Album: Rocket Juice & The Moon, Rocket Juice & The Moon (Honest Jons)
In a week replete with intriguing cross-pollinations of style and sound, this may be both the most deliberate, yet the loosest-sounding.
Triggered by a bonding session aboard an airplane bound for Lagos, it features a core alliance of Damon Albarn with Afrobeat drum genius Tony Allen and Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea, the basic trio extended through various international guests.
The basic sound is sketched out on the opening "1-2-3-4-5-6", with Allen and Flea setting up a six-beat groove over which Albarn layers descending bleeps and counterpoint keyboard melody lines of a flavour that recalls Gorillaz. But it all comes together more fruitfully on the ensuing "Hey, Shooter", where the light Afrobeat pulse and bubbling funk bass are topped with noodling synth figures and horn stabs by the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, with Erykah Badu adding a space-jazz vocal like June Tyson's declamations on Sun Ra albums: "I wish you well on your journey to the sun," she sings, "Drink your rocket juice, fly away".
From there, it gets more fecund than ever. In between further Afrobeat electro-jazz dubs like "Night Watch" and "Rotary Connection", other collaborators impose their distinctive personalities. "Lolo" features Malian sensation Fatoumata Diawara jousting with the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble over a shuffling funk groove, with Ghanaian rapper M.anifest adding the first of several sharp, articulate raps about time, life and beliefs. The same personnel reassemble for "Follow-Fashion", with itchy guitar cycling restlessly over a lightly propulsive groove. "Take a leap of faith," advises M.anifest, perhaps inspired by the impromptu methods. "On words my wings spread."
While Albarn is largely responsible for the melodic direction of the songs – the wheezing, vaguely Middle Eastern-flavoured synth on "Worries" is a particular delight – Allen's contribution is simply immense. Throughout, he gives a masterclass in how to effect maximum propulsion with minimum amplitude. There's no thumping great beats here, strong-arming you on to the dancefloor; instead, like a great jazz drummer, he employs the subtlest of snare work, setting up skittish rhythms that ensnare, rather than enslave. Perhaps influenced by Allen, Flea's basslines have a similarly light, bubbly touch, only approaching the punch of his Chili Peppers work to carry the staccato monochord keyboard line of "Check Out".
Albarn gets assistance from Malian keyboardist Cheick Tidiane Seck on "Extinguished" and "There", the pair layering idiosyncratic, even perverse, synth lines which don't quite cohere on the former, but which, when allied to the syncopated horns and tight groove of "There", create a bizarre, indefinable musical blend that confirms the value of this type of collaborative exercise. (Ironically, one of the weakest tracks is that which most foregrounds Albarn's contribution, the flaccid ballad "Poison".) As several of this week's albums show, it's not isolationist purity that breeds musical strength and inventiveness, but selective cross-breeding; and when the elements are this select, the results can reach places which didn't exist before.
DOWNLOAD THIS Hey, Shooter; Lolo; Follow-Fashion; Rotary Connection; There; Worries
TV reviewBroadcasting House was preparing for a visit from Prince Charles spoiler alert
Glastonbury Michael Eavis reveals final headline act 'most likely' British pair
Film Ewan McGregor joins star-studded Beauty and the Beast cast as Lumiere
TVThe Island with Bear Grylls under fire after male contestants kill and eat rare crocodile
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Frank Lampard's face drops when Holly Willoughby introduces him as a 'Man City legend'
- 2 Company breaks open Apple Watch to discover what it says is 'planned obsolescence'
- 3 The confessions of men who ordered mail-order brides
- 4 General Election 2015: Stephen Hawking says he will vote Labour
- 5 Yazidi sex slaves undergoing surgery to 'restore virginity' after being raped by Isis militants
Fast & Furious 7 overtakes Frozen to become 5th highest grossing movie of all time
Poldark finale review: How a costume drama became a Sunday night swoon-fest
The Visit: Trailer for M Night Shyamalan's latest horror film is terrifying
Apprentice series 11: Claude Littner to replace Nick Hewer as Lord Sugar's aide
Game of Thrones season 5 episode 3 - review: Sansa and manhood-lopping torturer Ramsay Bolton, really?
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Aaron and Melissa Klein: Oregon anti-gay bakers ordered to pay $135,000 after refusing to make cake for same-sex wedding
Andrew Lloyd Webber: Phantom of the Opera writer mocked after issuing a warning about Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon
General election 2015: Labour will toughen hate crimes legislation surrounding Islamophobia
EU exit would hit UK economy much harder than neighbouring countries, study finds