Thom Yorke is heading back onto the road to catch up with his musical output, and it looks like he’s clearing the decks for his next moves. Yorke spent two nights at United Center with Radiohead in July, reinforcing the strong initial reception that “A Moon Shaped Pool” had received at Lollapalooza in 2016. Next Tuesday, Yorke returns for a set at the Chicago Theatre alongside Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich and visual artist Tarik Barri. The pair will feature songs from Yorke’s solo releases including 2014 album “Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes.”
Yorke’s prior extracurricular visit to Chicago without his adventurous Radiohead bandmates stopped at UIC Pavilion with side project Atoms for Peace. That group also included Godrich on keyboards and various instruments, creating loops and textures in a lineup alongside bassist Flea from Red Hot Chili Peppers. With Yorke and Godrich crafting overlapping textures as a duo, expect the mood to be less caustic and funky, and more enveloping and mesmerizing.
Following the pay-what-you-want internet launch of Radiohead’s 2007 album “In Rainbows,” Yorke and Godrich delved further with “Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes.” The album was released as a paid album via BitTorrent in an experiment designed to measure whether artists could gain commercial support from the listening public via digital release. In the ensuing year, downloads of the album featuring the eerie electronica of “A Brain in a Bottle” approached five million. Tracks like “Nose Grows Some” unfurl with detached falsetto, skittering digital pops and pulses, and hazy moods of paranoia and dread. “The Mother Lode” contrasts with upbeat melody while remaining detached and off-balance. Hearing these songs performed should be intoxicating, but don’t bet on the evening being the feel-good show of the season.
Yorke’s latest output may be bypassed at the concert. The soundtrack to director Luca Guadagnino’s horror film “Suspiria” arrived in October, featuring 80 minutes of unsettling electronic soundscapes and mood pieces incorporating piano, orchestra and choir. Yorke’s first feature-length film score includes the warning swarms of “A Storm that Took Everything” and “Voiceless Terror.” The disquieting “The Hooks” features piano, synthesizer drone, groaning and heavy footsteps, conjuring uneasy images even without visual or narrative accompaniment. With the exception of moody and compelling piano-and-vocal tracks like “Suspirium” and “Unmade” or the tense, guitar-driven “Open Again,” most of the album is meant for white-knuckled listening in a darkened movie theater rather than a music hall. Try playing the album on the way home from the Chicago Theatre as your mood-appropriate, private encore.
Jeff Elbel is a local freelance writer.