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Radiohead - A Moon Shaped Pool CD (album) cover

A MOON SHAPED POOL

Radiohead

 

Crossover Prog

3.92 | 318 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

BrufordFreak
4 stars I am not a Radiohead fan. I have never been able to pick up on the supposed genius and innovation that the band has bestowed upon the fortunate world. But they have had a few songs that at least have got me interested enough to listen to their music. "Subterranean Homesick Alien," "Optimistic," "Everything in Its Right Place," and "Arpeggios/Weird Fishes" are all great songs. Still, seeing the positive reviews pouring in when A Moon Shaped Pool was released got me interested enough to buy the album. It's taken me some time to get to know and judge the album. A Moon Shaped Pool is definitely an appropriate title--incorporating two references that I find quite appropriate: the all-pervasive murky, underwater rendering of many of the instruments in the way that Harold Budd and Brian Eno once pioneered on albums like Discreet Music, Plateaux of Mirror, The Pearl, and others as well as the pseudonym chosen by Budd and Cocteau Twins' Robin Guthrie for their THE MOON AND THE MELODIES collaboration.

1. "Burn The Witch" (3:40) a perky, almost frenetic and driving beat beneath the vocals here makes this one engaging and yet almost annoying. (8/10)

2. "Daydreaming" (6:24) is a gentle song with lots of headphones-pleasing subtleties and pitch-bent sounds flitting in and out of the soundscape. I really enjoy this one. Another 'under water'-like listening experience. One of my top three songs from the album. (9/10)

3. "Decks Dark" (4:41) weird treated piano sound manipulations with distant drum machine open this song before Thom and real-time piano bring in the melody and lyric. At 1:25 the band joins in--as do some eery background female vocals and electric guitar--which almost drown Thom's vocal out! (Interesting engineering choice!) The song may want to sound dark and eery but the lasting effect is once again to make the listener feel as though they're minds are being messed with--as if our reality is being distorted. Interesting. (8/10)

4. "Desert Island Disk" (3:44) acoustic guitar played with finger pads opens this song. More eery background (left channel) heavily treated and pitchbent sounds play--(with equally spacey distorted guitar appearing intermittently in the right channel). All the while Thom Yorke sings dreamily over the top. An acid/psychedelic folk song? (8/10)

5. "Ful Stop" (6:07) opens with a two-note bass line, fast bass drum beat, and heavily treated snare beat swimming within the horn-like synths floating around beneath left and above right. Thom's vocals are a little higher pitched and sound a little more affected than usual here. Then at 3:25 he begins repeating in a tow falsettos "truth will mess you up" and "all the good times, one over the other in layered channels. Interestingly effective--much in the same way I find "Arpeggio/Weird Fishes" so hypnotic. (9/10)

6. "Glass Eyes" (2:52) opens with more heavily, heavily treated piano accompanied beautifully by the strings of the London Contemporary Orchestra. Thom's sedate vocal is present very front and forward, even a little below us, as he sings as if the long night of drinking has left him alone and philosophical. One of my top three--probably my favorite song on the album. (10/10)

7. "Identikit" (4:26) opens with one of the band's sparse and seemingly simple rhythms, bass, drums and guitar, before layers of Thom Yorke voices fill much of the soundscape--as if different parts of Thom are singing each in different dimensions. Then at 2:05 the voices unify into one direct voice front and center singing about broken hearts making it rain--which is then repeated by the female choir of the London Contemporary Orchestra. The multi-dimensional voices return as reggae-like bass and lead guitar take increasing prominence to the end. Pretty cool song--worth multiple visits. (8/10)

8. "The Numbers" (5:45) opens like a combination of 1960's opening to John Coltrane's "A Love Supreme" and the morph into a CROSBY, STILLS, NASH & YOUNG psych folk anthem. Could be a great song from Sweden's THE AMAZING. Acoustic guitar, piano, treated piano, electric guitar, busy bass, and background snare-dominated drums populate the soundscape as Thom sings within the psychedelia. Very cool sound. At 3:33 orchestra strings join in providing a very effective BEATLES-like presence. Finale with choir and strings supporting Thom and the pianos. Another tope three song for me. (I'm just a sucker for that CSN&Y sound.) (9/10)

9. "Present Tense" (5:06) opens with a basso nova-like rhythm and Thom's "ooo"s. An interesting choice of music to accompany Thom's plaintive, despondent vocal about the overabundance of human-inflicted violence on our planet (or is it about the breakup of a relationship of his?). Okay song. Probably my least favorite on the album. (7/10)

10. "Tinker Tailor Soldier Sailor Rich Man Poor Man Beggar Man Thief" (5:03) opens with old time tape his over cheesy sounding drum-machine beats and syncopated old-time electric piano chord hits. Thom soon enters and sings in his higher register voice (which, I just noticed, is quite similar to that of SIGUR RÓS's Jónsi). A lot of orchestral strings and female choir effects are added to the usual Radiohead electronically manipulated sounds making this an interesting representation of the human conundrum of living in our computer age. The song could have been further or better developed. (7/10)

11. "True Love Waits" (4:43) two and then three and four Harold Budd-like treated piano tracks support another higher register, but more plaintive Thom Yorke vocal. The deviation from single time signature to more polyrhythmic effect in the third minute gives the song a bit more interest--but almost to the distraction of the vocal. Plus, I'm not sure why, but the sound engineering has (I'm assuming) allowed some scratchy tape static and hiss to be present in the soundscape--which I happen to find a bit distracting and annoying. Otherwise, this might be considered a pretty ingenious little song. (9/10)

All in all I think the experimentation with sound engineering got away from Thom and the band a little on this one-- some of the "old" effects like hiss, static, scratches, whirl and wobble on this album are a bit annoying and distracting. Digital CD sound is not 'supposed' to sound like this! I'm totally clueless as to why a band would want this on their album, but it's here. The songs are mostly pleasant enough--and the incorporation of the London Contemporary Orchestra and Female Choir are powerful and quite welcome. And I do like and appreciate the sonic engineering the band incorporate into their soundscapes, but, it can get to be a bit much. Still, this is a very good album from a very good band. I'll recommend this one with a solid four stars.

BrufordFreak | 4/5 |

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