‘Rabbit in your Headlights’
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Unkle, featuring Thom Yorke
The song that was a turning point in Yorke’s career. Up until then, the singer with the lazy eye had done guest stints with indie guitar bands like Sparklehorse and Drugstore. But then in 1988 came the impressive project by James Lavelle and DJ Shadow that laid his voice over a distant-sounding piano and a soft-jazz percussion loop that builds and builds until it becomes a napalm bomb, with what today sounds like an integral part of the Yorke repertoire. Yorke’s piercing cry at the end of the piece, over a series of changing rhythms, still stands as one of the most beautiful fusions ever of the human voice and a sampler.
‘Ego’ / ‘Mirror’
Burial & Four Tet, featuring Thom Yorke
It’s hard to separate these two gorgeous songs that are practically devoid of words. This is where Yorke feels most secure nowadays: with electronic tracks that his voice transforms from functional to thrilling. In the post-apocalyptic rave atmosphere of Burial, Yorke’s vocals sound like the comforting voice that leads you all the way to the afterparty.
Mark Pritchard, featuring Thom Yorke
“Under the Sun,” by Pritchard, formerly part of the electronic music duos Jedi Nights and Global Communication, was one of the most underappreciated albums of the past year, despite the splendid collaboration with Yorke. Over an old drum machine (of the kind used by Shuggie Otis and Sly Stone) and a gentle line of keyboards and wind instruments, Yorke gets into his balladic element with dual vocals. They sound natural on the surface, and with another layer underneath, have an effect that makes it sound like he’s singing from outer space.
‘...And the World Laughs with You’
For years Yorke was looked upon as an avatar of a certain kind of white dance music – i.e., overly intellectual, cold and neat – which led many to turn up their noses. The black Californian music producer Steven Ellison, who works under the stage name Flying Lotus, changed this perception. On his third album, this nephew of John Coltrane paired Yorke with an electronic track that falls somewhere on the scale between free jazz and chaotic, mechanized glitch, while playing with his voice – doubling it, speeding it up or slowing it down as needed, so that ultimately what remains is a drawn-out growl.
Nearly a decade after the first collaboration between Yorke and Bjork, a kitschy song from the soundtrack to “Dancing in the Dark,” the pair reunited for another studio session, and produced something a lot bolder. Bjork is not in the most communicative mood here, while Yorke is present only in the backing vocals that add just the right touch to turn this song from another typically extreme Bjork adventure into something that you just can’t stop listening to.