Demon Days (Parlophone) ****
THE line dividing the music of Blur and singer Damon Albarn's animated experimentation as Gorillaz is now so thin that Demon Days could pass for the follow-up to Blur's almost as dubby, dancey and downright groovy Think Tank.
The only dramatic difference is all the rapping - here Roots Manuva, De La Soul, MF Doom and Bootie Brown all add their vibrant rhyming to an exotic mix.
There's also a children's choir on the spooky Dirty Harry plus some serious star power with Ike Turner and Dennis Hopper, who pops up for a funky spoken word appearance on Fire Coming Out of the Monkey's Head.
Yet for an album that relies on its guests, there is a surprising coherence of sound.
The slinky bassline of current single Feel Good Inc stands out, but other tracks such as Dare (featuring Shaun Ryder) and All Alone find their own place in the affections.
In fact, the cartoon visual concept is all but irrelevant next to the fascinating sounds.
CDS OF THE WEEK
Four Tet ***
AFTER a year of hectic touring, Four Tet, aka Kieran Hebden, has taken his experimental electronica to a wide European audience.
As with his past three albums, most of the music on his fourth is minimalist, each track revolving around a single, repeated fragment of melody. Sophisticated rhythms and an extraordinary array of sounds - from vibraphones to samples of Hong Kong traffic lights - mean that there's no chance of things getting boring.
With a new-found love of drum machines, Hebden has injected much of the music with the rhythmic elements of rap and dance music; the splendid Smile Around the Face is one of the more hip-hop flavoured of these 10 instrumental tracks.
Clouding, with its hypnotic, tribal chimes, is another obvious highlight.
In general, though, while this is a bold and stimulating album, its seemingly limitless complexity makes it very much an acquired taste.
The Coral ***
The Invisible Invasion (Deltasonic/SonyBMG)
FEW regional stereotypes become wearisome quite so quickly as the overly musical Scouser. The Coral, who at seven strong are at least two members overweight, have their heads full of Brian Wilson B-sides, but seem to have forgotten about quality control. Hence an unwarranted four albums in three years.
The Invisible Invasion is produced by Portishead's Geoff Barrow and Adrian Uttley. The combination of mystical skiffle and lugubrious trip-hop is an interesting idea in itself, but it mostly falls flat. Instead of adding the depth of sound The Coral so desperately need, the opportunity for wholesale rejuvenation is missed. Still, it's far from a disaster. The jaunty In the Morning is probably blaring out of a radio near you right now and She Sings the Mourning is almost as uplifting, while Cripples Crown exudes a certain menace and a Portisheadian sheen. …