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Drums Between The Bells
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Brian Eno a travaillé pour la première fois avec Rick Holland à la fin des années 90, à l'occasion du projet Map-Making ; une série de collaborations entre des étudiants des Royal College, Guildhall School of Music, Royal Academy of Music, Royal College of Music, National Youth Orchestra et English National Ballet, entre autres. En 2003, Brian et Rick commencent à faire de la musique ensemble. Le résultat n'apparait pas sur cet album. Depuis la session initiale, ils se sont rencontrés au cours de rares séances pour travailler sur de nouvelles compositions. Début 2011, après la sortie de Small Craft on a Milk Sea (le premier album de Brian pour Warp Records), la paire s'est enfin décidée à achever son projet. Drums Between The Bells en est le brillant résultat.
Á peine un an après un album instrumental (Small Craft On A Milk Sea) où celui qui, de son propre aveu, se concentre à composer une musique pas encore écrite offrait de majestueuses compositions rappelant...ses meilleures productions – de Music for Airports à Discreet Music – Brian Eno s’associe (après une première collaboration en 2003) avec le poète Rick Holland, pour un opus où prédomine la voix, monocorde, filtrée, ou séquencée, mais la plupart du temps sur un mode de spoken-word.
Celui dont paillettes et bidouillages électroniques subjuguèrent les fans de Roxy Music a toujours apprécié de s’entourer de créateurs originaux, de David Byrne à Bowie. Mais le challenge d’opérer la synthèse entre vers et sonorités d’ambient s’avère d’une autre envergure, d’autant que l’homme du Suffolk n’a fait appel qu’à des voix anonymes (amis, copines de salle de gym), voire à des non anglophones, ce qui offre à certaines pièces le chant inédit d’accentuations décalées.
Dans ce patchwork sonique, on relèvera les indices probants de ce qui fait depuis des décennies la couleur musicale d’Eno, de l’empilage de synthétiseurs à quelques guitares impressionnistes, en passant par des percussions allusives alimentant d’aussi riches que discrètes polyrythmies, et autre réverbération ténue. Quant aux différents intervenants, leurs performances vocales sont utilisées à l’instar d’une pâte sonore supplémentaire, les mots devenant percussifs, les textes générateurs de mélodies, à l’exception des deux thèmes conclusifs, véritables chansons totalement prises en charge par le patron, et de par le fait musiques les plus évidentes de l’opus.
Entre aléatoire et élitisme revendiqués, Brian Eno s’interroge ici sur la place que doit occuper aujourd’hui la poésie. Et, comme à l’habitude chez lui, il se garde bien de répondre à la question. Et il s’empresse de prendre la tangente vis-à-vis des pensées dominantes et réductrices, délivrant un étrange jazz tiers-mondiste, ou des harmonies spatiales, qui le situent définitivement ailleurs.
Á noter que, sous iconographie du maître en personne, Drums Between The Bells bénéficie d’une édition en double vinyle, et d’une production limitée, incluant un fort livre d’illustrations et un deuxième volume, celui-là uniquement instrumental.
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Album choral d'abord puisque 9 voix s'y partagent les récitatifs dont celles initiateurs du projet, album classique ensuite où Eno y creuse de nouveau le sillon d'un ambient mélodique, cotonneux et impressionniste, Drums Between the Bells sait parfois se faire plus percussif évitant ainsi toute lassitude chez l'auditeur. Evidemment, Eno étant passé maître dans l'art d'arranger les climats, ceux du présent album sont globalement très réussis. On est plus surpris de le voir contrôler les passages plus orageux avec tout le talent que, certes, on lui connaissait mais pas exactement dans le « Boum-boum-arty » auquel il s'adonne ponctuellement ici.
En 2011, Drums Between the Bells enfonce le clou du très réussi Small Craft on a Milk Sea et rappelle aux plus jeunes qu'Eno est beaucoup plus que le producteur de formations multiplatinées telles que Coldplay ou U2, un musicien et compositeur hors-pair dont chaque album mérite qu'on s'y penche.
