Album Review: Brian Eno's 'Drums Between The Bells'

Brian Eno doesn’t release his new album, Drums Between the Bells, until next Tuesday, but you can start blissing out to the whole thing now, thanks to an arrangement between Wired.com and Warp Records. The new album resulted from a collaboration between Eno and Rick Holland, a poet who wrote the lyrics to Drums Between the Bells.

Eno has always found great inspiration working with other big thinkers: His long, influential career as an artist, musician and record producer has seen him team up with the top names in rock and pop, including David Byrne, U2, Daniel Lanois, David Bowie and Robert Fripp. (Eno’s last album, 2010’s acclaimed Small Craft on a Milk Sea, was a collaboration with musicians Jon Hopkins and Leo Abrahams.)

Working with a poet has yielded some interesting results, which you can hear when you stream the album from the player at right. Holland’s words grace every track on Drums Between the Bells, but there’s very little actual singing on the recording. It’s almost exclusively a spoken-word affair.

The vocalists are also mostly unknowns — people in Eno’s life like his accountant, a woman from his gym and a graphic designer friend, among others. Some of them are non-native speakers of English, so their performances are colored by foreign accents both subtle and thick. On top of that, the voices are digitally manipulated, the words sometimes stretched or pitch-shifted.

Under all the talking lies a tapestry of pillowy synths, minor-key melodies, chiming guitars, skittering drums and the other sonic touches that define all of Eno’s recent work. The man has a sound — you can spot an Eno track, or at least a very good imitation, with a simple taste of the ingredients. His is a well-defined palette, and one that works.

The spoken bits aren’t for everyone. They take an excellent, moody ambient album and add a different textural spin, either elevating it or sinking it depending on your tastes. (Just in case the vocals don’t suit you, the second disc of a special 2-CD version of Drums Between the Bells will contain instrumental mixes of all the tracks.)

Drums Between the Bells will be available worldwide next week as a regular CD, a digital download, a double-vinyl album and the 2-CD version, which comes with a hardback book featuring artwork by Eno and designer Nick Robinson. Details are at Eno’s website.

Source: Michael Calore, Wired