Review: Karen O & Danger Mouse bring out best in each other
Karen O & Danger Mouse, “Lux Prima” (BMG)
Yeah Yeah Yeahs frontwoman Karen O teams up with producer-to-the-stars Danger Mouse (Brian Burton) on a balanced collaboration that brings out the best from both, enriched by variations like O’s diverse vocals and Burton’s orchestral talents.
The nine-minute title track, which translates to “first light,” opens the album with a four-part composition presenting Danger Mouse’s cinematic soundscapes — whose gloss here makes them ideal for a plastic surgeon’s waiting room — enveloping O’s much warmer, though no less disquieting sections: “I’m nowhere/I’m no one/I’m nobody/There’s nobody but you.”
Yeah Yeah Yeahs guitarist Nick Zinner appears on a couple of tracks, including the reverberating, fuzzy “Woman,” whose 60s-influenced style also shows up in alternative forms on “Leopard’s Tongue” and “Redeemer.”
O’s voice has a much more delicate, Vashti Bunyan-like character on “Ministry,” where an icy Wurlitzer gives the song an outer space feel, while the determined “Turn the Light” has splashes of acoustic guitars, a funkily delicate bass and would have been an ideal guest spot for Damon Albarn, whose Gorillaz have also benefited from the Burton touch.
Another Danger Mouse cohort, Daniele Luppi, conducts the violin-heavy string section, adding drama to the resigned, regretful “Drown” and elegant clarity to “Reveries,” where O and her acoustic guitar sound as if seeping through a transistor radio in need of fine-tuning.
“Nox Lumina” (night light) bids the album goodbye with a short set of lyrics that goes around and around, intermittently, hazily fading away before another instrumental section emphasizes the drift, while also making the connection to the album’s beginning.