Anima Instincts

An Expressive, Intimate Film to Accompany Thom Yorke’s New Album

Thom Yorke is diving deep on ANIMA, his third solo album. His reedy falsetto drifts up and down minor progressions on dark synth beats in a bleak Jungian exploration of dreams, loneliness, and the subconscious as he performs a psyche-tickling duet with humanity’s nameless anxieties, which echo back from the electronic void. The usual! 

The album’s marketing campaign, more of a multimedia art installation, was the first clue that Yorke wasn’t treating it as a single-sensory experience. Advertisements offered a phone number for “Anima Technologies,” a company claiming to find lost dreams with a “dream camera.” Call the number and you’ll get an Orwellian voice message about “unlawful activities,” then one of ANIMA’s new tracks. More messages from “Anima Technologies” appeared in mysterious projections on London landmarks.

Yorke also teamed up with a core group of creative collaborators to explore ANIMA’s themes in a film by the same name, recently released on Netflix. The 15-minute short is a kinetic audiovisual narrative where a man (Thom Yorke, duh) connects with a woman on a train and tries to find her again. It’s an expressive, intimate piece, with Yorke’s real-life girlfriend, Italian actor Dajana Roncione, cast as his romantic interest.

Yorke looks very comfortable meeting his friends at the intersection of sound and sight. Audiovisual artist Tarik Barri, who does live shows with Yorke, adds his brain-melting projections to the film. ANIMA’s dreamlike choreography was born out of Yorke’s work with Damien Jalet on the 2018 film Suspiria. They collaborated so well that they wanted to take their vision beyond the limits of a film studio, and Jalet’s talent dazzles in the modern dance sequences filmed in Paris and Prague. Cinematographer Darius Khondji (Se7en) contributes an angular surrealism that stitches music to mood to movement in a mesmerizing trip through Yorke’s dystopian dreamscape.

Director Paul Thomas Anderson (Punch Drunk Love, There Will Be Blood) has a solid history with Radiohead. He helmed three of their music videos, and guitarist Jonny Greenwood has scored several of his films. Anderson also filmed Greenwood performing with Indian musicians Rajasthan Express in the beautiful 2015 documentary Junun. In ANIMA, Anderson draws silent-film physicality from Yorke’s dancing in a nod to Buster Keaton.

With his latest project, Yorke finds himself at his most creatively vulnerable and virtuosic. He’s on a subliminal subway ride with his fellow artists through longing, loss and connection. U.S. fans will get a taste of Yorke’s synesthetic sensibilities this fall, when he’ll reunite with Barri and Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich on a technically ambitious multimedia tour.

Rachel Llewellyn

Rachel Llewellyn is a saucy media mercenary who's worked at Curve Magazine and Girlfriends Magazine in San Francisco, and ghost-edited two noir novels. She's also translated academic material, written corporate website content, taught adult school, and produced morning television news. Rachel lives in Bakersfield, California, where she hikes with her dog and pushes paper in the government sector.

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