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# A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Daniel Lanois - Flesh and Machine

  by Adrian Janes

published: 19 / 11 / 2014

Daniel Lanois - Flesh and Machine
Label: Red Floor Records
Format: CD


Directionless ambience on latest solo album from producer and musician, Daniel Lanois

As producer and musician, Daniel Lanois has worked with an array of top names, such as Bob Dylan, Neil Young and U2. But it’s his association with Brian Eno (born from their collaboration on the albums ‘Ambient 4: On Land’ and ‘Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks’) that he is consciously invoking with this album and its exploration of sonic textures. Perhaps inevitably when exploring, some paths lead to dead-ends. ‘The End’, with its clattering drums and soaring guitar freak-out, feels like a directionless Mahavishnu Orchestra.‘Tamboura Jah’, founded on gentle guitar, cymbals and muffled drums, has a constantly shifting aural texture, but simply meanders. Icy notes and pulsing sounds continually melt into one another on ‘Two Bushas’ that make for a sense of vague sadness but not much more. In all of these examples it’s as if Lanois is conducting a series of experiments, but without making any judgement as to whether they are actually successful as music. Certainly you can have them playing in the background, only vaguely (if at all) aware of them - the original objective for ambient music as envisaged by Eno. But ironically, as with ambient music in general, the more emotionally satisfying pieces on ‘Flesh and Machine’ are those that repay attention. ‘Space Love’ blends gentle electronic tones with echoed and treated steel guitar, stretching the notes as if reaching out into the vastness, before a somehow melancholy backwards-running guitar concludes the piece. ‘Iceland’, the seventh track but the first that offers more than melodic fragments, touchingly combines simple piano chords and muted drums, while shimmering electronic notes give a dub-like feel. As if going to the other extreme from the earlier reliance on textures and random sounds, ‘My First Love’ is a sweet-sounding confection of piano, pedal steel, synth and ambling drum machine, pleasant but ultimately cloying. Much more dynamic, indeed the most dynamic track of all, is ‘Opera’. The Bowie of two eras seems to cross-pollinate here, with chilly, treated synth and voices recalling ‘Low’, even as they meet with the scuttling drums of his 90s jungle phase. ‘Aquatic’ is Lanois’ pedal steel given a studio work-out, its innately light tone stretched and distorted until almost piercingly painful, its capabilities at times pushed as though in the hands of Hendrix. Final track ‘Forest City’ is the only one explicitly stated by Lanois to revisit his work with Eno. It builds through portentous synth washes, but for the most part stays at the level of a murky drone that repetitively swells and subsides. Occasional higher notes are like brief glimpses of sunlight through an otherwise impenetrable canopy. This is an album that may work in certain contexts. Lanois apparently has the ambition for it to be acclaimed as “headphone album of the year”, suggesting a too-great infatuation with technological possibility over emotional effect. Even more significantly, many of the tracks are being used in combination with specially-commissioned films by directors such as Atom Egoyan and Mary Harron. Although the music evidently came first, I wonder if at some level Lanois was already seeing these pieces as a sort of soundtrack. It’s undoubtedly true that some soundtrack music can work very effectively alongside film but, when listened to on its own, the lack of melodic development and reliance on simply creating an atmosphere is exposed. It’s a trap that to some extent Eno’s ‘Apollo’ fell into, and it’s unfortunately even more the case with ‘Flesh and Machine’.

Track Listing:-
1 Rocco
2 The End
3 Sioux Lookout
4 Tamboura Jah
5 Two Bushas
6 Space Love
7 Iceland
8 My First Love
9 Opera
10 Aquatic
11 Forest City

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