Ever since the British, virtual, cartoonish band Gorillaz shattered their prolonged absence on January 20th with “Hallelujah Money” ft. Benjamin Clementine, there was still agonizing radio silence to bear. The band, created by musician Damon Albarn and artist Jamie Hewlett, had seemingly come back to us only to vanish. Rumors and theories were circulating around the web on the details of the new album, feeding pining fans scraps of information that Albarn kept silent about but Hewlett teased on Instagram. Suddenly, on the Gorillaz’s Snapchat account a countdown had begun, finally promising that their long-awaited return was near. It was just that not many knew when they were coming back.
Then March 23rd happened.
To celebrate his 49th birthday, Damon Albarn – the constant voice of Gorillaz – went on the radio airwaves to release four new Gorillaz songs. Speaking with DJ and radio presenter MistaJam on the BBC Radio 1, Albarn described the essence and narrative of the band’s upcoming and first album in six years, Humanz. “We are in a transition. We are turning into something else,” said Albarn. “The album came from this dark fantasy. Just imagine the weirdest, most unpredictable thing that changes everything in the world. How would you feel on that night?”
Humanz will be released on April 28th, and as Albarn describes it, “It’s [Humanz] got an interesting atmosphere to it. It’s a party and club record, but has this weird darkness from it.” Packed with fourteen tracks and five bonus ones (twenty-six on the deluxe version), Albarn graciously shared four songs with his waiting and mildly impatient fans: “Andromeda,” “Saturnz Barz,” “We Got the Power,” and “Ascension.”
Let’s jump right in, shall we?
“Andromeda ft. D.R.A.M”
Completely radiating with soulful and even disco influence, “Andromeda” is an atmospheric dance track. Albarn admits the blueprint for a Gorillaz song is a “drum beat machine and synthesizer,” but the featuring of American musician D.R.A.M (Does. Real. Ass. Music.) heightens the cosmic and alluring appeal of the track. “Take it in your heart now, lover,” croons Albarn amidst the pulsing synth, creating a truly universal experience listeners must engage in. In his interview on BBC Radio 1, Albarn reveals that Andromeda was actually the name of a nightclub in Colchester that played soul music in the 1980’s, and it was a rarity to find a place dedicated to such music in that area. Influenced by that memory, “Andromeda” is just fit to be echoed in the halls of a lit up dance floor.
“Saturnz Barz ft. Popcaan”
Layered with divided hi-hats and melodic synthesizers and fully equipped with a daunting, slightly ominous tone, this is a territory Gorillaz have not ventured into before – and I am living for it. “Saturnz Barz” oozes with a trap-style influence that works with Jamaican artist Popcaan’s piercing, unique delivery. Albarn hypnotically enters the track, completely intertwining the best aspects of Popcaan and himself to create a haunting, infectious song. Saturn Barz was released with a 360-interactive video where you can follow the members of Gorillaz – 2D, Russell, Noodle, and Murdoc – in a haunted house, completely suiting the vibe of the song.
“We Got The Power ft. Jehnny Beth”
Sporadic but enticingly energetic, “We Got The Power” packs a potent punch as an anthem for the people to unite. Practically composed of keys and percussion, the anthem is driven by Albarn’s empowering chants and the optimistic, invincible tone in the delivery of French artist and front-woman of the English band Savages, Jehnny Beth. Defiant and unconquerable, Beth soars as she speaks of the strengthened, unbreakable power all the people can harness together: “We’ve did it before/ We’ll do it again/ We’re indestructible even when we’re tied.” As Albarn once said, “Music is the one universal language we got.” Speaking of “all the people,” featured on the chorus is none other than Noel Gallagher. Gallagher, a prominent musician known for his co-creation of the iconic British band Oasis and his notable solo work, once had a highly-publicized rivalry with Albarn’s notable band Blur in the 90s. But with their past put behind them, these two musical visionaries finally come together to collaborate. On an interview with Radio X, Albarn spoke fondly of Gallagher, praising his work ethic and fantastic magic in the studio: “It’s nice when you see how someone goes about their business. He’s great.”
“Ascension ft. Vincent Staples”
Immediately, American rapper Vincent Staples draws you into this ferocious, accelerated beat right before spitting out a ridiculously awesome flow. The head-bopping hip hop blends seamlessly with Staples’ killer vocal loop as it inflicts this emotion just to have some fucking fun. The hype intensifies as there’s a backing gospel choir, enhancing and elevating the excitement this track already emits. Albarn’s interlude is brief, but it’s perfect – his soft delivery is a halt from the fast-paced atmosphere of “Ascension,” but he quickly transitions to a rapid ending, “Just a lover/ just a lover,” that just cuts wonderfully to Staples’ sickening flow. “Ascension” might come off as a shock to some Gorillaz fans, as the band has never really ventured this deep into straight up, EDM-esque hip hop, but it’s important not to forget to just get funky with it.
With only a month away from the release of the full-length album, it will be exciting to see what else Gorillaz has up their sleeves with Humanz.
I just hope they come to the United States soon.