Ever ready for an apocalypse, Gorillaz returned in January with the episodic series “Song Machine.” Last Saturday morning (Pacific time), they dropped their latest track fresh from the mastering room, the gloriously hopeful electro-synth-pop single “Aries,” which features deep, punchy beats by alt-pop singer-producer Georgia and a signature driving bassline by New Order’s Peter Hook. Along with Damon Albarn (Stuart “2-D” Pot)’s sympathetic melody singing as the song machine, “I’m standing on a beach in the distance / and even though you’re far away / Can you see my red light? / It’s waiting to turn and break / ‘Cause I feel so isolated without you / I can’t play a happy tune on my own / So stay by my side,” it’s today’s “Bizarre Love Triangle” anthem of isolation in quarantine times, encouraging us all to stay close to each other and to music even in times we all must stay physically apart.
When worldwide travel and work began to gradually lock down to a standstill around the globe in March, bassist Murdoc Niccals posted a statement with the band on their social media: “In the coming days and weeks, we will face many challenges. But even though large tracts of mankind grind to a halt in the grip of this formidable foe, we shall not flag or fail. …We shall fight it on our sofas, we shall fight it in our back gardens. … Most of all, we shall defend our health and that of our fellow citizens of Earth, whatever the cost may be. … Until the day we can go outside again with open arms, high five, group hug, fist bump and maybe even French kiss. Until then, we’ve got this, and more importantly the machine remains ON!”
The “Song Machine” series is the first to credit drummer Remi Kabaka Jr. (Russel Hobbs), who took on a more creative and co-producing role since 2011, as an official member of the core group with Albarn and illustrator Jamie Hewlett.
“Song Machine is a whole new way of doing what we do, Gorillaz breaking the mold ‘cos the mold got old,” Hobbs shares. “World is moving faster than a supercharged particle, so we’ve gotta stay ready to drop. We don’t even know who’s stepping through the studio next. Song Machine feeds on the unknown, runs on pure chaos. So whatever the hell’s coming, we’re primed and ready to produce like there’s no tomorrow.”
As in the video for the song (directed by Hewlett with co-director Tim McCourt, producer Eva Dahlqvist, and animators Venla Linna and Setareh Seto), even in isolation the group will caravan forward together, driving ahead and continuing their journey to places yet to be discovered.
||| Watch: “Aries ft. Peter Hook & Georgia (Episode Three)”
||| Also: Watch “Momentary Bliss ft. Slowthai & Slaves (Episode One)” and “Désolé ft. Fatoumata Diawara (Episode Two)”