By Zachary Swickey
There are few notable artists that keep as busy as Damon Albarn. The mastermind behind trip poppers Gorillaz and English rockers Blur has revealed plans for a new album that will be recorded entirely in the Democratic Republic of Congo over just a one week period.
With Gorillaz on hiatus, Albarn has enlisted a slew of artists for the project, including some of the usual suspects: London DJ Darren Cunningham, old Gorillaz chum/production genius Dan the Automator, and XL label boss Richard Russell, who produced the late Gil Scott-Heron’s critically acclaimed final album. The effort is being recorded to benefit Oxfam’s long-time work in the Congo. Other expected contributors include Marc Antoine, Jo Gunton, Jneiro Jarel, Kwes and Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs.
This will be Albarn’s second experience producing an album for Oxfam. He created a collaborative album with local artists of Mali in 2001, Mali Music. According to Russell’s Twitter, Albarn will once again team up with locals for his new Congo-based disc.
Albarn premiered his latest opera, "Doctor Dee," to rave reviews earlier this month at the Manchester International Festival. "Doctor Dee" centers on John Dee, a 16th Century alchemist, astrologer and spy. The production was intended to be a collaboration with the man who brought us "Watchmen," comic book author/legend Alan Moore, but he left the project before its completion and is now credited as “inspiration.” The opera is currently a part of London’s Cultural Olympiad program at the home of the English National Opera. Albarn previously adapted a Chinese opera in 2007, "Monkey: Journey to the West."
Unfortunately, there’s still no word on the status of his old main gig with Blur. The group got our hopes up when they broke their nearly decade-long hiatus by reuniting in 2009 for a string of epic shows, including London’s Hyde Park, before capping it off with a headlining appearance at Glastonbury. Although, the frontman hinted at bringing Blur stateside in a recent interview with The Guardian, he gave a mumbling “don’t know” about the prospect of new music from the band.