Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Album Review: Karen O & Danger Mouse - Lux Prima

It’s been a while since Karen O released a record in her name, and it’s been even longer since she was the promising young star of one of garage rock’s most exciting new band. This isn’t her being fickle or unpredictable (although she is most certainly that) but she doesn’t feel the need to resurface unless she has something to say. Also, real life tends to get in the way and becoming a parent certainly falls into that category.

This new project sees her share the marquee with producer Danger Mouse and the double billing makes sense as this is a producer’s record as much as it is a songwriter and performer’s record. The songs are all brilliant (the old timey, jazzy ballad Reveries is pure perfection) and the arrangements and presentation are rich and clever without being overbearing.

Seventies references abound such as Robert Wyatt and Pink Floyd on opener Lux Prima, which starts off as an intergalactic gospel of sorts until it transitions into a Californian pop song with laid-back grooves. 

The record is also informed by soul and acid-jazz: Woman could be a Motown track from the early sixties and is the only instance in which Karen O makes use of that familiar, brash rock voice she used when singing with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Turn The Light is a mellow disco pop song which is equally catchy and groovy.

The collision of styles is very organic and never sounds artificial. In fact, it’s hard to imagine these songs with different arrangements: they are as much a part of the song as the melody or rhythm. Style and substance interwoven: Ministry is sort of a chamber trip-hop tune with echoey guitars, round groovy basses and lush orchestrations and sounds a bit like a collaboration between Kate Bush and Air. Redeemer sounds like a spy movie soundtrack with its reverberated guitars and a threatening delivery by Karen… EON would be well inspired to hire Danger Mouse and Karen O to record the next James Bond theme song.

The record ends with Nox Lumina, a piece of baroque psychedelia which segues into the same keyboard pattern that opened the record, closing the circle on a fascinating and ambitious record and leaving the listener no choice but to start over to discover all the details that may have passed them by upon first listen. I’m on my fourth consecutive spin now and I know eventually I’ll have to stop. I just don’t want to.

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