Lux Prima review: Karen O, Danger Mouse join forces to create a dreamy, cinematic soundscape
Karen O and Danger Mouse's first collaborative album Lux Prima released on 15 March.
Lux Prima is the first collaboration between Danger Mouse (Brian Burton) and Karen O and boy, is it slick. Though the idea was in the pipeline as long ago as 2008, it did not materialise till 2016, a year after the birth of Karen’s son Django. And it sure is worth the wait!
The coming together of these two artistes, already established in their respective circles, has given birth to something truly unique. In April, the two also plan on recreating the album in an art installation setting 'An Encounter with Lux Prima' that will premiere in Los Angeles. Recently, they performed 'Woman' on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, which was directed by Spike Jonze.
For Karen O, it’s embracing her vulnerable, more mellow side, a transition from her loud, punk-rock Yeah Yeah Yeahs days, also displayed in her 2014 debut solo album Crush Days. It’s not entirely surprising because she has, over the years, displayed fluidity in her craft – whether it's collaborating with indie musicians like Flaming Lips and Swans or featuring in multiple film and television music scores (one of which bagged her Grammy and Oscar nominations).
The Grammy-winning Burton, has always chosen to live on the edge, hopping across genres and leaving a trail of treats along the way. He came into the limelight with Grey Album, an amalgamation of Jay Z’s Black Album and The Beatles' seminal White Album. He has also worked with the likes of MF Doom as Danger Doom, Cee Lo Green as one half of Gnarls Barkley, Black Keys, Damon Albarn of the Gorillaz...you get the gist.
Lux Prima (‘first light’) as a whole has a very dreamy, cinematic quality to it. The duo take you across a journey over the course of forty odd minutes, which begins with a nine-minute long eponymous track and wraps up with ‘Nox Lumina’ (‘night light’).
‘Lux Prima’ resonates a Pink Floyd-like psychedelic vibe, which is blended into trip-hop style beats. The string instruments, the digital organ and a choir add to the drama. The vocals are pure and delicate as Karen sings about getting lost into nothingness. ‘Ministry’ is much more tender, with her voice complementing the softness of the guitar. "It's been a song that's kind of been like almost a therapeutic song for me to listen to since we wrote it. It’s a warm place for me,” Karen had told NPR.
The disco-infused ‘Turn the Light’ is like warm butter sliding down hot toast (analogy courtesy – Confessions of a Shopaholic). “Starry, starry night/This is how I wanna live,” she croons. To me, the song spoke about giving into your heart’s desire, about the dark not being as bleak and terrifying as it may seem. The one song that stood out the most is ‘Woman’, an obvious tribute to womanhood. Besides the empowering lyrics, (You’re gonna want it/ you’re gonna make it) it is the closest to Karen’s signature style coupled with familiar guitar riffs by Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Nick Zinner.
‘Leopard’s Tongue’ is stripped down in comparison except for the medley of brass and percussion (brought to you by Burton, who happens to be an ace drummer). It could be about a lover being hot and cold as the toxicity that comes with it leaves her feeling all ‘used up’. ‘Reveries’ is a haunting ballad but not entirely memorable while the moody ‘Drown’ is evocative of Lana Del Rey’s depression chic aesthetic. ‘Nox Lumina’, the second longest song on the entire record, ebbs and flows like the title track, with simple and repetitive lyrics.
Experimentation is always appreciated and is likely to not always yield disastrous results, especially when musicians think from the listeners’ perspective (a moment of silence for Lou Reed and Metallica’s 2011 fiasco, Lulu). What makes Lux Prima a fruitful collaboration is neither Karen O nor Danger Mouse overpower each other’s style.
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