on life, music etc beyond mainstream

2016 1 Mrz

Review with a smile: in vivid memory of „High Life“ (2014)

von: Michael Engelbrecht Filed under: Blog | TB | Comments off

The smile, well, I was there, in Eno’s studio, at the early sessions of this project. This doesn’t influence my subtle degree of enthusiasm, believe me! 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 the 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.

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