Album cover art for Damon AlbarnOriginally intended as an orchestral piece inspired by Icelandic landscapes, Damon Albarn revisited this work while weathering the pandemic storm from his Reykjavik home: “The beautiful past, left so desolate now/ When youth seemed immortal, so sweet it did weave/ Heaven’s halo around you…”

The album – which borrows its title from John Clare’s poem, Love And Memory – was also created to satisfy Albarn’s lockdown wanderlust; through this collection of songs, he transports listeners to far-flung destinations such as Uruguay’s Palacio Salvo (The Tower Of Montevideo), Iceland (Esja) and his home county of Devon.

To illustrate the “beauty and chaos of the natural world”, instrumentation includes bass trombones, sinuous strings and exotic percussion (e.g., a marimba made from stones found in mountain streams outside of Reykjavik) throughout. Instrumental track Combustion seeps in, insidiously – a siren call – before discordant brass breaches the peace. Then we’re left with that lonesome recurring piano motif: the title track’s wistful chorus melody.

Now an Icelandic citizen, Albarn first visited in the mid-‘90s after seeing the country’s black-sand beaches featured in a TV programme. “I used to have a recurring dream, as a child, of a black-sand beach,” he explained of Iceland’s allure at the time.

Albarn’s captivating, mercurial second solo album incorporates coastal field recordings, waves crashing against the shoreline. Although predominantly pensive in tone, The Nearer The Fountain… is elevated by surprise perky synth presets and sunshiny melodies (see: Royal Morning Blue) – so idiosyncratic; classic Albarn.

The Nearer The Fountain, More Pure The Stream Flows by Damon Albarn is out Nov 11 via Transgressive.

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