INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
"Craft is what enables you to be successful
when you're not inspired." - Brian Eno
Rolling Stone DECEMBER 1, 1994 - by Steven Volk
BRYAN FERRY: MAMOUNA
Bryan Ferry's persona is that of a tortured aesthete wrestling a legion of personal demons. And while a pop star's image often has little to do with his music, it's precisely that quest for control over experience and emotion from which Ferry's unsettling new disc, Mamouna, derives its appeal.
Ferry worked on Mamouna for five years, and the resulting music - dense, richly textured art funk - reflects his meticulous craftsmanship. Between nine and seventeen musicians perform on each of the ten tracks, but despite the size of the band and the complexity of the disc's rhythms, most of the tunes are elegant and simple. Ferry knows that a suggestive, fragmentary lyric can cast a telling shadow over a song: "No back-street woman / No grand hotel," he sings on The Only Face, and the protagonist's disappointment is made bare when he completes the thought later in the song, confessing. "I want to be alone."
Ferry and co-producer Robin Trower also know how a musical passage can kick a song to a new emotional level: The troubled tone of the title track's slowly mounting groove is lightened when a pair of synth-sax and piano solos by Ferry lift the song to an almost celebratory pitch. Guitars and keyboards arc and cry in intimate interplay with Ferry's delicate crooning on the wistful Your Painted Smile. Pretty countermelodies arise and drift away like momentary thoughts on Chain Reaction. Urban rhythms merge with stately keyboards and keening melodies on Don't Want To Know, Gemini Moon and the roaring Wildcat Days, which was co-written by Brian Eno, who founded Roxy Music with Ferry more than twenty years ago.
It's no coincidence that Mamouna reunites Ferry with Eno, who is credited with contributing such things as "sonic awareness" and "swoop treatments." While that might elicit a wry smile, it's also telling. Eno's swirls and swoops create eerie, beautiful soundscapes in Ferry's tunes. Even if crediting Eno with synthesizers would have been technically accurate, terms like "sonic distress" more fully illuminate his contribution.
"Can't control my feelings if I tried," Ferry sings, audibly trembling on the ballad Which Way To Turn. That might be true of the track's overwrought protagonist, but only an artist in perfect control of his craft can render uncertainty, pain and longing in such evocative detail.