Jesse Jarnow

newish joints from jonny greenwood

“Popcorn Superhet Receiver” – Jonny Greenwood (download)

“Smear” – Jonny Greenwood (download) (buy)
from The Jerwood Series, v. 2 (2006)

“Arpeggi” – Jonny Greenwood and Thom Yorke (download)
recorded 27 March 2005, Ether Festival, London

Skip through Jonny Greenwood’s “Popcorn Superhet Receiver” at random — dropping the cursor here or there — and it could be an orchestra, it could be an electro-acoustic collage. Perhaps it’s the anything-goes approach of Bodysong, perhaps it’s the lonely Ondes Martenots of “Smear,” perhaps it’s the fact that he’s a member of frickin’ Radiohead, but “Popcorn” seems like it could disintegrate to fuzz and bleeps and chiming Rhodes at any moment. Really, though, it’s just an orchestra, even if it blurs into sonic mirages.

The fact that Greenwood sustains it for 10 minutes before the ambient chords swell to Hitchcock thriller trills and explode into another world is impressive enough. Meanwhile, “Smear” — taken from a compilation of new music performed the London Sinfonietta — is a more unpredictable, though lacks the dramatic scope of “Popcorn,” which will receive its US premiere in January as part of the Wordless Music Series.

Are they right and proper formal compositions? Are they just a rock musician dabbling in archaic tropes? Are they boring string excursions? Do they matter except as a research prelude to (say) this version of Radiohead’s forthcoming “Arpeggi”? No answers here, of course. And though I’m excited to hear “Popcorn” performed live, I probably won’t listen to it as much as “Arpeggi” or In Rainbows.