Tuesday, March 29, 2011

My Life in the Bush of Ghosts (1981)

All fans of Eno and of Talking Heads under his sway were pretty sure even then that this was well ahead of its time. But such things are so hard to know for sure. In many ways it seemed too good to be true—this powerhouse concatenation of beats, noise, shards and fragments of world music, and found sound taken most often right off of the kind of lunatic evangelical Christian and/or political talk radio that seems to broadcast most wide and virulent late at night, heard under the cover of stars in cars moving fast on freeways in strange parts of the country. "America is waiting for a message of some sort or another," is how it starts, with a booming, clanking, wheeting groove that lumbers it into irresistible existence. Though I had my doubts at the time about Remain in Light (since dispelled), I had been and am still particularly enamored of Fear of Music, and this seemed to me an even further distillation of that. Brian Eno and David Byrne here demonstrate conclusively their affinities for a fascinating and very pure level of collaboration. As credited, this is not an Eno album, nor a Talking Heads or Byrne album, but something fresh and different, equidistant between their sensibilities. Both seem to me drawn about equally to a broad palette of world music, but I suspect it was Byrne in charge of getting the grooves to work right and Eno for continually exploding and pushing boundaries as wide as possible. According to Wikipedia, "Q" magazine asked Eno, 20 years after the release of this album, if he thought he and Byrne were responsible for the invention of sampling. Eno demurred, pointing to figures such as Holger Czukay, but the fact that the question could even be asked only gives some indication of the kind of impact it had on people. As for me, I thought the first side of the vinyl album was a mad swirling wonder, a perfectly sequenced and balanced set that occupied my days obsessively for a good long while. But I did think it lost its way some on the flip and gradually came to focus almost exclusively only on that first solid 20-minute blast. The 25th anniversary edition, which adds on several more tracks, including two made available under a Creative Commons license for use in anyone's remixes who wants them, adds a few interesting chapters to the story and is probably the version to have now.

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