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Thom Yorke has had a year, to be sure. Between distilling dread incarnate into the Suspiria score and seemingly discovering what memes are, the Radiohead singer has made the most of 2018, while still apparently finding the time to work on new solo material, if his comments in recent interviews are to be believed. Suspiria was a head trip, but what about this mysterious new Yorke solo album on the horizon? Here’s a look at everything we know so far.
In a Dec. 28 interview with Deadline, Yorke stated that his album had been “hanging there for ages,” implying that he’s had the thing written for some time. He went on to say that the songs have cropped up in his live show, with the only thing left to do being getting “it down into a record now.” It would follow that Yorke hasn’t had the time to take the tracks into the studio just yet, or if he has, that they still need more work before he’s happy with them.
In that same interview, Yorke expanded upon the recording process for Suspiria, saying that the process was difficult because he had to tailor the music to an established storyline, character or visual cue. “Partly, the big risk was working to commission. Someone is saying to you, ‘I need a dance sequence to a piece of dance that’s already written, and it has to follow certain mathematical rules,’” he said, adding that that process found him “doing a huge amount of work that [he] would never do.”
What this means for the album’s timeline is up for debate—it may be a shorter process because he already has the songs written, and doesn’t have to do that extra work of fitting it onto existing structures. But then again, the solo album is not on commission, so Yorke can take as long as he wants.
Well, there’s Suspiria, of course. Yorke’s biggest project of the year was also his first foray into film scoring, joining his bandmate Jonny Greenwood in the annals of influential indie-rocker-turned-composer history. The double LP found Yorke dipping into the sounds of ‘70s Berlin to match the setting of Luca Guadagnino’s remake of the 1977 horror film. His work on the score has led to the theme track, “Suspirium” making the shortlist for Best Original Song for the upcoming Oscars.
Aside from that, Yorke has remained active on the live circuit, and is currently in the midst of a live solo tour, where he has been performing mostly non-Radiohead work from the past decade and beyond. He also contributed a track to the Greenpeace Antarctic Ambassadors project, the benefits of which go to protecting Antarctica from increasing climate change effects.
Yorke is a mover and a shaker, and by that we mean we never know exactly where he’ll move his sound next. Suspiria was an experience in vintage horror soundscapes, filled with sparkling piano lines, wavering chorus singers and, of course, that stabbing Mellotron. In a press release accompanying the album’s release, Yorke said he looked to the sounds of ‘70s Berlin for inspiration. Whether that means Bowie’s Berlin trilogy or the early Krautrock are now banging around in Yorke’s head, we can’t know, but the possibility of those musical crossovers are certainly spine-tingling.
In an interview from before the Suspiria release, Yorke called the forthcoming album his most “political” to date. He expressed frustration at the political climate in Britain, and with Brexit in particular. In the same interview, he called the album “very electronic” and described the recording process as follows: “We construct a song in the studio, break it apart, we reconstruct it with a live mix and it turns out completely differently.”
Yorke has been on an electronic bent for some time, with his previous solo album, 2014’s Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes, finding him treading that digital ground. His current solo tour is named after the album, and it finds him collaborating with audio-visual artist Tarik Barri, who Yorke has pointed to in recent interviews as a source of inspiration.
Of course, there is evidence of some apparently new tracks out there in the digital world. Yorke has performed “The Axe” and “I’m a Very Rude Person” live in recent months, both of which look to be cuts from the new album. “The Axe” is a drone-y, Suspiria-adjacent thing, full of drawn-out ambient stretches, while “I’m a Very Rude Person” feels like an “Idioteque” update, a thumping, distant dance track that’s oddly sensual.
After some fan site digging, we’ve found what some fans think will be the general tracklist of the album, based on live performances, unreleased tracks and other bits of ephemera. In addition to “Axe” and “Rude Person,” deep cuts such as “Two Feet Off the Ground,” “Traffic,” “Twist” and “Saturdays” all are hopeful inclusions on the new release. None of this is for certain, of course, but would we really be Radiohead fans without insane inferences and constant conjecture?
Stay tuned for further updates on Yorke’s new album and listen to a 1995 Radiohead performance from the Paste archives below.