Damon Albarn, who has flirted with Afro beats down the years, has finally gone lock stock and barrel with his DRC project – a fundraiser for Oxfam’s work in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Alongside Dan The Automator and a host of other like-minded producers including Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs, Jneiro Jarel, Richard Russell of XL Recordings and Actress, DRC teamed up with local musicians over the course of a week to create a melange of rhythms, sounds and vocals – all seen through Albarn’s own lense of pop-influenced structures and soundscapes.
The result is (luckily or ingeniously however way you want to view it) an extension of Albarn’s pop/funk Gorillaz efforts towards some deeper infusions of sounds and rhythms on a scale rarely reached with the cartoon band. ‘Hallo’ kicks things off in familiar territory with a tempestuous beat and Nelly Liyemge adding some brilliant vocals, making it into one of the standout tracks. ‘Lingala’ keeps the percussive beats to the fore but delves deeper into the African roots with some eerie background noises – not one to listen to with the lights off. At times this is fairly specialist stuff with the endless percussion on ‘If You Wish To Stay Awake’ interesting but just fading into oblivion.
As you listen to the range of native vocals guesting you feel yourself being led deeper and deeper into the jungle of African rhythms and sounds with the occasional Albarn pop-driven input. At 14 tracks it can feel like a bit of a trek and there are a few notable stumbling blocks, but ultimately this is a journey well worth taking for a variety of reasons.
Listen to the album here for a limited time only.