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Drums Between The Bells
Poetry is the new ambient.
Olaf Tyaransen, 13 Jul 2011
While his production work for such major acts as Talking Heads, Bowie, U2 and Coldplay is rightly acclaimed, Brian Eno’s lengthy solo career has always been full of enigma. Following on from last year’s Small Craft on a Milk Sea, this collaboration with English poet Rick Holland is Eno’s sophomore album on pioneering electronica label Warp.
Eno first came across Holland’s poetry in the late 90s while working on the Map-Making project (a series of collaborative works between students of the Royal College, the Guildhall School of Music and the English National Ballet, among others), but it wasn’t until 2003 that the pair made their first music together. None of those original recordings feature on Drums Between The Bells. However, they’ve been working infrequently on new compositions ever since, and this album is the result.
Musically it oscillates sketchily between dreamy New Age ambience, post-Kraut electronics, thrash jazz, bass-driven funk and other less definable moments. While both Eno and Holland sonorously sing or recite some of the words, most of the vocals – some natural, some distorted – are delivered by different women, including Grazyna Goworek, Caroline Wildi and Laura Spagnuolo. Here’s a sample from first cut ‘Glitch’: “There is a glitch in the system, outside the brain flow... the only joy there is, is onward search through the darkness.” Replete with processed vocals that have a tendency to mess with your pulse, it’s the kind of thing that drives you quietly crazy or provokes a 3am light-bulb moment.
Confirming Eno’s status as the Beckett of the musical world, one track is called ‘Silence’ – and consists of nearly 60 seconds of just that. In contrast, ‘Bless This Space’ is a fascinating rhythmic exercise in urban sonics with murky futuristic guitar sounds and evocative jazz drumming. Overall, it’s well nigh impossible to definitively categorise a Brian Eno/modern poetry album. Alternately pretentious and profound, declaratory and questioning, how you feel about it depends to a considerable degree on your state of mind while listening.