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"Craft is what enables you to be successful
when you're not inspired." - Brian Eno
The Yorker APRIL 8, 2014 - by Laurence Morgan
ENO/HYDE: SOMEDAY WORLD
Laurence Morgan received Brian Eno's new project a month before its release. These are his findings.
It is difficult to know what defines Brian Eno to the public these days, and asking people from different generations will probably give different answers. However, in this collaboration with Karl Hyde, elements of all his projects are present: Roxy Music, ambient music, even his production of U2's The Joshua Tree.
However, what it resembles most, rather unsurprisingly, is one of Eno's other songwriting ventures, the critically acclaimed Another Green World. Someday World, then, has a lot to live up to, and Eno doesn't disappoint on an album fusing synth-based, hook-driven songs with many other genres. Despite there being only nine tracks, this feels like an epic, and one to savour, too.
Near the beginning of first single The Satellites, the arrival of computerised horns, reminiscent of the rudimentary Sibelius music software, are jarring. You're almost certain not to like it the first time you hear it.
Such is Eno's track record and recording wisdom, though, that you think they must be there for a reason, and eventually your misgivings about the noise subside as you are pulled into Eno's mind, and you cannot help but let it take over you. Basically, keep going.
Next up is Daddy's Car, which pins you down with a bassline that brings the funk with it. The horns are back, but by now you welcome them as they take a back seat role. Eno's speciality is being able to hit that sonic sweet spot, and this is present throughout the album, to the delight of his fans. The use of Hyde's vocals on this track, layering harmony upon robotic harmony, reacts perfectly to what is going on beneath.
I could go into similar detail with every track, but alas, I have not the time or space. Karl Hyde, when speaking about the album, said "The biggest surprise was discovering we both had a love of Afrobeat, cyclical music based in live playing." This comes to the fore when A Man Wakes Up springs into life, with guitar licks reminiscent of The Bhundu Boys mixing in with the synths and vocals to create something uplifting and infectious. Eno and Hyde are never afraid of going for the euphoric, and they consistently pull it off here.
What Eno does best is to create a soundworld and drag you in; that, after all, is what his ambient music is all about. Who Rings The Bell starts off with a pulse resembling a heartbeat, and when vocals arrive with the echoing 'Who pulls the rope, who rings the bell', you cannot fail to be hooked. Rather more dysfunctional, When I Built This World encapsulates the mystery that electronics can provide, with a jump into jazz. Look out, though, for a truly gorgeous robotic voice that comes halfway through, showing the beauty that dysfunction can produce.
Not everything is as bright, though. Mother Of A Dog is dank and clever in word-play, with the lyric 'I was raised by the son of a mother of a dog' present throughout. In the same way as the cyclical music Hyde mentioned, many of the songs don't have huge changes in direction, more subtle, sweeping transitions under the watchful eye of its creator.
The final track, To Us All, is short but anthemic, and wouldn't be out of place in Coldplay or U2 sets. Once again the sound is dense with harmony, but, as with every track, you're allowed to just fall in and be part of it. Someday World won't be out for a month yet, but it is an album which will prove worth waiting for, and proves Brian Eno's apparent timelessness.