A sense of sweet deja-vu inhibits ‘A Moon Shaped Pool’, Radiohead’s ninth studio album and first since 2011’s ‘A King Of Limbs’, both in the form of a welcome end to the musical poverty of their near five year hiatus, alongside the inclusion of re-contextualised songs from their live repertoire.
In what is without doubt their most fragile and tender album to date, nuanced orchestral arrangements break with the arithmetic electronica approach that defined Radiohead’s previous two releases, ‘A King of Limbs’ and ‘In Rainbows’.
The influence of Johnny Greenwood’s soundtrack work takes precedence throughout, with his richly pastured compositions providing for the perfect landscape for Thom Yorke’s anxious falsetto to waltz and wander, provoking an impression that the two have reached their collaborative zenith musically.
It’s an album that – rather than challenge the sharp, abrasive deviations in energy, respires and glides gently, with occasional, heavier Krautrock flourishes. And although not a watershed albumin the same breath as 1997’s ‘OK Computer’ of 2000’s ‘Kid A’, it retains a distinct, homogeneous quality that immerses the listener fully into Radiohead’s unique universe of beauty and wonder.
A universe played out in the form of lush introspection, heart and intergalactic imagery, with a sonic gravitational pull fitting of the album’s title, replete with simple yet magnificently vivid structures that recall Pink Floyd at their peak.
With seven of the album’s 11 tracks having been heard in some shape or form previously, the album works to tie up these previous incarnations with added flesh and bone, none more so than with the majestic finale of live favourite ‘True Love Waits’.
‘Burn the Witch’ opens proceedings with Yorke’s vocal floating over arresting, staccato strings which, rather fortuitously give off an ever so slight James Bond theme vibe – a piece of spectral beauty in an album notable for the absence of Spectre – the song they recorded for the last 007 film.
‘Daydream’ is just that, a hypnotic lament of textured melodies and lush pianos, while ‘Decks Dark’ and its soaring, obscure chorus rolls wonderfully into the acoustic beauty of ‘Desert Island Disk’.
Abundant operatic flourishes are evident in the haunting ‘Glass Eyes’ while ‘The Numbers’ bursts with ideas and inventions in a kaleidoscopicstramash of acoustic guitar, strings and piano, before ‘Present Tense’ adds a surprising touch of Latin flair, before the slow burning electro feel of penultimate track ‘Tinker Tailor Soldier Sailor Rich Man Poor Man Beggar Man Thief’ leads us into the measured resplendence of ‘True Love Wait’.
‘A Moon Shaped Pool’ more than measures up to the yardstick Radiohead themselves have set over the years as one of the most influential and creative bands in rock history. An honest, orchestral expression of substance and splendour that shimmers with emotion from a band that – more relevant than ever – continuously place themselves a step of the head of the game.