I've been a Brian Eno fan since the late 1970s, when I heard, around the same time, Music for Airports and the four song albums (Another Green World, etc.) I've grown accustomed to his music taking new directions; hey, I even liked the Nerve Net stuff, which, frankly, wasn't his best period.
I did like the first Eno & Hyde album, but this one seems a bit aimless. The first track sounds like U2 (which is a bit ironic, given that U2 just released a mediocre new album), the second sounds more like backing tracks for something, and the third has a nice Caribbean groove. The fourth track, Lilac, has nice rhythms, and when the voices come in turns out to be a really nice song. Moulded Life is a bit of a muddle; it's really noisy, and not very musical. The final track, Cells & Bells, brings back a more mellow Eno with processed vocals, recalling some of the songs on Another Day on Earth.
Altogether, this sounds more like a collection of outtakes (which it probably is) than a coherent album. Some good songs, some that can be forgotten, but still Eno.
on 4 July 2014
It would be unfair of me to compare this Eno-Hyde record to the previous one. Also a bit silly, since I haven't heard the previous one yet. If I was comparing the artwork, I'd say the former has a better cover. This one looks like a David Byrne LP to me.
Anyway, on to the music:
1. 'return' - a beautiful composition. Another reviewer here mentions the forward momentum of Steve Reich here, and this is an example of it. Based around two chords played brightly and metallically on guitar, with other elements joining in, until they form a warm, sunny, opiated elevation. 9 minutes long, and yet it closes all to soon. Genre? I dunno - space shanty?
2. 'DBF' - bewildering (in a good way), somewhere between Miles Davis' 'On The Corner' and Happy Mondays' 'Freaky Dancin' and S Piliso & His Super Seven. Lovely stuff.
3. 'time to waste it' - I can't get into this one.
4. 'lilac' - like the opener, this one builds into something really great. There's a synaesthesic quality to the lyrics, while in that Mbaqanga-esque guitar playing there is something bordering on spiritual/ ecstatic.
5. 'moulded life' - I love this one. It's like film music, it's like Edgard Varèse's 'Amériques'. It's also nothing like Edgard Varèse's 'Amériques'. But it does have a similarly menacing vibe.
6. 'cells & bells' - a brilliantly translucent slice of slow-paced, high-calorie pop. The lyrics are delivered with a gravitas that (paradoxically) brings their comedy to the surface, The voice is a little too low in the mix for my liking and is more reverbed than it needs to be. I'd like to see this song reworked maybe 6 times over the course of an album, Raymond Queneau stylee!
All in all, a tenner well spent. Sorry Amazon, but Mr. Fopp (or at any rate the 'restructuring expert' who runs his shop) was selling it cheaper.
on 26 July 2014
The first track is a boring non-entity of a dirge. Murmured vocals - droning uninteresting music. After this things are a bit better.
Track 2 is reminiscent of Eno-Talking Heads and My Life in the Bush of Ghosts - choppy layered rhythmic guitars - quite african ... and stops before it outstays it's welcome thankfully.
Track 3 is genius stuff - very 'My Life in the Bush of Ghosts' again (but in a more ambient way) - great vibe, groove and interesting vocals with waves of unfolding electronics/guitar textures.
Each track on this album has a simple harmonic/melodic basis and it is down to the groove and production to make these essentially minimalist production pieces into something satisfying.
Eno has been making the strange-mood-music equivalent to David Lynch before any of us had heard of David Lynch... at its best this atmosphere is what this music achieves.
Sometimes the pieces work in such a way that the production allows the repetitive energy to subtly build without any significant variations in composition. Every element, every layer, has some slow sense of metamorphosis and overall this has a compelling effect.
Track 4, Lilac, has a 12/8 polyrhythmic thing going on which sustains interest despite the slightly pedestrian harmonic scheme. That said there is a gospelly quality to the melody and harmonies here and the way the track slowly builds has a rather invigorating effect - listen loud. The vocal is great - I prefer Eno's vocals to Hyde's. There is a lovely video for this on YouTube that is worth checking out.
Track 5, is very Aphex Twin actually ... Quite a pure experiment. A good groove and lots of loud messy electronic clicks and squiggles. Something in the low end of the mix doesn't quite allow it to achieve the excitement and effectiveness that it could - the bass is a bit messy basically. Ultimately the track goes nowhere.
Track 6 (how do finish an album that feels like a collection of ragbag leftovers? On a high or an atmospheric low) - the latter .... This starts off as Eno ambient installation music and then introduces a simple series of chords - comes to nothing really...
A little unsatisfying over all.
