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Danger Mouse and Daniele Luppi – Rome

"Rome"

Danger Mouse and Daniele Luppi – Rome
17 May 2011, 10:59 Written by Matthew Horton
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As pet projects go, Danger Mouse‘s Rome is bloody-minded enough in its execution but never feels indulgent. Conceived with Italian composer Daniele Luppi as far back as 2004, it has been made with method in mind – that’s method in the Lee Strasberg sense – with players pulled from the recesses of soundtrack history to recreate their work on classics like The Good, The Bad And The Ugly, breathing new life into old forms and coming up with something that sounds dusty in the best Brian Burton tradition yet sleek, modern and cinematic with it. Rome might not have been conceived as the soundtrack to an imaginary movie, but you just try and stop one playing in your head.

Burton and Luppi worked separately at first, before convening in Rome in 2006 and pooling contacts books to tempt spaghetti western musicians and Ennio Morricone-collaborator Alessandro Alessandroni’s choir to join them in the studio – that was Rome’s Forum studio, a former haunt of Morricone, somewhat inevitably, who obviously looms large throughout. The headline singers came later; an earlier imperative was the gathering of vintage equipment to bring appropriate cobwebbed grandeur to the luscious songs. But when the singers swanned in – Jack White to Nashville, Norah Jones to Burton’s own LA studio – they were head-turners all right.

Spidery Jack’s natural charisma turns up for inspection as usual, but cool smoky Norah has real sizzle here. She’s seductive over the slow, funky swing of ‘Season’s Trees’, distant on the sour ‘Black’ and pure femme fatale over the creepy organs of ‘Problem Queen’. Sure, Rome‘s tasteful orchestration isn’t a million miles from Jones’s customary IKEA jazz, but there’s a touch of sleaze that makes her participation that little bit more intriguing. White, of course, is no stranger to the scuzzier side of the tracks, and just as comfortable with a splash of cloak-twirling mystery. His witchy rasp fits ‘Rose With A Broken Neck”s wah-wah strums and cowboy chorals perfectly and sees out the album with the ghostly desert blues of ‘The World’; on ‘Two Against One’ he’s resigned – “I get the feeling that it’s two against one already fighting me/So what’s another one?” – but clearly up for a scrap over the rolling, snake-hipped guitar.

While Jones and White play polar opposites, Burton and Luppi find John Barry swagger in the arrangement of ‘Roman Blue’, slapping finger-clicking guitar over waltzy strings, and welcome the spirit of Serge Gainsbourg into ‘Her Hollow Ways” serene swing and the thickly ambient ‘Morning Fog’. They paint a romantic old world of passion and betrayal with swirling Wurlitzers, stagey operatics and the twanging guitars and devilish strings of the western. No one’s reinventing the wagon wheel then, but Rome is snappy, beautifully crafted and, from soup to nuts, hugely enjoyable. All we need now is a new Sergio Leone.

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