Single Reviews – Gorillaz – Saturnz Barz, Ascension, We Got the Power and Andromeda

After a long 6-year break, Gorillaz co-creator Damon Albarn promised a new direction in terms of the virtual band’s style. The four new tracks that dropped hours after the announcement of Humanz definitely seem to indicate this, with simmering hip-hop and hints of house.

Gorillaz have a knack for fusing genres together, and Saturnz Barz is a true symbol of this great gift. It’s dark and grungy, whilst still incorporating a flamboyance through the bouncing reggae-rap vocals Popcaan provides, driven by a sizzling bass and otherworldly synths. The track has an interesting hip-hop edge, with a bit of robotic eighties/nineties-ness bubbling up towards the end; this intermingling ties perfectly into the mysterious ambience Gorillaz feed upon.

Andromeda is the closest to house these four newbies get, with its effervescent intergalactic warps and echoic vocals. The track immediately draws listeners in with funky percussion and swimming synths, and with its infectious chorus, it’ll be one to have stuck in your head for days. The soft voice of D.R.A.M blended with Albarn’s own compliments the mechanical feel of the track, giving the song a tinge of something quite unique and quite brilliant.

Vince Staples gives his vocals to Ascension, the track with the most vitality. Staples’ manic rap sprints alongside throbbing beats, with a catchy chorus and bursts of unpredictability interwoven throughout. Despite having so much energy, I think this is the weakest track – it doesn’t have a whole lot of substance and is extremely repetitive. Gorillaz’s incredible power to captivate seems to be lost on this one.

We Got The Power completely conflicts the messages Hallelujah Money puts across – the anti-Trump protest track released the night before his inauguration – in its unifying lyrics and spirited splendour. The muted tones of Damon Albarn beautifully contrast the animated joy Jehnny Beth delivers. It brilliantly allegorises the coming-together of all sorts of people, carried by bold, toe-tapping beats.

The album title of Humanz has been chosen well; the theme of being human snakes evidently through these new releases, giving several perspectives in each offering. Even when inundated with electronica, the very raw ‘human’ element brings these tracks right back down to earth – a huge, huge asset and something the diverse temperament of Gorillaz could only really yield.

Eleanor Chivers