Hot on the heels of April's “Someday World”, Karl Hyde of Underworld, and Brian Eno, follow up with their next album, and “High Life” is more, and less, of the same – built on the same ethos, this time, taking the same blueprint, the same ingredients, and building something else, something new and different, rolling and falling instrumental pieces that are somewhat formless moodpieces. If you're looking for something melodic, something memorable, well armageddonit? Furgeddaboutit!
Bearing a resemblance to Underworld's more esoteric material – think the live jams, the instrumental guitar led doodles such as “Skym”, this also takes a cue from Eno's instrumental albums, where sound is a tool, where lyrics are absent, and where the endless possibilities of the instruments are a means to itself. To be honest, the indeterminely repetitive “DBF” - which sees a small riff and keyboard line repeated ad nauseum to end with a crescendo of abstract sound, is boring. And the rest of the album, whilst good, is as engaging ; with scant melody and less lyrics, with tedious repetition and little progression. “Moulded Life” is simply rubbish. Sure, it's pretty good – but it's an abstract experiment, a bonus disc of music lacking form and structure, not an album – and where it does occasionally soar - “Lilac” and “Cells And Bells” - is too little, too late. Good is not good enough for the potential here.
on 1 February 2015
Great piece of music . Play it a lot and sounds great on a 5.1 set up.
on 30 June 2014
There is no stiff agenda in the ongoing collaboration between Brian Eno and Karl Hyde. The only routine may be to break the rules of decent, nostalgia-driven recyclings. Finding deep pleasure in free improvisations with the help of some inventive spirits as well as pre-recorded programming & samples. At their hands collective ideas materialize into promising shapes.
But, well, patience is the mother of thrill-seeking! There might have been false beginnings, wrong endings, the whole baggage of losing something, missing something, and getting lost in the "free improv"-approach. You just have to be ready not to miss the rare tickets for the unholy grail, and then you'll fire on all cylinders, - a piece of crap turns into a shining tune, every wrong footstep can land on fruitful ground.
Nothing comes out of nowhere, because there is no nowhere in the vast spaces of the unconscious. Every "nowhere" in the creative process is a buried treasure, a stand-by modus of the dreaming mind. Of course these guys have their tastes and preferences and desert island grooves spinning around: they love the call-and-response patterns of Fela Kuti, the merciless repetitions and "forward momentum" of Steve Reich's classic works, or the funky expressionism of Talking Heads in their salad days.
At the same time nothing is more boring than play homage with undoubtably good taste, decent tunes, perfect timing and a self-conscious "those were the days"-state of mind. What you get on "High Life" is a fabulous collection of six oblique, diverse and coherent tracks, producing simultaneously disorientation and deja vu. Strange lyrics are part of the game, too: "The door between us is Lilac / and made of something like light / but not" ("Lilac"). The listener who is ready to enjoy this music at his or her own risk will be lost in distant echoes resembling certain stylistic spheres that receive a continuous deconstruction of the extraordinary kind.
How can a record that contains hard-strumming guitar parts, liquid half-buried-in-the-mix-vocals, gospel-tinged pseudo-disco-vibes, catchy slow motion melodies on the verge of "last breath-syndrome", short prog-rock shots (from a deserted area of the court of the Crimson King), be such a rewarding and deep listening experience (rather than being a quite nice visit to a curiousity shop)? A short answer? "There's simplicity in it", Eno sings on the last track, a vintage "ambient song". Yes, simplicity. And intricacies, too, but hard to tell the difference. Don't trust first impressions. Listen sideways.
The tracks are longer, there are fewer of them and the vocals are further back in the mix: "High Life" is a more challenging listen than "Someday World", but there are moments of musical and technical excellence that make this record worthy of your attention.
The majestic 9 minute opener "Return" is for me the album's best song, highlighting the talents of Eno as a record producer - reminiscent, perhaps, of his work with U2 on "The Unforgettable Fire". The next track is the "single", "DBF" - this one's a real grower: initially a bit of a racket but the playing and production are tight. The next two songs, "Time to Waste" and "Lilac" are good, but unlike the first two not really a match for anything on "Someday World". I have to say that I just don't get "Moulded Life" - it sounds like it uses too many pre-sets, like a failed attempt at copying Oneohtrix Point Never's R Plus Seven. However the CD closes on a high-point with the manic folk-tinged ambience of "Cells & Bells" - and, at 6 tracks, that's it for the CD. The download version contains a bonus track called "Slow Down, Sit Down and Breathe" which cannier record buyers will have noticed you can get for free (as a download) if you buy the CD of "High Life" direct from the record label (sorry Amazon). There's also a vinyl version with a further second bonus track coming out on 25 August 2014, for anyone who wants to wait that long - the delay in releasing the vinyl is apparently due to the longer lead-time for vinyl from recording (this album was done in April) to release date, by comparison with CD.
