Review: Damon Albarn – Dr Dee
Published on May 15th, 2012 | Jonny Abrams
Here at Rocksucker, we prefer our musicals in animated (not to mention very crass) form, so we haven’t seen the show that this soundtracks. Nevertheless, for what it’s worth, it works bloody well as an album and lands a blow for the notion that Damon Albarn could try his hand at most any kind of music and come out sounding respectable at the very least.
Proceedings get underway with “The Golden Dawn”, which makes itself known with discordantly ascending church organ and the sound of birds tweeting (old-school meaning of ‘tweeting’, obviously), eventually blossoming into sombre yet elegant prog-folk blessed by Albarn’s ever-engaging voice, which even goes on to double/triple/quadruple up on itself with luscious vocal harmonies the likes of which I don’t recall hearing from him before, certainly not with Blur or Gorillaz anyway.
“O Spirit, Animate Us” sounds like a monastic Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci, playing host to operatic female singing, violin drones and twiddly Eastern licks during a jam-packed five minutes and 45 seconds. This is such pared-down, mysterious music that it doesn’t require knowledge of the attendant storyline in order to ensnare your sense of wonderment, but no doubt it will still be met apathy by those angling for another “Parklife” or “Song 2”.
The first track to get anything resembling a beat going is “The Marvelous Dream”, a strange and beautiful little number with an Albarn vocal, while “Preparation” makes use of compellingly punctuated African drumming that winds up taking on a vague samba quality. Meanwhile, the back-to-back “9 Point Star” and “Watching the Fire That Waltzed Away” are two of the most downright peculiar-sounding things he’s ever been involved in, the latter cramming a staggering amount of ideas into just two minutes and 47 seconds. There’s little point even trying to describe these two tracks – if you’re feeling open-minded then for crying out loud check them out, post haste.
“Tree of Beauty” is like a solemn song of praise written from a pop perspective, so sober in fact that you’ll end up taking that lame-on-first-glance title seriously, and finally “The Dancing King” brings it all to a close with more bird noises and the sound of water flowing. Where once he span tales of urban ennui, now Albarn immerses us in the serenity of nature – what will he try his hand at next?
This is wonderful stuff that deserves to be catalogued as more than a mere curio amidst his more immediately accessible triumphs. Furthermore, if you like this then check out North Sea Radio Orchestra.
Rocksucker says: Four Quails out of Five!
Dr Dee is out now on Parlophone. For more information, please visit doctorjohndee.tumblr.com