Drums Between the Bells
Jul 05, 2011 Web Exclusive
Find It At: Insound
Lately, Brian Eno has been quite fond of playing with others. In 2008, he and David Byrne released the fantastic Everything That Happens Will Happen Today and, last year, he dropped his Warp debut, Small Craft on a Milk Sea, a collaboration with Leo Abrahams and Jon Hopkins. On Drums Between the Bells, Eno has paired himself with an entirely new kind of partner: poet Rick Holland.
On Drums, unidentified male and female voices, which have been subtly manipulated and pitch-shifted, read Holland's poetry over Eno's instrumentals. The vaguely robotic quality in the vocals meshes well with Eno's eclectic musical beds. The album starts strong with "Bless This Space," a rambunctious, jazzy track that sports a gnarled guitar solo solely indebted to Marc Ribot. Lead single "Glitch" is a, yes, glitchy slab of Underworld-style electro-pop. Unfortunately, "Glitch" is, like Small Craft's lead single "2 Forms of Anger," the exception and not the rule for the album.
Eno's compositions are frequently innovative and melodic but, as the album moves into the second half, quality control gets weaker and weaker. Some tracks feel like nothing more than aimless spoken-word bits (think Radiohead's "Fitter Happier"). The longest tracks—"The Real" and "Breath of Crows"—suffer the most. Aside from "Bless This Space" and "Glitch," and the almost-industrial grind of "Almost Alien," the tracks that work best hew close to the classic ambient precedents in Eno's career: Another Green World, Apollo, and Music for Airports.
It's hard to fault Eno for wanting to work outside his wheelhouse a bit and find new avenues for creative collaboration. Even if this project isn't a wholly qualified success, Eno is still (at the age of 63) putting most of his peers to shame. (www.brian-eno.net)
Author rating: 6/10
Average reader rating: 6/10