Damon Albarn, Dr. Dee

Dan Hyman

By Dan Hyman

on 05.08.12 in Reviews

Dr. Dee

Damon Albarn
Adding another page to his ever-expanding musical repertoire

Stability and Damon Albarn might as well be antonyms. Throughout his two-decade career, the forward-thinking singer has maintained an unrelenting desire for progressive off-the-cuff experimentation. The success of his most cherished acts, Blur and Gorillaz, gave him the license for such sorcery. But even these now have a less-than-certain future. Albarn has tried it all: There’s Rocket Juice & the Moon, his Flea and Tony Allen-assisted Afrofunk crew; last year the singer traveled to the Democratic Republic of Congo to record a benefit album with local musicians; dude has even made an iPad album. Unsurprisingly, his latest concoction is no less ambitious; Dr. Dee, the score to a folk-opera inspired by Dr. John Dee, a 16th-century philosopher, astrologer and once-believed-to-be madman, is a sprawling collection of orchestral movements, elegiac choral accompaniment, and manic asides woven together by Albarn’s alternately soothing and chilling vocals. Fewer than half the 18 tracks feature Albarn, and several are strictly instrumental. Yet, there are surefire nuggets here: “Apple Carts”, a tempestuous lullaby, and “The Marvelous Dream,” a typically droll, Albarn-ian dirge on the fog that eclipses our wildest ambitions, both fit snugly into the singer’s ever-expanding choose-as-you-go musical repertoire. The only question is: What’s next?