In February, producer/rapper Jneiro Jarel and masked wordsmith MF Doom announced a collaborative album under the name JJ Doom, teasing us with “Banished” as well as a string of contributors such as Blur/Gorillaz front-man Damon Albarn, Portishead’s Beth Gibbons, and Jarel’s old Willie Isz partner, Khujo Goodie. Now the wait is over, as Key to the Kuffs finally gets its release on Lex.
[audio:http://alarm-magazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/Damon_Albarn_The_Marvelous_Dream.mp3|titles=Damon Albarn: “The Marvelous Dream”]
Brit-rock fans may have been more excited to learn that a Damon Albarn-fronted Blur has become an active prospect again, but fans of music in general should be more thrilled to know that he’s been up to a lot more than that. Albarn, as a solo artist and a collaborative one at that, has stirred up some amazing music by delving into Malian blues, scoring the Chinese opera Monkey: Journey to the West, and continuing his hip-hop cartoon group Gorillaz. Now he’s created the soundtrack to an opera based on the life of 16th Century astrologer/mystic John Dee — and it’s beautifully accessible.
Gorillaz: “Phoner to Arizona” [audio:http://alarm-magazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/Gorillaz_Phoner_to_Arizona.mp3|titles=Gorillaz: “Phoner to Arizona”]
Morrow: Over Christmas, Damon Albarn of Gorillaz (as well as Blur and The Good, The Bad & The Queen, et al) released a free album of material called The Fall for paying Gorillaz fan-club members. Recorded on the road during the American portion of the group’s recent Plastic Beach tour, the material (which can be streamed for free by non-paying mailing-list members) is most noteworthy for being entirely recorded and produced on an iPad.
The music isn’t the high-water mark that was Plastic Beach, which benefited from virtuosic performances by The Lebanese National Orchestra for Oriental Arabic Music and others and which featured high-profile guests such as Lou Reed, Mos Def, De La Soul, and many others. But the songs are fun, dance-y little electronic numbers (with Albarn singing over some of them), and there isn’t much in the production that would tip it as being recorded on an iPad. There are “legit” electronic instruments in the mix — Moogs, Korgs, etc. — as well as accents from traditional instruments, including a beautiful ukulele loop on “Revolving Doors.”