Karen O and Danger Mouse
Lux Prima


4.2
excellent

Review

by SowingSeason STAFF
March 15th, 2019 | 27 replies


Release Date: 2019 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A heavenly collision

Lux Prima – Latin for “first light” – marks the intersection of two of the most interesting musical careers of the 2000s: Karen O (Yeah Yeah Yeah’s) and collaborator/producer extraordinaire Danger Mouse. The former is among the most recognizable voices in the indie-rock scene, while the latter has a reputation for getting the most out of the artists he works with, be it producing Gorllaz’ Demon Days or working with James Mercer (The Shins) on Broken Bells. So when these two decided to share a studio and record Lux Prima, expectations understandably shot through the roof.

It’s clear that the two have a symbiotic relationship, as Danger Mouse feeds off of Karen O’s wide vocal range while Karen melds beautifully into his spacious and atmospheric realms. They waste little time announcing their arrival, as the title track transforms from an epic, synthy slow-build of an introduction to groove-laden verses – all before relaxing its muscles and sinking back into a shimmering, rippling pool of strings/synths/electronics. It’s the kind of grand entrance one might expect for such a renowned collaboration; setting the scene for an epic showdown between Karen O’s seemingly limitless vocal spectrum and Danger Mouse’s boundless imagination. Fortunately for listeners, they both win.

Normally, over-the-top bids can spell trouble – but with a pairing this talented, the higher they aim the more impressive Lux Prima becomes. The nine-minute eponymous opener, the six minute curtain-call ‘Nox Lumina’, and the sultry, mesmerizing sway of ‘Ministry’ all sound larger than life, and they resultantly comprise the record’s highlights. The bookend cuts illustrate Danger Mouse’s contributions in the studio, while ‘Ministry’ is primarily a vocal showcase. These heavyweight talents never feel at odds with one other, knowing exactly when to come in strong, when to fade back, and when to collide in gorgeous entanglement. It feels like a destined pairing; a natural fit for both artists that stretches their musical and imaginative bounds.

One descriptor that continuously comes to mind when attempting to qualify Lux Prima is breathable, which probably sounds less flattering than intended, but it truly pegs exactly why the album flows so well. Karen O does most of her damage in open space, when Danger Mouse crafts these translucent, almost aqueous backdrops that accent her fluctuations from high-pitched to low, or from sprightly and amiable (‘Turn The Light’) to aggressive and tribal (‘Woman’). Most of Lux Prima’s nine tracks implement a few simple musical ideas, preventing it from ever sounding too busy while affording Karen with a tone to adapt to. In other words, Danger Mouse does more guiding than dictating, which is a strategy that allows Lux Prima almost to come across as a jam session. There’s no agenda, or if there is, you can’t tell. It’s just Karen O and Danger Mouse vibing off each other, immersing themselves in various moods/auras while responding to their own separate whims. More often than not, the results feel smooth, effortless, and organic.

The only time this album falters is when the atmosphere of a song feels boxed-in to begin with. It’s not a frequent occurrence, but on the pitter-pat drumming of ‘Redeemer’, for example, there’s little foundation to work with beyond a repetitive drum cycle and a handful of colorless guitar licks. This leaves Karen O with little wiggle room, and she ends up sounding awkward while bouncing back and forth between the lines “You're not coming for me / I'm coming for you” for what feels like a hundred refrains despite clocking in at three minutes. Technically one should chalk this up as a strike against Danger Mouse, but considering the number of times he manages to hit the emotional/atmospheric bullseye, it’s easy to overlook the rare songwriting misfire that occurs on Lux Prima.

What we have here is an album crafted by two high-profile artists that manages to live up to the names involved. It’s somewhat unexpected just how well they mesh, though, crafting songs that don’t sound the part of a first-time collaboration. There’s obvious chemistry between these two in the studio, and Lux Prima sounds more dynamic than even the most optimistic fan could have hoped. It’s intriguing to think about all the different directions they could go after this, should they continue their musical partnership. So here’s to hoping that they just make this thing official and give this project a name. O Danger has a certain ring to it, but I’m sure they’ll figure something better out. As long as they keep making music together, I’ll be happy.



