David Albarn, co-founder and frontman of Gorillaz, has taken the band’s newest album, “The Fall” in an experimental direction. Focused heavily on psychedelic electronic music, it sounds as if Pink Floyd and The Postal Service collaborated on an album. Suspense and buildup rule this album as different synthesizers and electronic bleeps take form to create abstract rhythms and melodies.
The album is very similar to Gorillaz’s last project, “Plastic Beach” (2010). This entire album was recorded during Gorillaz Fall 2010 tour of “Plastic Beach,” which explains both the album title and the similarities between these two projects. Albarn recorded “The Fall” entirely on his Apple iPad, which is a first in the music industry. The quality of the production is surprising given its origins; this album displays the potential capabilities of technology.
“Phoner to Arizona” is the leadoff track, which starts the album with a deep electronic beat coated by a plethora of synthesizers. The consistent use of synthesizers on almost every track gives this album a unique, alternative hip-hop sound. The high pitch, melodic synthesizer found in a few tracks sounds like it is greatly influenced by the 90s hip-hop classic, Dr. Dre’s “The Chronic.” “Shy-town” and “The Snake In Dallas” are two tracks in which this 90s, West Coast style can be heard.
Amidst a jungle of electronic mayhem, Albarn jazzes the album up and catches you off guard a bit with the inclusion of traditional instruments, such as the soft-sounding guitar on “Revolving Doors” and “HillBilly Man.”
The core of the album differs from the rather smooth opening songs, as Albarn really starts going crazy with the electronic effects and sounds. At times the deep, slow bass makes the album seem to move in slow motion. The combination of the slow, droning bass and Albarn’s alluring voice are relaxing yet trying at times.
On “The Joplin Spider” and “The Parish Of Space Dust,” Albarn seems to hit his peak of abstract electronic fascination. “The Joplin Spider” starts off with synthesizers flailing in your face, sounding like the crossfire of an intergalactic battle. If one were to imagine what the Death Star sounds like when it breaks down, it would be frighteningly similar to this track. The track turns into a mash of synths battling for dominance, creating one great ball of noise.
On “Amarillo” and “Detroit,” there is a sense of depression and loneliness illustrated through the sounds and lyrics. The combination of slow beats with somber-sounding lyrics could possibly express the anxiety and isolation Albarn was facing throughout the recording process.
The standout on this album has to be “Bobby in Phoenix,” which was co-written by Bobby Womack. Womack, who has collaborated with Albarn and appeared on Gorillaz albums previously, is best known for working along side soul legend Sam Cooke. His soulful influence makes itself known as this track breathes life back into this[UM1] dwindling album.
The constant synth buildup of “California And The Slipping Of The Sun” sounds almost futuristic. Albarn’s voice comes in softly and floats throughout the song, giving it a peaceful feel and a similar sound to Julian Casablanca’s of The Strokes. Abruptly, the soothing sound of the track transitions into a heavy electronic sound. As it does with most of the album, the beat picks up and deep synths become more upbeat and rhythmic. The album then concludes with a 40-second yodeling track, which is the icing on the cake of a completely abstract production.
One’s enjoyment of the album in entirely dependent on what type of mood one is in. If you are trying to party, get pumped, or even stay awake, you might want to skip this album for now. Come back to it on a slow day, when your mind needs to relax and wander a little. This album is like a labyrinth your mind could easily get lost in given the opportunity.
If you are a big fan of the original, more pop-sounding tunes off of “Gorillaz” (2001) or “Demon Days” (2005), you might grow a sense of hopelessness for the band. Albarn’s sound grows more distant from its origins as he continues to experiment and explore deeper into the realm of electronica. This album has an almost eerie ring to it, but “The Fall” is definitely one worth listening to under the right circumstances.
Josh Steinberg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.