My Life In the Bush of Ghosts
Brian Eno & David Byrne
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Taking cue from the works of Jon Hassell, with whom Brian Eno previously collaborated, this 1981 partnership between ambient and avant-garde record producer Eno (Talking Heads, U2) and Talking Heads leader David Byrne incorporated Third World rhythms, found sounds (radio broadcasts), ambient sounds (field recordings), electronics and whatever else the duo could find and manipulate with studio effects and tape edits to make what at the time was a novel and adventurous departure from the expected grooves of conventional record-making. That many of these innovations found their way into mainstream recording only make this early and rudimentary effort – look ma, no sampler! just tapes – all the more fascinating. It is, however, a polarizing album, one its adherents love and its dissenters hate. Few fall in between. “The Jezebel Spirit,” with its recording of an ‘exorcism,’ “America is Waiting” and “Very, Very Hungry” are the obvious standouts, layered in currents of sound and held together by brilliant, elliptical rhythms that create an effect both hypnotic and flowing. It is music best absorbed gradually through osmosis. Live with it in the background until it takes over.
Essential album, not worth buying again
It amazes me how many otherwise well-informed people, particularly those keen on fusionist world music and electronica, remain unaware of this groundbreaking 1981 album. Byrne and Eno integrated odd vocal samples (politicians, evangelists, folktale tellers) with polyrhythmic funk and Middle Eastern-derived musical backing to create an eerie, compelling soundscape that was unlike most anything else out there at the time of its release (although musically, it owed a lot to the same influences apparent on Remain in Light and The Catherine Wheel). This stunning album clearly paved the way for studio technophiles like Moby et al years later. Most of the tracks remain awesome to this day, but even in the original release, a handful of weaker ones seemed to indicate that Byrne and Eno had run out of steam during production (The Carrier, A Secret Life, Mountain of Needles). Disappointingly, not included on this re-release is "Qu'ran" from the original, a very intense track that they withdrew after protests from Muslim fundamentalists. The "new" tracks here (from 12 forward) are nothing to write home about: most seem very unfinished, and only "Defiant" and "Number 8 Mix" cohere as whole songs that could've been on the original (though the former has exactly the same rhythmic structure as "The Jezebel Spirit"). If you don't already own this, it's well worth the money, but for those who do, best to just fill in with the extra singles as need be.
Wrap your Brains around this one
Every time I hear this album, I'm blown away by how contemporary it sounds. These guys were/are geniuses. You may hear bits and pieces that others have sampled from this album since. Very complex sampling and beat mixing throughout, and keep in mind that this was done before the Macintosh computer was even invented! Brian and David were literally splicing magnetic tape into "loops" ("looping") and playing them back and forth over mag heads to get their samples and effects. Pioneers. If you consider yourself at all a fan of "interesting music," Electronica, world music or dance music, this is a MUST for your collection.
You have not heard an album like this. You may have heard artists influenced by this (Moby), but this 1981 masterpiece is otherworldly. It's definitely worth a listen to see a whole new take on music, which most likely influenced future Talking Heads albums, especially the polyrhythmic record "Remain in Light". The only song worth skipping? Vocal Outtakes, but that one's, well, outtakes. And vocals only. The physical CD comes with EXTENSIVE liner notes from David Toop and David Byrne himself, as well as the music video for "Mea Culpa" by Bruce Conner, though you can watch it on the Bush of Ghosts site.
Born: May 15, 1948 in Woodbridge, Suffolk, England
Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s
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