This collaboration of interstellar producer (Grammy award winner Danger Mouse) and kick arse vocalist (rock goddess Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs), brings high expectations.
Danger Mouse is behind some of this century’s most revelatory albums. As a producer he’s helmed El Camino (The Black Keys), Demon Days (Gorillaz), Modern Guilt (Beck) and our X-Press album of 2018 from Parquet Courts (Wide Awake) last year. Plus he’s worked beside major artists on original collaborative projects such as Gnarls Barkley and DANGERDOOM. Karen O is herself no stranger to interesting pairings, having made guest appearances on the works of David Lynch (Crazy Clown Time), The Flaming Lips (Embryonic), Swans (The Seer) and Santigold (Master of My Make Believe), among others. But, this is the first time she has gone full-in on a dedicated collaborative album. And my, what a marriage it makes.
This album has been a long time in the making, with the pair originally discussing the potential for working together way back in 2007. Having already teased us with title track Lux Prima and lead single Woman (check out our song review), we already knew we were in for something a little different.
Prepare for a journey, as opening tracks Lux Prima and Ministry make for brooding lullabies, before picking up the pace with woozy funk number Turn The Light, and float back down through a theatrical dream on Drown. Most tracks are short and sweet, encapsulated by longer, meditative bookends. The outro Nox Lumina (latin translation: Night Light) mimics the epic nine minute intro Lux Prima (translation: First Light) to close the circle. It is as if, when listened to on repeat, the album could rotate continuously on its own axis.
Lux Prima is definitely less raucous than O’s previous work with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, with a small exception in the form of Redeemer, which could easily have slipped off the back of their latest record Mosquito (2013).
O gets to play the songbird and storyteller here. While Ministry, Drown and Leopard’s Tongue give us soulful melodies, O’s talents are perfectly exemplified in the stripped-back, lo-fi ballad Reveries, letting her voice draw the listener in with sadness and loneliness. Only Nancy Sinatra could have sung it better.
The precise production of Danger Mouse presents a work than spans time and dimension. But there’s still something familiar to the ear. With hints of 60s and 70s vibes against synthesised orchestral chords, it’s hard not to draw comparison to the space disco sounds of French electronic duo Air. Not that this appears to be intentional, but for all it’s beauty, Lux Prima does come out sounding a bit “soundtracky”. Perhaps this is a hangover from O’s previous contributions to the films Her and Where The Wild Things Are.
Either way, it’s a very good piece of music from two incredible talents. Lux Prima is recommended for intimate dinners for two or late at house parties with a close group of friends.