Album Remarks & Appraisals:
Now approaching it's 25th anniversary, Brian Eno and David Byrne's My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts appears downright visionary. With it's 'found' vocals, cut-and-paste arrangements, funked-up rhythms and embrace of influences from all around the globe, the duo's controversial work anticipated the creative cross-pollination an technological innovation of contemporary electronic dance music, world music, hip hop and alternative rock. You can hear echoes of My Life in The Bush Of Ghosts in the anthems Moby built around vintage samples, in the outrageously exotic beats of Missy Elliott and Timbaland, in the middle eastern-accented chill-out tracks of Thievery Corporation or Bjork's otherworldly soundscapes.
"My Life in the Bush of Ghosts was rightfully heralded as groundbreaking when it was first released in 1981. Ambient forefather Brian Eno and Talking Heads singer/songwriter David Byrne created an innovative blend that set precedents for numerous trends, including electronica, sampling and world music. The cerebral concept was also remarkably physical - dance music for thinking people, as it were.
25 years later it remains important, and Nonesuch's remastered reissue has only improved it with the addition of seven tracks that, according to Byrne, would have been originally included had it not been for the limitations of vinyl.
But this is more than a welcome reissue with improved sound and additional material. Eno and Byrne could never have envisioned today's political climate, but by incorporating voices sourced from radio broadcasts by Christian fundamentalists and Arabic pop records, My Life has transformed from a significant musical statement to a political manifesto. Such a statement was not Eno and Byrne's original intent, but the integration of disparate theologies - with today's widening gap between American right-wing fundamentalism and the Muslim world - could not be timelier.
Sampling is commonplace today, but in 1979-80 it simply did not exist in mainstream music. Like producer Teo Macero's tape-splicing work with Miles Davis, Eno and Byrne were forced to be equally inventive in an analogue world. Paralleling Eno's ambient music - simultaneously playing musical phrases of different lengths, looking for magical moments where they would serendipitously coalesce - the pair would have two tape machines (music and voice) playing simultaneously, waiting for the moments when the two would come together as if they were always intended to.
While Eno and Byrne create the majority of the music on guitars, basses, percussion, drums, synthesizers and found objects, other musicians make guest appearances, including Talking Heads drummer Chris Franz, bassist Bill Laswell and Tubes drummer Prairie Prince. But in many ways this music is meant to be faceless. From the primitive jungle rhythms of "Mea Culpa" to the greasy funk of "Regiment" and the dance floor frenzy of "Help Me Somebody," the music is more about insistent groove than melodic hooks. Thematic ideas periodically emerge, but they are just as likely to suddenly disappear without a trace. My Life has nothing to do with virtuosity and everything to do with instinct and unfettered imagination.
The world of 2006 is considerably smaller than that of 1981, where, without the internet, sourcing music from various cultures required more effort. While Eno was no stranger to breaking new musical territory and dissolving cultural barriers on projects like trumpeter Jon Hassell's Fourth World, Vol 1: Possible Musics, Byrne's involvement here proved that his reach extended far beyond the Talking Heads. As musically relevant now as it was then, My Life in the Bush of Ghosts may be even more germane today. Musically contemporary but politically a virtual powder keg, it manifests a confluence of disparate ideologies that many would find hard to accept in today's increasingly polarized climate. A massively influential masterpiece." -AllAboutJazz
Entertainment Weekly (p.87) - "[T]he remastered GHOSTS feels haunting, hypnotic, and fresh 25 years later." -- Grade: A-
Uncut (p.119) - 5 stars out of 5 -- "Byrne and Eno's collaboration drips with emotional intensity....The feelings don't come directly from them but from the found voices of Pentecostal preachers and Algerian Muslims that the duo harvested from American radio and ethnic field recordings."
The Wire (p.56) - "[I]t's the unidentified voices seeping in from the haunted boundaries of American talk radio that capture our attention and that now seem to speak to us about another, still uncharted world."
Mojo (Publisher) (p.122) - 5 stars out of 5 -- "The disturbingly funky exotic stew that resulted was mind-bending in its day and remains so now."
NME (Magazine) (9/25/93, p.19) - Ranked #36 in NME's list of the 50 Greatest Albums Of The '80s.
Personnel: Brian Eno (guitar, synthesizer, drums, percussion); David Byrne (guitar, synthesizer, bass guitar, drums, percussion); Brian Eno (bass guitar); Tim Wright, Bill Laswell , Busta Cherry Jones (bass instrument); Prairie Prince (drums, bass drum, percussion); Jose Rossy (congas, agogo); Steve Scales (congas, percussion); David Van Tieghem (drums, percussion); Chris Frantz, John Cooksey (drums); Mingo Lewis (bata); Dennis Keeley (bodhran).
Recording information: 1979-1980.
Author: Amos Tutuola.
Photographer: Hugh Brown .
Unknown Contributor Role: Prairie Prince.
Arrangers: David Byrne; Brian Eno; Chris Frantz; David Van Tieghem; Busta Cherry Jones; Bill Laswell ; Tim Wright; Robert Fripp.
Eno was a key figure in the development of Talking Heads, producing some of their most innovative albums. This collaboration with head Head Byrne built on the sonic ground the two had already broken together via their well established working relationship. The pair couldn't have known how influential MY LIFE IN THE BUSH OF GHOSTS would be in the next two decades.
Deconstructing the avant-funk of the Heads' REMAIN IN LIGHT, Byrne and Eno recorded polyrhythmic backing tracks similar to that effort. Instead of creating lyrics or melodies to lay over them, the duo turned to "found sounds" and voices, looping everything from radio talk show conversations to Muslim chants atop the rhythm bed, before anyone even knew what a sampler was. The subsequent impact on everything, from electronica to World music to whatever Bill Laswell is doing this week, was inestimable. The most important thing is that all this high-minded studio wizardry works on a very immediately satisfying level.
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