1. Bless This Space 3:46
2. Glitch 2:57
3. Dreambirds 2:24
4. Pour It Out 3:37
5. Seedpods 2:49
6. The Real 6:54
7. The Airmen 3:12
8. Fierce Aisles Of Light 2:37
9. As If Your Eyes Were Partly Closed AsIif You Honed
The Swirl Within Them And Offered Me The World 1:37
10. A Title 3:50
11. Sounds of Alien 2:53
12. Dow 2:41
13. Multimedia 1:56
14. Cloud 4 1:42
15. Silence 0:57
16.Lire la suite ›
"Drums Between The Bells" gagne en richesse à mesure que l'on parcourt les 16 pistes que constituent cet écrin, autant de compositions idéales sur lesquelles se posent à merveille les poèmes de Rick Holland, récités par une dizaines d'artistes dont Eno lui-même. A dire vrai, et au risque de contredire tout ceux qui déjà conspuent l'artiste et sa dernière œuvre, au précédent album d'Eno, je lui préfère ce dernier.
A noter que cette version est accompagnée d'un second disque d'inédits.
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The bonus CD contains the instrumental version of the album, sans the poetry. While the music remains the same, the titles of the tracks are different. This makes sense, as without the words it is a different album. It truly adds to the understanding of the cutting-edge content of the first disc. Additionally, the instrumental disc reveals a sound which harkens back to Eno's early works. While this sound is present on the first disc, it is not as obvious there. There have been other instrumental versions of vocal albums before, but never has the difference been as dramatic as it is here. These discs serve to dramatically demonstrate just how excellent the components are to the whole.
Furthermore, it is accompanied with an excellent, hard-slip-cased, hard-cover book. This is profusely illustrated with Eno art as well as containing all of the lyrics. Truly, it is a substantial product and worth extra money. While the first CD, even without the bonus material is 5-stars on its own, there is much to listen to on this 2-CD set (in a way, the 6-star version) and it is highly recommended over the single CD version.
One complaint: as is always the case with new Eno releases, there is a single CD Japanese edition featuring a bonus track, which, for the extra money for the deluxe edition, should have been included here as well. This Japanese-only track ("In The Future") is not located at the end of the album like an outtake, but is inserted within the rest of the material making it relevant to the whole. It is an excellent track, sung by Brian and Darla Eno, and can't help but wonder why this was excluded from the western editions. The 2 CD deluxe edition in Japan is the same as it is in the west, making this single CD Japanese edition unique.
On November 8, 2011, an EP will be released entitled Panic Of Looking, featuring 6 tracks from the Eno/Holland sessions. The first track will be the up until now, Japanese-only "In The Future" ...full track listing is as follows:
1. in the future
2. not a story
3. panic of looking
4. if these steps
5. watch a single swallow in a thermal sky, or figure why it flies
6. west bay
1 - PRIMORDIAL SLUDGE
From early on, Brian Eno has been quite sceptical about words, their meanings, their ability to distract our attention from sound. So, although having written outstanding, at times surreal lyrics for his brilliant four song albums in the seventies ("Here Come The Warm Jets", "Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy)", "Another Green World" (this perfect mélange of songs and purely atmospheric pieces) and "Before and After Science"), he had never added the lyrics.
Now, on this album, the poems are printed. An interesting problem for the master of Ambient Music: poems consist of a highly condensed language, everything within a poem requires careful attention, every syllable, every space between lines, every picture, every breath words take. Eno's trick: everything becomes sound; the listener decides for himself where to move, foreground, background, wordwise, soundwise. The music offers a broad spectrum: funky passages, trash jazz, exotica a la Eno, post-Kraut-electronics and drifting-spheres, soulful chamber music. Inspired stuff.