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user ratings (48)
Chart.
3.4
great


Comments:Add a Comment 
SowingSeason
Moderator
March 15th 2019


30256 Comments

Album Rating: 4.2

This was better than I expected it to be. "Ministry" is owning me right now, such a stunningly gorgeous song.

Digging: Glen Hansard - This Wild Willing

Slex
March 15th 2019


6468 Comments


Was very intrigued by this but a little weary, glad to hear it's so good, can't wait to listen

Digging: Blessed (CAN) - Salt

SowingSeason
Moderator
March 15th 2019


30256 Comments

Album Rating: 4.2

I forgot how good a voice Karen O has and Danger Mouse absolutely kills it with the production on this. It's not AOTY caliber but it's damn good.

kmagnum1x
March 15th 2019


441 Comments


had no idea about this will listen tonight

kmagnum1x
March 15th 2019


441 Comments


first listen was boring maybe I need to be in the right mood

SowingSeason
Moderator
March 15th 2019


30256 Comments

Album Rating: 4.2

The time between you saying that you had no idea about this and plan to listen to it tonight and then saying it was boring were like 5 minutes apart



You sure you actually listened to this?

Ashtiel
March 15th 2019


360 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

this was a really pretty listen and especially "woman", karen o still has some of that fire in her.





Digging: Black Mountain - Wilderness Heart

kmagnum1x
March 16th 2019


441 Comments


I listened to the album fully once

kmagnum1x
March 16th 2019


441 Comments


it's only 40 mins long

anatelier
March 16th 2019


2614 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

best for me is the closer, for a short album it’s very slow starting. some nice moments across the board though.

Digging: Fontaines D.C. - Dogrel

SowingSeason
Moderator
March 16th 2019


30256 Comments

Album Rating: 4.2

The bookends are definitely the best objectively IMO. Ministry hits me hard too for some reason, and both Woman and Turn The Light are fun tracks. It slows down across the latter portion but I love Danger Mouse's work here; tracks that would otherwise be boring sound rich and spacious. This is a pure win from all perspectives in my book.

FelixCulpa
March 16th 2019


1243 Comments


Very pleased by the whole album! And great review sowing, you nail what I both really like about danger mouse and sometimes don't, especially on the records of his where he's just not producing, is the lack of an agenda. Some songs just feel supremely capable but without any motivation. But I am glad this album doesn't falter on the wrong side of that coin.

Also, you should listen to Rome, his collab album with Daniele Luppi if you haven't. Also a
record which has hardly any agenda and just exists as a greatly produced western soundtrack homage of an album. Also, Luppi did a collab album with Parquet Courts (fittingly named "Milano") and their song "Talisa" features O on vocals if you wanna listen to what's a second degree of bacon to this here album.

SowingSeason
Moderator
March 17th 2019


30256 Comments

Album Rating: 4.2

Thanks Felix! I'm a little surprised that so many people have been underwhelmed by this, considering it's Danger Mouse I was going into it expecting lush, spacious atmospheres and that's what I got. And Karen O is now one of my favorite vocalists, even though I never got into Yeah Yeah Yeah's back during their peak popularity.



And thanks for the recs, I definitely need to check more DM works and O collabs because I definitely haven't heard all of what either of them have to offer.

GrandpaFred
March 17th 2019


6 Comments


people who listen to crap music are funny

Dewinged
Contributing Reviewer
March 17th 2019


15531 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Damn this is good, loving her voice.

Digging: Otoboke Beaver - Itekoma Hits

Eons
March 18th 2019


2186 Comments


His collab with Sparklehorse was absolutely incredible. Hope this is as good.

Digging: Jackson C. Frank - Jackson C. Frank

SowingSeason
Moderator
March 18th 2019


30256 Comments

Album Rating: 4.2

Nice rating Dewi. I don't think Karen O can sing a song that sounds bad and that definitely helps this album's case. Then factor in that I'm a sucker for Danger Mouse and you have probably my 2nd/3rd favorite LP so far this year. The closer here is absolutely magnificent.

Dewinged
Contributing Reviewer
March 18th 2019


15531 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I absolutely love the opener.

SowingSeason
Moderator
March 18th 2019


30256 Comments

Album Rating: 4.2

Honestly both bookends are top tier

Pheromone
March 18th 2019


6953 Comments


I bet this fucking sucks!

Digging: Suzanne Langille - Let the Darkness Fall



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