FLY WITH ZHER
THE Baltimore duo has not strayed far from its musical calling card since its 2006 debut: Frosty and nostalgic with Alex Scully’s emotive guitars and analogue keyboards embracing Victoria Legrand’s alluring and melancholic vocals.
The band had always possessed the inherent skill of evoking moments of dizzying clarity through its deceptively simple melodies coupled with sharp, simplistic words and Bloom carries on the sentiment.
Although it retreats into its comfort zone at times, Bloom on the whole does not disappoint. Alex Scully’s guitar flickers like dancing ebbs of fire in album opener Myth with Legrand’s exquisite vocals slicing through the emotional float alluding to painful freedom: “You can’t keep hanging on/ To all that’s dead and gone.”
Wild comes across almost like a dream sequence with its ethereal chords and progressions while Lazuli sounds identical to their single Norway, off their previous album Teen Dream. There are extremely poignant moments on this record with The Hours and On The Sea, fragile dandelions of song with lilting pianos and guitars that threaten earth-shattering greatness.
On the surface, this record sounds like a continuation of their last instead of an evolution but the pursuit for respite from sadness is a never-ending quest: “Watch it unravel/ pulling everything apart/ the walls are shaking from within,” Legrand sings in the tender Troublemaker.
This is one of those richly and meticulously crafted albums that are meant to be heard as a whole in the hope of eventual catharsis from our fleshy prisons.
FROM floggin on the “Madchester” music scene in its late era fronting, iconic alternative rock band Blur to becoming pop-rock’s staple for everything decidedly British, Damon Albarn is one constantly evolving man with enormous talent.
Taking leave from his most recent work, which includes musical and visual project Gorillaz and the afro-inspired Rocket Juice & the Moon, Dr Dee is the grand soundtrack to the opera Albarn wrote for theatre director Rufus Norris.
It had a brief preliminary run in Manchester last year and will run again during the Cultural Olympiad this summer but meantime, Albarn — who never gives himself a second of downtime, went ahead with the help of BBC’s Philharmonic Orchestra and recorded tracks for what’s being nominally presented as a solo album.
Albarn puts the bratty staccato spirit characterised in his Britpop tunes to rest and applies wonderfully droopy, voluminous and hollow vocals to some brave music based on the rise and fall of an Elizabethan mathematician who searched for the secrets of the universe. Apple Carts is a gentle acoustic piece serving as a reminder of Albarn’s genius for melody while The Moon Exalted switches from early English instrumentation and operatic vocals to a regal kora solo swelling into a charming burst of folk-pop backed by a whirring of strings.
However, listening to the soundtrack of Dr Dee without having seen the visuals or knowing the character and plot fully is like watching a movie without the sound on. Still, it is thrilling to get lost in Albarn’s gloomy melodies and dramatically immersive scenes as in the fluttering voices in Coronation in particular.
Dr Dee offers a luxurious depth of melancholy in tone and character, which Albarn explores thoroughly and if one can let go of hopes for narrative consistency then this album may be for you — a lush, downcast piece of brilliance.