In an interview, Rick Holland told me: "Each track was approached as a unique organism, and there were nearly fifty pieces when we first sat down to finish the record. I do offer musical ideas and also extremely vague and over-reaching requests, Can you make this part sound more like primordial sludge Brian?', that kind of thing. Of course his answers tend to be, `Yes, yes I can.'."
2 - INTO THE MURKY WATER
And, yep, he can! Poems and music - a special affair! "Drums Between The Bells" will speak to people who look for vital music they have never heard before, and to those who are curious about a still quite living thing called modern poetry. Remembering the Eno-Byrne masterpiece "My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts" (1980) with the cut-and- sample approach to speaking and singing voices (mad priests, talking heads, singers from the Lebanon etc), the new record leaves "the bush of ghosts" and opens up "a theatre of voices".
Nine voices (most of them women) give life to words, sometimes these voices (including the ones of Brian and Rick) are pure realism, sometimes they are morphed and treated. It's never a gimmick, it always serves the words, their meaning space. Brian calls these tracks "speech songs". Using the language of people who come from other parts of the world, enriches the English words with a surprising, non-professional freshness!
In the brilliant slow motion piece, "the real", a female voice is speaking about our ability to see or see not "the real in things", full of repetitions and small changes. A sophisticated way of mixing hypnotic induction with perception theory: solid earth suddenly feels like murky water. The last lines one can (depending on your state of mind) clearly indentify tell us: "while real runs out and seems to see the real as it runs" - then the voice turns from a soft speaker to a strange species. Seductive. A Buddhist piece for the Western world?
"I am not Buddhist, or a Hindu,", says Rick Holland, "nor have I studied either way exhaustively, but I do see the frontiers of science shifting all the time and making fools of experts, and the fact that people have also long agreed on one simple truth, `the unexamined life is not worth living'. At the ends of our formalized intelligence lives imagination. Ultimately, we are all looking for the same thing and anyone who tells you `no, you are wrong, life is rigidly this way, full stop' is almost certainly selling you something.
3 - THE MADNESSES OF MOOD
What do you think, Brian Eno loves about Rick Holland's poems? I read his little book "Story the Flowers" and found an interesting mix of careful attention to everyday life, philosophy, humour and science. Small towns, big towns, coastal areas are portrayed in a deeply sensual way (I'm happy to leave out the word "spiritual" here). There is always an enigma that won't be solved too soon. Something that hangs in the air. "I thought this was the kind of poetry I wanted to work with. The poems were short and sharp", Eno writes in the foreword of the special edition, "their images were strong and the language memorable enough to reward repeated listening." Meanwhile the music drives, waits, suggests, breathes, swirls, stops, penetrates. And it does a lot more.
"I think we both took some steps away from our comfort zones over these sessions, which is what collaborating relies on, and there was certainly never a sense that he `did' music and I `did' words. Poems and Music were equally likely to change in the process of making, and the making process was an open forum of ideas."
Sometimes the words approach the singing area, but it takes a while till we discover an oldfashioned thing called song: near the end, Eno starts singing, and, you know, so many people - nevertheless how much they love his ambient works - have just waited too long for new songs of Mr. Eno ("Wrong Way Up", 1990, "Just Another Day On Earth", 2005). How many of us died on the way? Now one can take a deep breath, when listening to the brilliance of "cloud 4" - but, what's that: a song that could last forever stops after one minute and fourtythree seconds?! We call this English humour. And remember that old saying: brevity is the essence of wit. But, well, I have to confess: the form of the song is perfect, there's a opening part, a middle section and an uplifting ending: "the madnesses of mood / weatherfronts we know / hem us in / or free us like children /just one day apart /a lifetime in the sky / sun, scan the sky like flight / search for any sign /(things) will be alright."
4 - GRAMOPHONE CIRCLES AND BACKGROUND DUST
And then? Then comes nothing (of course a very Cagean and well placed nothing, 56 seconds of silence) - and after that, a quiet revelation, another fantastic song: Eno delivers "Breath of Crows" with a deepness in his voice you have rarely ever heard. Robert Wyatt will send kisses! Eno sings with a a slowness and intensity that is not so far away from the last Scott Walker albums.
