INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
"Craft is what enables you to be successful
when you're not inspired." - Brian Eno
Wondering Sound APRIL 30, 2009 - by Robert Phoenix
BYRNE AND ENO: BULLISH ON SOUND
Many years ago, I used to pen a monthly column for eMusic called Sounds Of The Stars, in which I attempted to bridge the gap between astrology and music. I did my best to approximate the sounds of various signs, and to suggest artists that might represent a certain aspect of a sign - even if the artist might not actually be the sign in question. We did a three-hundred-and-sixty-five-day spin around the sun on it and put it away.
I recently approached eMusic with similar idea, but one that was more focused, topical, pithy and - hopefully - humorous. They said "yes" and here we are. I can't think of two better artists to feature for May and Taurus than David Byrne and Brian Eno.
It would be pretty safe to say that the Talking Heads wouldn't exist as we know them if not for the symbiotic relationship between Byrne and Eno. In fact, it could be said that Eno was the unofficial fifth Head - much to Tina Weymouth's consternation.
Byrne and Eno, while born four years apart (1952 and 1948) celebrate their birthdays on consecutive days: the 14th for Byrne and the 15th for Eno, placing their Taurus suns in an extremely close conjunction, and giving them a unique ability to blend and bend with one another's purpose. With such a close conjunction, the two of them could actually function as one entity in many cases. Both being the stubborn bull, they must have been a handful for the rest of the band at times, steamrolling them with a double-fisted-punch of creativity and intention - two bulls in a ring - they must have been a force to be reckoned with, They're both incredibly fascinating on their own let alone a dynamic duo of fourth-world wonder.
Eno had, shall we say, a reputation for excess, an immense appetite for the body and the pleasures of the world. Rumors used to fly around Eno's legendary sessions in the bedroom with multiple partners. Without getting too technical, a quick glance at Eno's chart shows more than just a sweet bull in the field. Aries ascending, Moon and Mars in Leo, Jupiter in Sag, Eno's just got to say "yes" to another excess, but without being sloppy or out of control. In fact, a deep and abiding sensuality drives even his most abstract passions and interests. The electronic composer Steve Roach once recounted a story to me where his wife, Linda Kohanov, had been sent to Tokyo by Pulse magazine to hang out with Eno. Eno whirled her around from bar-to-bar, drinking the best scotch in Tokyo and then took her back to his hotel where he began to share the base scents for a line of perfumes he was working on (it's a good thing that Steve is a pretty confident fellow, and dynamo in his own right).
Byrne is another case altogether. While Eno is a solar force, Byrne is pure Earth, with a grand trine; Virgo ascendant (nerdy perfectionist), Moon in Capricorn (cooly calculated and driven to succeed by a certain brand of austerity) and, of course, his Taurus sun. He is a man that obviously gets things done and with that Earth trine, combined with a powerful Mars in Scorpio, he is also a serious energy to be reckoned with. While he may lack the flamboyant flare of Eno, Byrne is not a quitter - and, for me, this is never more evident than with his relationship with Brazilian music. When I first heard Rei Momo, I thought that his love affair with Tropicalismo should have remained a hobby. But his dogged persistence and devotion to the country and its diverse musical styles have paid off in not just the music he's assembled on a number of fantastic Luaka Bop releases, but also in the unique, post-tropicalismo sound of solo releases like, Uh-Oh and Feelings, albums that make even old guarders like Caetano Veloso proud. Byrne's steadfast patience, great ear and attention to detail transformed him from infatuated auteur, to accomplished innovator.
David's a dragon and Brian's a rat - two deeply compatible Chinese signs that are thick as thieves and natural collaborators. How could they ever remain apart with such a deeply symbiotic conjunction of the Sun and the strong, Chinese connection?
In 2008, they released, Everything That Happens Will Happen Today. Unlike their last collaboration, the utterly timeless My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts, they mostly channel their own voices instead of relying on eerie sermons, twisted tape loops and found sounds. But that doesn't mean that they eschew the dark mysticism and modern trance experience that uncoiled from track to track on My Life. I Feel My Stuff, organically building in that classically Enoesque way. But it's also ironic and dark, unsettling, detached almost to the point of psychotic in a way that is full on Byrne. Is it a triumphant tale? Tragic? Where does the narrative go? Self-empowerment or self-delusion? Getting swept up in the sonic ritual, it almost makes no difference. It's another "true story" that will happen somewhere today.
On the title track, Byrne and Eno move into a deeply poetic state, one that steadily builds towards affirmation, with an almost canonical feel - a J.S. Bach workout for a secular sermon on faith.
The entire recording is like a page out of the American songbook where Byrne/Eno come off more like a pomo version of Lieber and Stoller than two middle-aged avant-hipsters, seeking one more close encounter with the weird kind.
Solid. That is how I would describe the energy on Everything That Happens. Grounded, full bodied and rich, two seasoned vets taking a vintage ride out for a leisurely and beautiful tour of the soul's countryside. The energy of Taurus, especially practiced on this project is confident, unhurried and layered with resonant and multiple meanings.
The world might be going to hell, but they're like two stubborn bulls taking a stand in a field of experience and enjoying every facet of the flawed creation.