Thom Yorke releases a new solo album via BitTorrent "paygate"


Thom Yorke has found another unconventional way to get his music out to the masses — this time via BitTorrent. His new solo record Tomorrow's Modern Boxes came out Sept. 26, available for US$6 (or just under CDN$7) through a piece of new technology called a "paygate", supposedly making the torrent only accessible to the paying public. All you need is a torrent client to get the record.

By the afternoon the torrent had been downloaded over 60,000 times.

You unlock access to the torrent by paying for the Bundle with a credit card or PayPal on BitTorrent's site. The first track "Brain in a Bottle" is available for free, along with a video featuring Thom's face.

It's a record of layered, bassy percussion and piano with Thom's falsetto floating above everything (so, this record probably won't surprise you except for the fact that it appeared out of nowhere). The eight-track Tomorrow's Modern Boxes is very much in the same vein (if less noisy) as his Atoms for Peace record AMOK. And like with AMOK, he's working with Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich. If you trust Thom Yorke's artistic sensibility (and you should), then you'll like this record.

This experimental distribution method — the first of its kind — creates a clear pipeline from creator to users, using the technology they already have installed to download media. Instead of having a middle company controlling the pipeline and dictating royalty rates (like say, Spotify, who Thom Yorke is no fan of), the music is able to go right to the user.

It also allows the user to know that the artist is actually getting the bulk of the pay. Matt Mason, BitTorrent's chief content officer told CNET that BitTorrent gets a 10% cut of their Bundles and the content creator pays for transaction fees.

Here's the message Thom and Nigel posted this morning to the BitTorrent blog:


The King of Limbs Reigns Supreme

[youtube] It's not easy being the world's biggest band.

The public eye leers into your artistic business, waiting in the wings to praise or flame the finished product – or in the case of music websites to inscribe a hopelessly subjective numerical value to it. When the public perception is that you've been consistently genius since 1995, tension and anxiety are never far away.

At least that's the way Radiohead used to seem. They have this documentary Meeting People is Easy, depicting the disconnect imposed on the group (and especially Thom) that came with fame and critical acclaim. The band was tethered to OK Computer like it was their magnum opus – an identity any fan today knows is painfully incomplete.

So then is The King of Limbs comparable to the band's past triumphs? In a word, yes. But this is the case because while maintaining expected quality, the record also stands out as a clear progression. The Radiohead from that documentary has grown to be much more comfortable in their famous skin; the role of alienated loser has been shelved indefinitely.

Putting out another Kid A would be less characteristically Radiohead than their return of the acoustic guitar or building an ambiance that nearly falls into a downtempo take of the Tetris theme song. Both happen here, on “Give Up The Ghost” and “Feral” respectively. Radiohead only move forward, and thus this album's point of reference is much more 2007's In Rainbows than anything else. The drum loop/melodic bass line combo forms their familiar groove at several points on the record; The King of Limbs' “Videotape” is the moving “Codex”.

While being the band's shortest record to date, its eight tracks co-exist in complimentary fashion – covering extensive dynamic and textural ground. Of course there's the argument that Radiohead could shit in a paper bag and we'd eat it up based on brand familiarity (see: the Animal Collective theory for haters), but I'd argue the quality here is undeniable. Thom's falsetto is despondent and beautiful as ever, and as a whole the band still sculpts moments that dig into your soul.

It's unlikely that The King of Limbs will do to Radiohead what Kid A did, but that has less to do with the music than with the fact that it would be hard for the band to become more critically acclaimed. So the question remains, where do you go from the top?

With their eighth LP Radiohead stay firmly where they belong. Mediafire