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Gorillaz’s 2-D Steps Out on His Own for “Sleeping Powder”

On the smoggy new dance record, frontman Damon Albarn wonders which way is up

(Warner Bros.)
(Warner Bros.)

The cool thing about Gorillaz is that there’s the forward-facing illusion of a four-part band when it’s just Blur frontman Damon Albarn and a synthesizer, for the most part. Of course, things get more complicated and noisier when he pulls in guests from all over — as on Humanz, released just over a month ago — and Albarn’s soft, drowsy voice often takes the backseat. “Busted and Blue” was as close as listeners got to hearing Albarn (or 2-D, as he appears in the Gorillaz universe) solo, and even then, he was still outshone by Kelela, who might do dream pop better than anybody.

In an interview with Zane Lowe ahead of Humanz’s release, Albarn said he had 40 or 45 songs that didn’t make the album, and added that he had plans to go through and finish them, one by one. On Thursday we got the first of those songs left on the cutting room floor, “Sleeping Powder,” on which Albarn appears solo as a digitized 2-D in a camp shirt and high-waisted slacks, tripping balls*.

*Playing a piano with MAD magazines where sheet music should be, all of which shortly thereafter disappears. Time and reality seem to bend in ways they weren’t meant to after that.

MOST IMPORTANTLY, 2-D BROUGHT OUT THE HARPSICHORD, BECAUSE SOMEBODY HAD TO.

Make of the heel-dragging dance record what you will, but I’ve already convinced myself that it’s good. It begins with one of those after-school special, antidrug PSAs and explodes into increasingly buzzy and blippy production, recalling Benicio Del Toro and Johnny Depp popping a bunch of mescaline and driving to Vegas in Fear and Loathing to see Debbie Reynolds onstage. Except instead of a motorcycle race, there’s a three-ring circus. And stuffed teddy bears, for some reason.

There 2-D goes, one of Albarn’s own creations — too weird to live, too rare to die, too special to be crowded out, and completely off his face.