By Isla Patrick
Local News Editor
Damon Albarn released his second studio album, “The Nearer the Fountain, More Pure the Stream Flows,” on Nov. 12, further developing his solo reputation separate from his other musical projects. The Blur frontman and Gorillaz co-founder created the album after finding inspiration in the scenery of his homes in Reykjavik, Iceland and Devon, England.
“The Nearer the Fountain, More Pure the Stream Flows” was originally only a working title for Albarn’s project, but stuck throughout the recording process. When asked about the album’s name in an interview with Apple Music, Albarn stated he got his inspiration from “the poem [John Clare’s ‘Love and Memory’].” Clare’s poem states “the nearer the fountain, more pure the stream flows” in its third stanza. Albarn described the poem as a “dark journey,” claiming, “You can’t just wipe out the memory of somebody. It’s a very emotional negotiation you go on when someone’s left your life.” The tracklist centers around feelings of loss and emotional fragility, subtly resurrecting themes from Blur’s moody 1999 album, entitled 13.
Albarn invited a group of orchestral musicians to his Reykjavik home in late 2019 to create a musical representation of the view through his living room window. The orchestra recorded three sessions before COVID-19 lockdowns began and Albarn returned to Devon, but he felt compelled to take the recordings further. He said, “It’s like a potion — I kept taking the cork top off to sip for a minute, maybe just smell it. At one point, I was like, ‘I’m just going to drink this now.’ So I made ‘The Nearer the Fountain, More Pure the Stream Flows.’”
By layering his vocals over the orchestra, Albarn produced 11 tracks contrasting the landscapes of Iceland and England. The album’s second song, “The Cormorant,” represents Albarn’s fear of the bay outside his house in Devon. “I sort of conquered that fear at the beginning of lockdown and started to do it as a daily meditation.” He returned to his connection with the bay in track eight, “The Tower of Montevideo,” imagining himself swimming “past the buoy to the uncharted cruise ship, and [meeting] fellow musicians, or stowaways, or refugees, emotional refugees, and [forming] a band and playing these songs to nobody.” In track three, “Royal Morning Blue,” he describes the process of the rough Devon waters freezing into Icelandic snow: “Suddenly everything goes in slow motion and beautiful geometric patterns start to appear and the world feels reborn in a way… It’s such an ephemeral thing… It’s the same water, but transformed for a moment.”
The album expresses more eccentric ideas in track six, “Darkness to Light.” Inspired by the Arctic Circle’s late dawn, Albarn wrote the song about “the time between dusk and night, and night and dawn, the favored time of the day to commit to magical practice,” saying, “that’s where all the good spells are cast.” Meanwhile, understanding the complexities of “Giraffe Trumpet Sea” and “Particles” may be exclusive to Albarn alone. Despite this, “The Nearer the Fountain, More Pure the Stream Flows” is a revolutionary experience that can only be understood by listening to it, so be sure to add it to your library.
(Source: Apple Music)