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Design By Humans
Published On: Thu, Jun 30th, 2016

Songs from wonder.land (Original Cast Recording)

wonderlandSongs from wonder.land (Original Cast Recording)
Damon Albarn
(Parlophone Records)

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Confession: I am not normally a big fan of musicals, but I’ve been enraptured with Damon Albarn’s creative output since his days in Blur. The past year has seen the debut of the play wonder.land, which reimagines Alice in Wonderland as an online RPG. Albarn composed the music for the play, while the lyrics were all composed by playwright Moira Buffini.

Songs from wonder.land is intriguing because it doesn’t contain every song from the musical, and the tracklist doesn’t mimic the running order either. This makes the soundtrack its own entity. Occasionally this can be limiting if you aren’t familiar with the story of the play, but for the most part, this album stands on its own as a fascinating glimpse into a teenage girl seeking an escape from her family drama.

“Entre Act” is reminiscent of the brief instrumental tracks that pop up in Blur’s early work, particularly “Intermission” and “Lot 105.” This contrasts well with the frenetic “wonder.land,” which has a rock edge that offsets main character Aly’s desire to be anyone but herself under her circumstances. A few songs later, “Secrets” spells out her angst: the fact that she’s revealed her father’s gambling problem to her mother, creating a rift between her parents. The poppy, gentle “Everyone Loves Charlie” expands upon her jealousy of her baby brother.

Of course, the characters of the wonder.land RPG feature on the record as well. In “Fabulous,” the Cheshire Cat compels Aly to lose herself to an online world, and the synth line of “Alice Saw” links back to this song later on to grand effect. “Avatars Holding Page” is an amusing view into players trying to figure out the game. It would have been nice to have more narrative to follow the play, but as it stands, Songs from wonder.land is a satisfying consolation piece for anyone who couldn’t make it to London or Paris to see the play itself.

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Songs from wonder.land (Original Cast Recording)