(AFP) – Always so magnetic: Damon Albarn, leader of Blur and Gorillaz, returns solo, inspired by Iceland, his country of heart, and inhabited by the memory of his sidekick Tony Allen, legendary drummer disappeared.
The magic operates on record and on stage, as when the Englishman performs in November in Paris, at La Gaîté Lyrique, as part of the Arte Concert Festival. At the piano, in the middle of his musicians, in a central stage surrounded by the public, the dashing quinqua delivered a bewitching set, with his new songs, in an even different register.
“He always bounces elsewhere, he remained open to everything, he is one of the only artists to have a fairly varied palette and such curiosity. He touches everything but he has this recognizable voice that immediately triggers the imagination” , decrypts for AFP José Correia, responsible for the programming of Arte Concert.
“We wonder + what is he going to do tomorrow? + Tomorrow, he will surprise us again”, he continues.
The beautiful surprise The Nearer The Fountain, More Pure The Stream Flows “is already his new album with the extended title” The Nearer The Fountain, More Pure The Stream Flows “(” The closer the fountain, the purer the trickling net “).
Various accidents along the way have led to his beautiful melancholy. It all started with an order for a work for the Fête des Lumières, an event in the French city of Lyon. Albarn had carte blanche.
Never where you might expect, he invites a mini symphonic ensemble to play, taking inspiration from the changing light and landscape seen behind the bay window of his home in Reykjavik.
– Snæfellsjökull and Jules Verne –
Iceland and him, it’s an old story. He bought a house there to escape the London groupies of the days of Blur’s splendor in the 1990s. The Icelandic environment fascinates him, a volcanic rock adorns the album cover.
“This is something that I had fantasized for years: retracing (in music) the movements of the weather, how they draw the landscape in a given period”, he confides in the notes of intention of his disk.
The place where he lives makes you dream: “From the window, you can see Mount Esja, the sea, and even on a clear day the Snæfellsjökull, glacier and volcano in the heart of + Voyage to the center of the earth + by Jules Verne”, he describes.
But the health crisis arises and the Festival of Lights, scheduled for December 2020, is canceled. A few months earlier, in April, Tony Allen died. This drummer-founder of Afrobeat, companion of Fela Kuti’s beginnings, had become a friend of Albarn, the rhythmic base of his group The Good The Bad & The Queen and a contributor to his other project, Gorillaz.
– Brexit and health crisis –
The pieces of the puzzle fit together. Music composed in Iceland cannot sit in a drawer. Putting your voice there to translate your intimate upheavals and those experienced by the world becomes obvious. “The Nearer The Fountain …” is a line from a poem by the British artist John Clare (1793-1864). It is a meditation on the breaths of a nature indifferent to human grief.
In the title track, we hear Albarn sing “Thinking about the life that laughed on your face / In this beautiful past so sorry now”. The image of Tony Allen, always mischievous behind his drums with The Good The Bad & The Queen, stands out when listening.
Unparalleled sound architect, Albarn has made original Icelandic bands a beautiful pop object, with injections of jazz or electro. The torments of the world pulsate in pieces like “The Cormorant” (reference to Brexit with “Am I imprisoned on this island?”) Or “Particles”, or these “Particles” become the enemy to be fought with masks and barrier gestures .
“I think that a lot of records made during this period (of health crisis) will document this era”, he further advances in his intention notes. True, but few will be so beautiful.