His hand wiped the floor with Oasis, his Gorillaz mopped up Hear’say. Now, DAMON ALBARN is going to clean up with his new film soundtrack.
Words: Miles Fielder and Mark Robertson
ver since the music press engineered the Blur vs
()asis headline hogger back in I995. the cockney
rockney rebels have been proving themselves a pint o’ lager and a packet of crisps better than the lazy northern Iouts. Likewise. while Liam Gallagher has been busy making babies and breaking records for sheer arse- iness. Blur mouthpiece Damon Albarn has been scaling new aesthetic heights with aml without his hand.
Albarn’s gradual drift away from his roots in oh-so British indie rock are not as surprising as they may ﬁrst appear. Blur have always been keen to stretch their own musical boundaries and their last two albums Blur and [3 saw their musical horizons expand to embrace the angular quirks of krautrock and indulge in some Stereolab-esque electronic l'lirtations as well as once again embracing the genius of Bacharach. 'l’ownshend aml Davies.
As the other three band members indulge in their own side projects - Alex .lames as sometime member ol' Zodiac Mindwarp’s band and Fat Les. drummer Dave Roundtree with his computer company and maverick guitar-pioneer (iraham (Toxon with his solo work aml record label transcopic — it is only litting that Albarn should have his own extracurricular activities. which are many and far r *aching.
'l'here’s been his none too shabby performance in the gangster thriller Face. the successful greatest hits tour with his (7olchester quartet. the developing interest in world music during a visit to Mali. W ~st Africa. the manufacturing of virtual punk/hip hop outlit (lorillaz and scores for lilm soundtracks. From pop success to critical acclaim. in music and film; quite impressive. that.
Albarn’s latest project to hit record stores is the soundtrack to a lilm called I0] Reykjavik. It’s an Icelandic slacker comedy. a darkly humorous film about a twentysomething Reykjavik waster who has an affair with his mother’s visiting Spanish friend. The senorita turns out to be his mother’s lesbian lover. Whoops. And oh dear. It‘s an oddly endearing lilm. but then so is the soundtrack. Albarn. though. is just the man to compose it. The Essex boy‘s fondness for lcelaml is well known; he even owns a pub in the country‘s capital.
Albarn produced the soundtrack to II)! Reykjavik in collaboration with l'linar ()rn Benediktsson of Icelandic electronica all-stars (iusGus. Alternater luminous. pulsating and grinding. it’s the perfect audio compliment to this sweet. melanchon lilm. Hip hop. techno. dub and some indie guitar frills. plus a lovely recurring refrain sampling The Kinks‘ alternately tender and bawdy ‘Lola’. all go into this fresh. pared-down arctic brew.
It‘s not the lirst time Albarn has scored lilm music. He collaborated with minimalist composer \lichael .\'yman on the soundtrack to Ravenous. another black comedy
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incidentally. 'l‘his wintry horror western about cannibalism was directed by Antonia Bird. who had previously given Albarn his big screen acting role in Face where he played a moody Essex wide boy opposite Robert (‘arlyle and Ray Winstone’s tough ugly mugs.
'l'hough III] Reykjavik is only just being released. it premiered at last year‘s Edinburgh International Film Festival. where Albarn was promoting the lilm with best pal and director Baltasar Kormakur. Listening to the soundtrack you can hear where the punk/hip hop/dub — what's being called ‘zombie hip hop’ — of (:orillaz came from.
(:orillaz. of course. is the four-piece band that’s in reality a collaboration between Albarn. comic artist .lamie Hewlett (Tank Girl) and Dan ‘The Automator’ Nakamura. It began life as a reaction to manufactured pop bands - which has surely reached its nadir with llear’say - but has since evolved into a pop phenomenon in its own right. So much so that (iorillaz are coming to Edinburgh’s Corn Exchange in .lune. We can expect a multimedia extravagama.
Albarn’s moved'further aﬁeld still with a new-found interest in world music prompted by his visit to West Africa. He went to Mali with ()n The Line. a millennium project exploring the lives of people linked globally by the Greenwich Meridan Line. to meet lo 'al musicians and learn about their culture. He has stated repeatedly how this trip changed the way he thought about music itself. real'lirming the roots of playing and performing as a method of cultural expansion and development. as opposed to the diluted corporate machinations which have become such an intrinsic part of western musical culture.
And the very latest Albam collaboration brings the English lad right back to his roots. lle’s dueting on a new version of ‘Waterloo Sunset’ on The Kinks tribute album This Is Where I Belong. to be released in August. His partner on vocals is mysteriously being billed as a ‘very special guest’. but the rumour has it that this will be Albarn’s musical hero. Kinks frontman Ray Davies.
Which. via that recurring sample ol' ‘Lola’. brings us back to  Reykjavik. Listening to the soundtrack makes you want to go qualf a frosty pint and soak up the atmosphere in Damon’s pub.
101 Reykjavik the film is released Fri 1 Jun; the soundtrack is out on EMl. The List has CD soundtracks to give away to the first six correct answers received on a postcard to this question: What were Blur called before they were
_ 101 Reykjavik