Musician and producer Damon Albarn has had a varied past couple years. He’s seen the end of the Gorillaz franchise, he’s recorded, mixed, and produced an impromptu album – The Fall – entirely on the fly while touring the US, all using an iPad. The result was uneven, but compelling – certainly a worthwhile experiment in narrative LP form. He’s just completed, with director Rufus Norris, an English language opera entitled Doctor Dee about John Dee, Elizabeth I’s adviser, scientist, and purported magician. His orchestrations betray what seems to be an emerging career arc – the use of instrumentation from several continents. Its main players include the kora, a Malian string instrument most notably played by Toumani Diabate, harmonium, viol, theorbo, organ, drum set, and acoustic guitar. The Guardian called it “elegant and full of a sense of warmth and intimacy.”
Now he’s focusing on the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He’s planning a visit there to “play his part in a project in which DJs and producers will record and sample Congolese music, and aim to complete a record in not much more than a week.” The album will be an Oxfam benefit, and will include such artists as Actress, Jniero Jarel, Dan the Automator, Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs, Kwes, Marc Antoine, and Jo Gunton. I find this beyond exciting. Albarn has always shown a willingness to explore new mixtures of genre and sound. He’s an ideal man to head such a collaboration. I can’t wait to see what kind of sounds the Congolese musicians he works with have to offer, and what the final product will be like. Here’s a taste of some of the music that this is coming from:
This artist, Basokin, plays what is known in the Congo as “tradi-moderne” music and are primarily comprised of musicians who moved to Kinshasa from the country. The style draws heavily from traditional trance music. “Mulume” has an entirely unique sound:
“Bobby In Pheonix” was one of the best off The Fall – one of Albarn’s most intimate songs:
Marc Antoine, a Haitian electronic artist who’s collaborating on the project, adds another dimension:
Fitiri by Marc Antoine
And here’s a collaboration between Albarn, Kid Koala, and Dan the Automator, the last of whom will be coming along for the ride.