A beautifully crafted project and concept album, Lux Prima is the brainchild of indie rock band Yeah Yeah Yeahs front woman Karen O and music producer Brian Burton aka Danger Mouse. With each piece identified by a different icon, the nine track song cycle on the theme of darkness and light, love and womanhood was conceived in the studio and produced exclusively as a listening experience rather than for stage performance. Superbly broadening the range of Karen O and Danger Mouse’s many versatile and creative projects, Lux Prima was released on the BMG label on 15 March 2019 last.
Articulated around Karen O’s powerful and always impeccable voice throughout, Lux Prima is a lush orchestral production featuring string and horn sections, a choir and omnipresent bass lines which all summon the expansive orchestral soul-pop of the 1960s, downtempo bass-driven trip-hop or the music of electronic French duo Air.
Translating as “First Light” and exposing the main theme of the album, Lux Prima opens with the grandiose nine minute eponymous song in four parts. “Nox Lumina” (Night Lights) recalls the opening theme and concludes the album, thus closing the cycle.
All the string sections on the record were arranged by Italian composer and arranger Daniele Luppi with whom Danger Mouse collaborated previously on his seminal 2006 Gnarls Barkley album St Elsewhere and more recently on the 2011 release Rome. The concept album paid homage to the vintage sound of spaghetti western soundtracks by reuniting most of the original players who recorded “Once Upon a Time in the West” or “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” in Ennio Morricone’s Forum Music Village recording studios in Rome. In turn, Karen O also collaborated with Daniele Luppi on his 2017 concept album Milano.
Apart from the anthemic “Woman” which was captured in a single take as a live performance directed by film maker Spize Jonze for The Late Show with Stephen Colbert in March 2019, the entire album was conceived as an immersive and communal listening experience as opposed to a collection of songs meant to be performed by a band on stage.
An Encounter with Lux Prima premiered as a multisensory art installation at the (now closed) Los Angeles’ Marciano Art Foundation. The show was performed over 16 sessions for a total audience of 3,500 between 18 and 21 April 2019 last. Involving sound, lighting and projection mapping designers, the installation was fashioned around a huge monolith used as a backdrop for visuals. A custom-built 360◦ sound system playing a mix of the Lux Prima songs provided the soundtrack to each show.