most important, the best songs they have recorded since OK Computer. Which was over a decade older.
To everyone surprise, this was also the year when Thom Yorke announced the birth of a supergroup with Flea of Red Hot Chili Peppers, plus the Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich, plus drummer Joey Waronker (the man who replaced Bill Berry with R.E.M.) and percussionist Mauro Refosco joining the ensemble.
This side of the Atlantic, for quite a while, the band was a metaphisical legend. They did not play Europe, they never recorded an album and more noticeably, they didn’t even have a name. Out of a French vocabulary ‘divertissement’ would be the word.
They did some shows in USA but when everyone was in the wait for the album, Thom Yorke announced Radiohead back. Kings of Limbs came out in 2011, followed by the mandatory world tour who put on hold the “other thing”.
Thing that was further delayed by the drama that hit Radiohead crew in the Toronto incident in 2012. The stage collapsed, a man of hteir crew died and the last dates were postponed.
Atoms For Peace, as a band, was finally announced in mid 2012 with a proper website and all needed social things. In February 2013, at last, the debut album, titled Amok, was first streamed and then released.
Atoms For Peace have not much to do with Radiohead but with Yorke love for electronica already infused in The Eraser.
As Grinderman gave a twist to what that proto-Grinderman Nick Cave solo project was, Atoms for Peace helped Yorke solo music to take-off.
They manage it adding a lot of rhythm to the hypnotic minimalist loops that form the backbone of those songs.
If you want rhythm, you won’t fail with Flea. Despite I will never understand how he can still endorse and play in Red Hot Chili Peppers, a band that stopped being relevant when they removed socks and put clothes on, over 20 years ago, as a bass player Flea is second only to Les Claypool.
Flea can change a song with 3 notes. Alanis Morrissette wanted him for her You Oughta Know gzillionaire hit. Patti Smith wanted him to play Horses live in full at the Royal Festival Hall for her Meltdown festival. You can’t say those were bad ideas.
Thom Yorke recruiting Flea sounds weird but it was good. Whilst he cites Afrobeat (true) as keyAtom for Peace inspiration (it is always cool call ethnic sources) I believe the winning clue for the band has been to put together an incredible rhythm session. Americans, Flea joined by Waronker and Refosco, are perfect match next to the Yorke/Godrich Brit golden pair.
When I streamed Amok on Spotify before Thom Yorke went rage against the streaming site policy I wasn’t as sure. On record the electronics of Yorke/Godrich still prevails on the rhythm and the songs, despite more solid than those ethereal in The Eraser, did not do it to me.
I did not want to miss the first UK appearance of the band, though. It is not easy to get access to such gigs but with three dates at the Roundhouse in Camden Town, I managed to get a photopass.
It was a good choice. My sixth sense worked. From the first songs Flea pumping bass style motivated the drummer and, mixed on a much higher volume than the CD, balanced Yorke singing and Godrich playing.
The Afro Beat is now indeed present and solidly highlighted by Waronker and Refosco. As any musician would tell, once bass and drums work the rest comes easy.
With a shamanic frontman as Yorke, easy is an understatement. The band clearly has fun on stage, each song builds up a ritual dance from the front down to the bar where I queue to get my deserved refreshing beer.
To complete my thesis, the setlist confirms what I did say so far.
With only one album out and few thousand people to please, they cannot justify the expensive ticket (and very expensive/cool merch) with 50 minutes of music.
Radiohead songs are not ideal choice for a side project (despite they play Rabbit in your Headlights, and UNKLE cover also played by Yorke with Radiohead and Paperbag Writers), so how to fill the setlist? Easy, a big bunch of Thom Yorke’s The Eraser wasplayed.
Compared to what Thom Yorke did in Cambridge, these songs shone with a solid band supporting the original idea with some energetic substance.
I don’t know what the future will look like for the unpredictable Thom Yorke. Radiohead, Atoms for Peace or joining Red Hot with Flea maybe (joking).
What I know is that I am missing REM at the moment, which brings me out of topic.
Film or digital. Why not both?
Live on 35mm started 6 years ago with David “Honeyboy” Edward. It was October 2007, Honeyboy is now dead (RIP), this blog has kept going and now counts 230+ bands, as many concert photography photo tips and 3000+ photos shot on stage and often unpublished elsewhere.
At those times, I had been shooting concerts for about 3 years, mainly for some Cambridge local magazines and The Line of Best Fit. There were much fewer concert photographers around and even less music blogs.
Surely this was the only place exclusively dedicated to contemporary concerts shot on B&W film.
It lasted for about 3 years as so till the day, at the end of 2009, I decided I needed a digital camera for my travel and documentary work (airport X-Ray machines aren’t so kind to film anymore).
I moved to Nikon and loved my D700 from the first minute. Quickly I tried it at concerts. Results, in addition of having a smoother and quicker throughput, I enjoyed working with colours (nasty led lights were scarce) and I started getting offers to shoot gigs and to work with an agency which was not possible with the slow turnaround of film. Not a full time profession but the pride of publishing in more magazines and newspapers and to be featured and recognised.
In a short time my lovely Contax cameras with those superb Zeiss lens started to gather dust.
About a year ago I bought a D800. I never used it for gigs rather for travel and documentary and because my D700 really looks worn out and I needed a second body ready in case it died. It didn’t.
The incredible (and partially useless to be fair) resolution of the D800 needs proper prime lenses. I love and missed those Carl Zeiss T* glasses I had on Contax but an illuminating day I gathered all my old film gear, 7 lenses and 2 bodies, brought to a camera shop and replaced with as many new Zeiss lenses for Nikon I could have. Got almost 3 brand new ones.
My dear zeiss bokeh was back and I feel the urge to print it from grainy film.
Second illuminating day, I realised that for a mere 150£ I could get a Nikon F100 in excellent conditions.
The circle closed. After 3 years shooting mainly in colour and on digital, I was back on film. I revamped my darkroom, and started bringing the F100 along at concerts.
First gig the National and Local Natives thenAtoms For Peace and Franz Ferdinand. I am having fun, there’ll be more.
To bring film and digital Nikon bodies at the same show has advantages (can use the same lenses) and disadvantages (can’t really use the same lenses)!
Shooting on film with autofocus is very helpful.
36 frames are not many (have only one film body now) but I have never been a burst shooter so not a big issue.
The issue is to change lens.
This Atoms for Peace show was a 24-70 affair. That zoom was mounted on the digital body, I have the 70-200 left for the film (super wide was too wide).
With three songs, the video crew in the way and a super busy pit with 11 of us either left or right of the stage the Patti Smith‘s way, didn’t allow for any lens change. Which is why there are not full band shot in B&W here.
Nevertheless, I have 35mm frames of Thom Yorke and Flea live with Atoms for Peace. Who else? Want a print?