Recorded using an iPad during Gorillaz’ US tour earlier this year, ‘The Fall’ is part album, part audio sketch book, part tour diary, and was given away to members of the cartoon band’s fanclub on Christmas Day. The rest of us can listen to it at www.gorillaz.com from today (December 26).
Written on the road, there is a strong sense of movement in the music that features on ‘The Fall’ and you can hear how passing landscapes glimpsed from tour buses and planes have had a big impact on the 15 songs and instrumentals included. Some titles references where they were created – Gorillaz had a mobile studio set up backstage at all their gigs – while elsewhere it’s left to the music to create a sense of perpetual motion.
Of course Damon’s new favourite gizmo, the iPad, has had its influence too, and while we can’t honestly say there are sounds that could only have been created with a touch-screen graphical interface, the near constant use of synthesized sounds hints at the album’s digital origins. Here’s our first listen verdict on ‘The Fall’.
Phoner To Arizona
Setting the tone of the album’s computer-based genesis, the opening track is built around squelching beats, bleeps and mangled vocals. Feels like the opening to an act rather than a song in its own right, but serves as a fitting introduction to the instrumental snatches which pepper ‘The Fall’.
With Damon’s vocals introducing a fragile human touch to proceeding, Gorillaz’ leader spins this lament over gentle guitars and hypnotic chants.
After a quiet, introspective start, big synth chords chime in, contrasting with Damon’s straining, tour-battered falsetto vocals. The split between his frailties and the precise, programmed music proves strangely moving.
Paying tribute to the dance culture of the city, this is a smooth, bouncy instrumental, though despite its roots things never get as a heavy as to hit full-on techno. Instead we’re left with a sprightly tune ripe for future sampling.
After a darker, moody start, Damon chimes in with an almost cherub-like vocals, before dipping out leaving a menacing bass and a series of intricate melodies to take the listener on an what feels like a slow-motion, audio spacewalk.
Little Pink Plastic Bags
Initially sounding subdued, ‘Little Pink Plastic Bags’ gently unfolds courtesy of its oscillating bass, weird jerky melodies and hushed vocals. Feels like a snapshot of a wider, larger musical universe yet to be realised.
The Joplin Spider
Beginning with a mishmash of drums and synth noises that sound like sci-fi fighter plans whizzing by, Damon’s almost spoken word vocals add a weird but compelling centre of gravity to this track as it skips across a futuristic battlefield before fading away to nothing.
The Parish Of Space Dust
Beginning with a radio being tuned through a series of fictitious songs, the track eventually settles on a stately, swelling progression of chords and vocals that’s reminiscent of Blur’s ‘Sing’, until it explodes into an ode to Texas.
The Snake In Dallas
Another futuristic instrumental snippet, this one feels like it could have been commissioned for a US cop show in 2050, as it mixes a Massive Attack-style raking beats and it’s slick, soaring keys.
A slow, yet euphoric song that finds Damon’s reverb-laden voice evocatively recalling America’s vast great interior. One of the more fully formed songs on the album, you get a vivid portrait of a songwriter from the British Isles getting his mind around one of the world’s largest open spaces.
The Speak It Mountains
A smattering of radio samples phase in and out over ambient noodling. Feels like it’s come directly from a jam rather than anything too premeditated.
Opening to the sound raindrops, before giving way to an 8-bit -style computer scales. The instrumental is completed with a natural sounding piano joining the busy artificial sounds.
Bobby In Phoenix
Backed by a mix of bluesy acoustic guitar and flashes of the Syrian musicians who toured with Gorillaz, Bobby Womack duly obliges with vocals that are touched by both desert dust and soulfully soaring amongst the clouds. The resulting cocktail ends up sounding very Rolling Stones-y.
California And The Slipping Of The Sun
Another ambient snippet, as Damon reprises the megaphone vocal deliver of on ‘On Melancholy Hill’ , before sampled fragments of speech and strings swell ahead of the whole song breaking down with funk driven, disco beats.
Does exactly what it says on the tin. Sampled yodelling… in Seattle we presume. And with it ‘The Fall’ gentle slips away.