"my god is in the breath of crows / it grows and shrinks with nature's wish / a fire with no link to the wish of man / but it must be absolute, this god, /for when the mind is still it moves. / my god is in the breath of crows / (...) / the sounds of holy night abound / kestrel calls and bells / drink the air /and the race for meaning quells /(let it in) /or the calls will sound like hollow tin /or gramophone circles /and background dust /i must replaced by must / by scent and sense /wonder this."
Rick Holland about this piece of magic: "We were in a new part of his studio, he had moved all of his equipment into what had previously been an office, with large glass skylight windows. The rain was hammering down in heavy drops, the daylight had disappeared behind the clouds, and he had this dark and thrilling sound on the go. In short, the stage was set to try `Breath of Crows', a slow meditation that is both dark and uplifting in my opinion. His choice of singing voice fitted the whole atmosphere, and I pushed him to carry on with this sung approach. As for my perception it is completely bound up in where the poem was written, which was under a Mumbai monsoon, in my small room over there, which was at tree level and meant I lived in close proximity to the city's crow population. It was the culmination of a lot of reading, thinking, working as a teacher at Utpal Shanghvi School, and living closely with these very intelligent animals in a culture that revered and took notice of all living things. The song is perhaps like a non religious hymn".
5 - NO FINAL WORDS
I have no doubt that first reviews will be controversial. Strange beasts (for sure those that come along with poetry) often produce defense mechanisms a la "highbrow" or "very intellectual". Don't expect some final words about the album. Many of you will be surprised, I think, in more than one or two ways! Old school? No, this is cuttin' edge! And Eno never overeggs the pudding: "Drums Between The Bells" is a wild thing! Some might think I'm a bit too enthusiastic about this record, but, no, I'm not!
P.S. The "special edition" offers a second disc with instrumental versions of the music, a foreword, and fine imagery inspired by the music - highly recommended, too! By the way, all the music is performed by Brian Eno. On some pieces Leo Abrahams plays guitar, Seb Rochford does some excellent drum work on the opening track, and the wonderful Nell Catchpole (who already added her magic in the days of WRONG WAY UP) plays violin and viola on several pieces.
Another noteworthy feature is that some of the sounds Eno has chosen are reflective of Rick Hollands words. On Sound Alien, the line "Drums Between the Bells' (used as CD title) is spoken over bell like sounds, and drum sounds. On track 13 "Multimedia", the line "sticks click" is spoken over the sounds of clicking (sticks?). Eno has used his voice to it's best advantage. On "Dow", he almost sounds like Kraftwork, although the polyrhythm he has created is not as electronic sounding as theirs. On "Cloud",He sings in an almost trance like rhythm. By far the best of Eno's vocal performances is "Breath of Crows" He elongates the words , and invokes a mystical quality previously unheard from him. I was reminded of the late Jim Morrison for some reason. Perhaps the mystical invocations were similar. I will probably get the 2 cd version, but this one is adequate for listeners just beginning to enjoy Eno's music. It has enough instrumental diversity to satisfy ambient music fans, and the rockers who love"... Bush of Ghosts" . The cross section of musical styles is reflective of his past work. The Poetry is a new addition, and the words will invoke deeper thoughts in those looking for cerebral stimulation. What's not to like?
As on his previous release "Small Craft on a Milk Sea", the vibe here shifts from meditative and languid to jarring and percussive from one track to the next, so it isn't something you'd put on for bedtime listening as you would "Discreet Music" or "Apollo" for example.
Put aside your preconceptions and Eno nostalgia, and absorb this lovely work on its own merits, and I think you'll find it quite satisfying, at times challenging, but quite unlike anything you expected. Which is a good thing. I think "Small Craft" marked the beginning of a great new era for Eno, and got him out of a rut. It would behoove the listener to get out of the rut as well, and embrace the new along with the artist.