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Saturday, July 2, 2011

Brian Eno and the words of Rick Holland - Drums Between The Bells

Brian Eno and the words of Rick Holland - Drums Between The Bells
2011, Warped Records

Brian Eno has long been acknowledged as one of the founding fathers of ambient music.  His roots lie in the glam rock era, starting with the band Roxy Music.  As a soloist, his progressive tendencies grew from art rock to the early experimental days of Electronica.  Along the way Eno collaborated with such icons as Robert Fripp and Genesis, creating a body of work that is impressive in both its scope and quality.  As a producer, Eno has worked with acts such as U2, Coldplay, Depeche Mode, Paul Simon, Slowdive and Grace Jones.  Eno first discovered Rick Holland during a collaborative effort of the Royal College, the Guildhall School of Music, the Royal Academy of Music, the National Youth Orchestra (UK) and the English National Ballet entitled the Map-Making Project.  Eno first collaborated with Holland in 2003, and the two have worked together on and off since that time.  In 2011, Eno made the jump to Warped Records with the release of Small Craft on a Milk SeaDrums Between The Bells, featuring the words of Rick Holland, follows quickly on its heels, dropping on July 5, 2011.

Drums Between The Bells is an aural treat, with Eno drawing stylistically from his vast body of work to create musical backdrops that are esoteric in beauty and vital in their energy.  The album ranges from dance-oriented Electronica to avant garde, with stops at seemingly pastoral, cinematic and meditative musical spaces along the way.  "Glitch", the lead single, is a modernist obsession that will play well as a low-key club number, full of recursive synth and percussion and the robotized spoken word craft of Grazyna Goworek.  "Pour It Out" is a thing of pure beauty, from the Eno's seamless composition to the smooth soliloquy of Laura Spagnuolo.  "Fierce Aisles Of Light" features Rick Holland himself in his sole appearance on the album, offering his poetry in unaffected voice alongside Nick Robertson and Anastasia Afonina, to the ebb and flow of gentle industrial sounds.  There is a hopeless feel of automation here that is perhaps as much of a statement as the words themselves.

"A Title" has a space-age, cinematic feel to it that wraps around the listener like a shawl on a chilly night.  The school-marm voice of Caroline Wildi (we love the name) is both soothing and stern.  Eno gets percussive on the stimulating "Sounds Alien", a lesson in the power of rhythm in music.  Eno uses his own voice to create a sort of digital-age Gregorian Chant to the power of money and stock markets on "Dow".  "Cloud 4" sounds like the music of a child's demented wind-up toy, an answer, perhaps, to Pink Floyd's "Goodbye Blue Skies".  Drums Between The Bells settles in the shades of night with "Breath Of Crows", a musical landscape in oils, that mimics lonely madness on the edge of the periphery of darkness.  Holland's words reveal an utter loneliness bordering on insanity, delivered against a wonderfully bleak backdrop of sound that includes the machination of wind chimes and the ghosts of voices that only arrive to waking souls in the deepest hours of darkness.

There really is no tying Brian Eno down.  There is no one genre or style that you can attribute to the man, although much of modern Electronic music owes a debt of gratitude to his creativity and progressive musical nature.   The music on Drums Between The Bells vacillates between artful and creative to downright masterpieces of sound and vision.  Eno wraps up Rick Holland's poetic muse in clothing so well-fit it becomes impossible to separate the two.  Holland's work itself tends toward the pessimistic and bleak as often as not, and may be a tough read, but his words come to life across the soundscapes that Eno has created.

Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)

Learn more about Brian Eno at or Between The Bells drops on July 5, 2011.  The album is available from as a CD, a Limited Edition CD, on Vinyl and as a Download.  

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