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CD: Major Lazer - Free The Universe | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Major Lazer - Free The Universe

CD: Major Lazer - Free The Universe

Diplo's electro-reggae mavericks make a loud and welcome return

Major Lazer, touting large guns and little subtlety

When Major Lazer first appeared half a decade ago they were two on-the-rise DJ-producers, Diplo and Switch, touting a novel mash-up of electro and Jamaican rhythms. Like Damon Albarn’s Gorillaz before them, they hid behind a jokey conceptual conceit – the character of Major Lazer, a zombie-killing cartoon hero. Since then the duo has split and Diplo has taken the reins alongside new accomplices Jillionaire and Walshy Fire, both from West Indian-US sound systems. Aspects of their sound have been influential to the American electronic pop crossover, notably with “Pon De Floor” becoming the basis for Beyoncé’s “Run The World (Girls)” and production work with Snoop Dogg, Rita Ora and No Doubt.

They return, then, with an album armed to the teeth with guest appearances appropriate to their new-found status. It’s not a watering down of their debut, however, so much as an amping up, both in terms of pop sensibility and cranked up rave noisiness. The opening “You’re No Good” sets the pace perfectly, featuring Philadelphian electro-pop punker Santigold, filthy-mouthed Jamaican dancehall MC Vybes Kartel, Danielle Haim of indie-folk golden girls Haim and Yasmin, an associate of British pop-rapper Devlin. It rampages along on battering drums, a pop chorus and much mic chat - and it works. From there, the music proves mostly unstoppable, usually riding ear-bleed tribal-martial percussion, speaker-destroying synth stabs, ragga attitude and, especially on the tracks “Wind Up” (featuring Peaches) and “Bubble Butt” (featuring Bruno Mars), a potty-mouth to bedroom action.

Elsewhere we find Ms Dynamite, Shaggy, Elephant Man, Flux Pavilion and the singers from Dirty Projectors and Vampire Weekend, with only Wyclef Jean letting the side down on the cheesetastic “Reach for the Stars”. There are changes of pace such as the faintly Bjork-like “Get Free” and the Beyoncé-ish belter “Keep Cool” but, in truth, most of the album consists of caustic, compressed beats and effects, non-stop. Yet it’s invigorating, a blast, full of sweat and ballistic nightlife buzz, an album that’s far from subtle but doesn’t know how to stay still. Catch them live too – they’re astounding fun.

Watch the video for "Get Free"

The music proves mostly unstoppable, riding ear-bleed tribal-martial percussion, speaker-destroying synth stabs and ragga attitude

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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