Album review of Monkey: Journey To the West released through XL Recordings.
Initially showcased at last year's Manchester International Festival, this is a collection of songs composed by Damon Albarn to soundtrack Monkey: Journey To The West. Monkey has enjoyed something of a renaissance in the last few years, with a highly successful and comical take on the 70's series doing the rounds in British theatres. This is a curious collection; the opening track sounds like Fat Boy Slim wrestling Bis for the last dim sum. The tracks seem to veer between a classical and, indeed, classic approach to soundtracking. Much of it is moving, but brief, and difficult to latch on to, as montages merge into one another, sometimes lasting less than a minute. The string-laden tracks are emotive and beautifully composed. In true Monkey style, however, they soon give way to the peculiar tones of a monkey making its feelings known, in a cartoonish style (handy translations in the booklet.) and are eclipsed by oriental pop and brief forays into electro.
These pieces will surely work well in their intended setting: as an accompaniment to the opera. Somehow, though, listening to them in this format is like being handed a pile of loose mosaic pieces and asked what you think of the picture. It makes for an interesting listen but I can't see this being a regular fixture in the CD player.
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