Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Diggin' now... David Byrne (h/t Brian Eno)

OK, first, yes these two songs are from the David Byrne AND Brian Eno album, 'My Life in the Bush of Ghosts', so maybe the title of this post should be 'Diggin' now... David Byrne and Brian Eno.' But it's not, because it's mostly about Byrne. So, moving on.

I've been slowly getting into David Byrne. I've loved the Talking Heads for a while, but I always thought I should dig into the Byrne catalog. After I saw this talk (embedded below) he gave on how architecture -- from CBGB to opera houses -- influence how one creates music, I set out.

The problem is, it's not particularly easy, mostly because the guy was -- and continues to be, to a lesser extent -- prolific. Byrne has released eight studio albums, 12 soundtracks, four live albums, 14 singles and one remix album. The first question I had to tackle was, where do you start? The next problem was the fact that near the end of his Talking Heads days and since, Byrne has done a lot in the realm of experimental music. He's cut clear across, rock and roll, new wave, experimental pop, so-called rock operas and even, as some people call it although I hate the term, art rock.

What that means is it takes a bit more time to get into some of this stuff, especially a record like My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, which I'll talk more about in the next paragraph. It's not all 100 percent easily accesible, and he works in a lot of nontraditional song forms, uses heavy sampling and few vocals at times and just generally creates music that would cause some to wonder what they're listening to.

But I like that stuff. So, I started with My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, an album that, believe it or not, was released in 1981 (!). Most every voice on the album is a sample, and the thing was put together with analog technology, not pieced together digitally like a lot of people with an Internet connection and a laptop can do these days. On top of that, according to liner notes, they'd do things like use a normal drum set, but instead use a cardboard box for the bass drum, or a frying pan for the snare.

What's crazy, though, is how great it sounds. The music flows, it's put together well and you'd never know it was made in a time before most people could really even fathom what a computer could do. Making use of all the samples -- which I've read were synchronized with the instruments through trial and error -- and having it sound so great is even more impressive.

This is one Byrne album I keep going back to. The songs above are the first and third tracks on the album, respectively, titled 'America is Waiting' and 'Regiment'. Check them out, and then check out the whole record. And check out that speech (it's only 20 minutes) too.

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