KAREN O & DANGER MOUSE
Lux Prima (BMG)
I see movies projected onto a temporary screen at the back of the warehouse space. A stage show, in another corner, whose shape is provocative even in semi-darkness. Definitely a night out in a room whose lighting is lower than its ceiling. I see women in minis and men in skivvies, and during Woman, a funky spin on city blues which could well have come from Danger Mouse’s time with the Black Keys, a leather bar in the 1960s where Nancy Sinatra is about to come on for the midnight show.
From the space-the-final-frontier opening of the nine-minute title track – wobbly synths, lonely woman on the edge of the platform sirening, then drums and bass in a rhythm that feels like its leaning into the drunkest part of the evening – it’s evident atmosphere does not scare Karen O and Danger Mouse. It is in fact what makes Lux Prima.
Even when, at three minutes, the track becomes a half-dreaming/half-hand dancing groove that is straight from the Air catalogue, or after about seven minutes, when the voices become more prominent and more bachelor pad party soundtrack, it is the tone more than the tune which defines the experience.
The shorter – though still just over five minutes long – Ministry, which follows, has a low burning Stax bass that bulges out beneath O’s lighter-than-air vocals, nailing the drift (if that isn’t a contradiction) even as you pass some rocky outcrops of treated guitar which make the music swirl around it. Something is happening here.
Deceptively gliding, Turn The Light actually picks up pace and Woman punches that up a gear, so that haziness becomes more clearly bodies in action. Not in opposition to other bodies though, but blending into a sleekly smooth elongated form, accelerating towards the tipping point of Redeemer that wiggles its hips as a come-hither.
Over the edge you go into … well, that’s unclear, because when strings and strange-sisters choir climax Drown, which has moved from a dragging country ballad to something to accompany a young Dennis Hopper tripping, there is a definite sense that the drift of Ministry was in fact a tidal pull that has brought you here. Here being on the edge of Leopard’s Tongue, a seductive bit of ‘70s soul that sucks you in to what seems like a dance but in fact becomes a hazy whirlpool.
As you emerge from this whirlpool you will grasp the aptness of Reveries – slightly distorted voice, acoustic guitar and vibraphone – which recreates a disoriented, not unhappy but unable to explain itself mind, peeking out on a world that looks unlike the one you last saw on entering the album.
What to do? Let the solid heart thump of Nox Lumina be the guide out of this journey, its coating of languid voice and upwardly spiralling synths a balm, its plucked cellos now seeing you to the door with a cryptic smile as you step into another room where, wait, what? Yep, Lux Prima has begun again and you have returned. If you ever left.
Damn, those ‘shrooms were potent.