DAMON ALBARN EST PARTOUT!il est sur le point de sortir le premier album de son nouveau super projet Rocket Juice & The Moon. Le groupe est composé de Damon Albarn, Flea des Red Hot Chili Peppers et Atoms For Peace et de Tony Allen, batteur pionnier de l’afrobeat.

8 Mar

Rocket Juice & The Moon
Out on March 26…. Pre-order now!

High up in the skies, amongst the clouds, Rocket Juice And The Moon was born. Literally. It happened back in 2008, when Damon Albarn, Flea and Tony Allen convened on the same Lagos flight, to play and exchange musical ideas in that city as part of the Africa Express collective. There and then the triumvirate laid down the blueprint for Rocket Juice, but more than a year passed before conditions were set for three weeks together at Albarn’s West London studio, recording and refining two-dozen startlingly out and deeply funky instrumental grooves.

The next stage was to invite onboard some extremely talented friends, with further sessions in Dallas, New York, Chicago and Paris… Erykah Badu, no less, queen of contemporary soul. Three companions from Africa Express: Malian singer Fatoumata Diawara, whose debut album has topped World Music charts since its release last Autumn; her compatriot Cheick Tidiane Seck, veteran collaborator of Youssou N’Dour and Hank Jones; the young, Ghanaian rapper M.anifest, quizzically existential, switching seamlessly between Twi and English; and the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, long-time stalwarts in the Honest Jon’s set-up, with a second album for the label due in May… Finally, the tracks were dispatched for mixing to Berlin, to be meticulously honed, polished and envenomed by Mark Ernestus, one half of the legendary Basic Channel and Rhythm And Sound partnerships.

The result is Rocket Juice And The Moon, a triumphant exploration and proliferation of kinetic Afro-funk rhythms: organic, exuberant, communal music-making. From the inaugural bars, the liquid pulse of Fela Kuti’s classic recordings drives the action through a suite of 18 shape-shifting compositions: the greatest drummer in the world has never sounded so good as he does here. His intricate cross-patterns jostle and lock with Flea’s nimble, rumbling bass riffs. Joined by Seck on There and Extinguished, Albarn’s keyboards spray synth fusillades up top, over, and under… splicing into the mess of wires running between the freaked Afro-disco of William Onyeabor and the space-jazz-moog of Sun Ra.

Where the best of vintage Afrobeat sides sustained their concentrated energies over the course of sprawling, marathon jams, Rocket Juice manages something altogether different: the group bottles the idiom into capsules of funk… and real songs. Beautifully buoyed by Erykah Badu’s unmistakable vocals, Hey, Shooter brilliantly traverses metaphysical spaceways sans any semblance of noodling. Lolo and Follow-Fashion — featuring the open-hearted sensuality of Diawara’s singing, M.anifest’s quick, brawny science, and more brass blasts — play like its musical cousins or codas. Indeed, the album’s shrewd sequencing creates the composite effect of tracks working both individually or within the context of an extended song-cycle.

The lovely ballad, Poison, is bittersweet and ruminative: ‘If you’re looking for love, beware the signs / They will paralyze you one by one / Poison, it will only break your heart.’ Down-tempo and dubby, Check Out and Worries amplify the range of styles and moods. And by the time of Fatherless — a chugging Afro blues that evokes John Lee Hooker lost in Lagos — one gets the sneaking suspicion there’s very little outside the reach of this collective’s inventive musical grasp.

There is, in fact, a palpable openness pervading Rocket Juice And The Moon — the sense of a limber willingness to follow creative impulse — right down to how the group acquired its name. When Ogunajo Ademola — the Lagotian commissioned to do the album’s cover artwork — dubbed his submission ‘Rocket Juice And The Moon’, it quickly morphed into the formal name of the project, like trying to hold onto mercury.
Surely, the stars above also approved.

Chairman Jefferson Mao, New York City


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