The Way to Amarillo: Gorillaz, The Fall.

Something of an audio diary to Albarn's trudge across the stars and stripes of yesteryear, The Fall is far from a fully-formed LP, and it's all the better for it. Aurally akin to the endlessly intriguing, scattily cobbled G Sides of 2001 and recorded exclusively on his iPad, The Fall is Albarn. Albarn is here Gorillaz. And Albarn, again in the realm of the Democrazy-era experimental, a darker realm than those stumbled through on the bedazzling Plastic Beach, is seemingly in a pressure-free environment. Initially issued as a fan club Christmas download (and dare I say it the second best present, or indeed binary file, I unwrapped last December), the household names are all but absent, Bobby Womack sticking around to croon sensually over tumbleweed acoustics on Bobby in Phoenix, but that's that for cameos. Several sounds, however, are rather familiar, from the phone signal crackling of Aspen forest, to the odd iPod clicker scroll and for those in possession of a MicroKorg, the majority of its Retro presets are employed on one track or another, making the scruffy collection a quite personal experience, away from the pristine sheen of many a Gorillaz record. Yes, Albarn intermittently ambles off into avant-garde tedium (insufferable closer Seattle Yodel, self-indulgent The speak it mountains), yet seemingly unwittingly, there's a handful of potential bona fide chart stormers here too, namely the melodramatic, arms-aloft, lighters-out sway of Amarillo and the acoustic despondence of Revolving doors, Albarn layering vocal over vocal over vocal. Hillbilly man however is all too symbiotic, rambling twangs reminiscent of insignificant objects plopping into crystalline ponds swiftly overcome by comparatively abrasive, nondescript synths. Celestial sketch Detroit owes little to the city's pioneering house scene, yet ebbs and flows quite blissfully, whilst the segueing Shytown (diary-like, Albarn informs: "Friday, Chicago") is sultry and all kinds of smooth, whilst the ecclesiastic, "God bless Texas" brouhaha of The Parish of space dust sounds something like The Good, The Bad & The Queen's carnival aesthetic rolling on into fervent Sunday mass. Despite The Fall finally, physically, dropping in the spring, it provides yet another compelling insight into the musical mind of one of our all-time greats.