Karen O & Danger Mouse – Lux Prima review

Secret Meeting score: 83

by Joseph Purcell

Collaborations have been a regular occurence in the recent history of both Karen O and Danger Mouse. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ frontwoman branched outside of her day job, working with artists as varied as Trent Reznor on the blistering Immigrant Song cover, to Michael Kiwanuka on the hauntingly beautiful one off single, Yo! My Saint. As a producer, Danger Mouse has been casting his magic on all manner of acts, most recently on one of 2018’s standout albums, Parquet Courts’ Wide Awake! 

Despite success in many of her projects, O has seemingly never quite found the creative sweet spot harnessed by the talents of regular bandmates, Nick Zinner and Brian Chase. In short bursts, she has excelled, but in terms of long plays she has never quite found the vehicle to harness the raucous fury and measured subtlety which were the trademarks of her early work. This was until now, where she has found a musical kindred spirit to create new record, Lux Prima, creating a showcase for one of alternative music’s great voices.

Lux Prima beautifully fuses the talents of both protagonists. Title track and eight-minute opener is the perfect distillation of this record’s qualities, as a stunningly sparse opening journeys to a rage-fuelled conclusion. The opening four minutes is a gentle snippet of joy, floating along in a style that recalls Massive Attack’s beautiful Mezzanine, before O explodes in all her glory, restrained but not unbowed, cutting through the shimmering production with her trademark hollering.

These contrasting sounds continue to contest for dominance throughout Lux Prima, as if in a dance. The gentle poignancy delights as O and Danger Mouse ensnare you into a visceral landscape. There is a warmth to the production that hooks the listener in its beauty, while Karen O’s scaling peaks, and on occasion spoken whispers, are lush and addictive. None more so than on the gorgeous Ministry. While Drown is a reflective swamp of introspection that trails eloquently into the ether. These moments only surpassed by the album’s highpoint, the regal Reveries. A majestic track, as alluded in its title, that is a hazy floating fog of mystery, beautifully pitched in the warm embrace of a comforting daydream. All based over the echoing sound of an acoustic guitar, with O’s vocal drowning in the cascading echo of fragility as she discusses a quiet meeting with death, begging – ‘please, please let me go quietly’.

Intertwined amongst these touching moments, Lux Prima erupts with bursts of venom. Turn the Light struts over its funk-filled bass, whilst Woman finds O in typically rousing Yeah Yeah Yeahs form, packed with yelps and a backdrop of thunder, as her voice blasts into high pitched explosions as she hollers in a cult like chant, ‘I’m a woman, I’m a woman, yeh yeh yeh,’ recapturing her role as the snarling medusa of the New York underground.

On Lux Prima, the protagonists have created an album of sustained quality that exemplifies each of their respective talents. Rather than compromising, the undoubted death knell of many a collaboration, both Karen O and Danger Mouse have used their individual talents to enhance each other’s throughout nine songs that are as intense and exquisitely pitched as any released in the calendar year so far. A masterful album with a full spectrum of emotional intensity. Let’s hope this isn’t just a one off.

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