Album review: Brian Eno's 'Drums Between the Bells'
On Brian Eno’s second album with Warp Records, a partnership that seems to be yielding some of his most invigorating work of late, the master soundscaper collaborates with writer Rick Holland to make 15 songs. A range of vocalists, including Eno and Holland, read the lyrics in English, a second language for some. There’s also a penultimate track of silence that lasts 57 seconds, the kind of exacting detail that marks Eno’s compositional ear.
“Drums Between the Bells” is full of textural and specific details. On the opening track, “Bless This Space,” the electro-dub drum fills, very tightly wound nuggets of chaos, drop in like laser surgical cuts around Eno’s sonorous reading. On “Airman,” which sounds like the score to a long-lost film set in a nightmarish version of outer space, a computer signal bleats in the background. For “The Real,” gloomily beautiful synth swirls nestle around Elisha Mudly’s reading of a philosophical text that investigates the nature of reality. Call it Baudrillard for Roland riders of the storm.
There are times when the music seems to be battling the words, like on “Sounds Alien,” which namechecks the album’s title but otherwise distracts from the text with too much rumble and overly processed horns. The album also errs on the side of intellectual distance to a fault. If only Eno had used more of the approach from his last effort, “Small Craft on a Milk Sea,” where he warmed up wintry soundscapes with organic touches.
All the same, “Drums Between the Bells” makes for a richly atmospheric listen, one that allows the listener to cut the cord from reality and float off into a beautifully curated space.
-- Margaret Wappler
“Drums Between the Bells”