Far from shuffling off into retirement, Damon Albarn has kept himself busy with this, now his second solo album. It’s a downbeat affair, the title track sets the tone, a slow, sweeping piece with gorgeous strings, with Albarn in fine voice. Cormorant is similar with a light, bossa nova rhythm.
Those looking for a pop tune will find one in Royal Morning Blue, one of several tracks here that channel David Bowie, while later the electronic Darkness To Light swings like 70s Bowie. There are a couple of ‘interesting’ instrumentals. Combustion is a kind of jazzy mess, Esja is more atmospheric, while Giraffe Trumpet Sea is reminiscent of Bowie’s 70s work with Eno.
The album is not short on conventional songs, Daft Wader is the kind of stately ballad which he used to do occasionally with Blur. The sax-riddled The Tower of Montevideo sees the return of the bossa nova rhythm, and the two seemingly disjointed elements work well on this song. Interestingly, he has put the two strongest songs at the end, Polaris and Particles are two slow, autumnal torch songs that Albarn inhabits well.
It’s an interesting move for Damon Albarn at this stage, not one that would be a natural fit for the Blur singer. For some, this will be insufferable noodling, but those with a bit of patience will find plenty here to enjoy.
Royal Morning Blue