The CD is also an attractive package: in digipack format with some nice black and white pictures of the guys in the studio inside the booklet - nice Adidas tracksuit top Karl!
Overall, not bad at all (buy it for "Return"), but for most I would have thought that Someday World is still the one to get hold of first.
on 1 July 2014
On the heels of Someday World, comes High Life, what Brian Eno described as further material inspired during the former's work sessions. Of the 2 new releases, this one is superior. Not that Someday World was anything less than 5 stars itself, the material on this album goes beyond "just another Brian Eno release" with its longer pieces, giving time to develop into some pretty rousing musical moments. Additionally, this album features Karl Hyde's contributions to greater advantage with some excellent ascending guitar work not as obvious on Someday World.
Another plus is that unlike Someday World, there is no deluxe edition where the cost is twice as high for a so-called bonus disc. The 1/4 hour bonus disc for that album, in tandem with 3/4 hour regular disc totaled to less than an hour. I consider it a plus not having a deluxe edition this time. Seems like Mr. Eno inflates prices with this "1 album for the price of 2" tactic frequently these days. Consider one his best releases of the past decade, "Small Craft On A Milk Sea" ...a particularly onerous example where one had to spend a 3-digit figure for the 4 bonus track CD only available if you purchased the vinyl edition! What if I don't have a turntable? Why must I buy records to get a bonus compact disc? Furthermore (and as is always the case), the Japanese version of High Life has a bonus track not featured anywhere else. This track has not been added at the end as a simple outtake, but rather is track 6 of 7, indicating it probably is an integral part of the whole. I wonder why Japanese listeners always get a longer and better album than do western fans.
Being an Eno completist is usually a very expensive affair as bonus tracks (outtakes) cost considerably more. All that said, I wouldn't be surprised if there will be an EP forthcoming for High Life which will have the usual 1/4 hour of music that should have appeared on this 43 minute release. If that happens, I will lower my 5 star rating as I grow weary of this scheme to overcharge fans as much as possible on a regular basis.
on 30 June 2014
Firstly, I greatly prefer this over the previous Eno-Hyde collaborative album 'Someday World'.
The main problem (and also its saving grace) with this album is that nearly every single track ends better than it starts. I suppose that is kind of a good thing in that it shows development and progress through the song, and also means by the time the end comes you want the track to just keep going and expanding further, which obviously can't happen. Instead, after the build up and crescendo you enter again into a ponderous intro, the tepid first half of the next track, until things begin to boil up into the emotional climaxes. 'Lilac' being the most exemplary of this with the first 5 minutes plodding along with quite uninspired vocals (I don't particularly like Hyde's vocal delivery at the best of times and Eno tends to make the best of what he's got), then suddenly the guitar lines build up on top each other, the synth melodies bubble up and surface, the vocals rising in unison providing the finality the track warrants. This could just as easily describe the other stand out tracks 'Return' and 'Time to Waste It'. 'DBF' is an interesting track that sounds incredibly similar to something I've heard before (possibly a Captain Beefheart track or something from Miles Davis mid-70's output but I can't quite recollect exactly).The last track 'Cells & Bells' doesn't follow this pattern and merely meanders throughout in the more usual modern day Eno way, and 'Moulded Life' simply doesn't pique my interest at all, sounding like Wilko Johnson playing over an old NIN track.
So if you've just listened to the 30 second samples and aren't feeling it, try listening to the whole tracks as they really do improve across their duration. Overall, though, it's decent enough but both artists have done much better work in the past, and this isn't going to pull up any trees. Maybe I'm being hyper-critical based purely on each artist's (mainly 70s/80s Eno) previous work, but there doesn't seem any cohesion to the album, no underlying theme or concept tying the tracks together, it just seems a set of tracks that have come about after spending enough time in the studio together bouncing ideas around without any clear goal in mind. This was probably to be expected from a release so soon after 'Someday World' but I thought maybe they'd used up all the middle-of-the-road songs on the first LP and would put out something more esoteric or forward-thinking, which it fulfils but to a much lesser extent than I would have liked.
Also, I'm far more of an Eno fan than a Hyde fan, so I'd be interested to know if any big Hyde/Underworld nuts get more out of these collaborations than I do.
Oh, and the artwork is quite nice too.
on 19 February 2015
Not my favorite Eno. But so what? He's been a whole (high) life companion so everyone has the right to his weaker moments, like Dr. jeckill himself