BeyondChron JULY 8, 2011 - by E. "Doc" Smith


Brian Eno first came across the work of poet Rick Holland in the late '90s during the Map-Making Project; a series of collaborative works between students of the Royal College, the Guildhall School of Music, the Royal Academy of Music, the Royal College of Music, the National Youth Orchestra and the English National Ballet, among others. In 2003, Eno and Holland made their first music together, although the resulting work does not appear on this album. In the intervening time since that initial session, they have met infrequently to work on new compositions. In early 2011, following the release of Small Craft On A Milk Sea, (Eno's debut album for Warp Records), the pair resolved to finish the project. Drums Between The Bells is the result.

Michael Calore recently wrote about Eno's latest album on Wired magazine's website:

Eno has always found great inspiration working with other big thinkers: His long, influential career as an artist, musician and record producer has seen him team up with the top names in rock and pop, including David Byrne, U2, Daniel Lanois, David Bowie and Robert Fripp. (Eno's last album, 2010's acclaimed Small Craft On A Milk Sea, was a collaboration with musicians Jon Hopkins and Leo Abrahams.)

Working with a poet has yielded some interesting results, (which you can hear when you stream the album from the Warp Records/Wired website). Holland's words grace every track on Drums Between The Bells, but there's very little actual singing on the recording. It's almost exclusively a spoken-word affair.

The vocalists are also mostly unknowns - people in Eno's life like his accountant, a woman from his gym and a graphic designer friend, among others. Some of them are non-native speakers of English, so their performances are coloured by foreign accents both subtle and thick. On top of that, the voices are digitally manipulated, the words sometimes stretched or pitch-shifted.

Under all the talking lies a tapestry of pillowy synths, minor-key melodies, chiming guitars, skittering drums and the other sonic touches that define all of Eno's recent work. The man has a sound - you can spot an Eno track, or at least a very good imitation, with a simple taste of the ingredients. His is a well-defined palette, and one that works.

Drums Between The Bells was made available worldwide this week as a regular CD, a digital download, a double-vinyl album and the two-CD version, which comes with a hardback book featuring artwork by Eno and designer Nick Robinson.

Inspiration for the album's artwork also played a role in Eno's music making. "Recently," Eno explained, "I was in Sao Paulo, the most city-ish city in the Western world. I took lots of pictures of the forest, and then, back in London, started playing with the images in Photoshop. As I was playing I was listening to this album - in shuffle mode, highly recommended - and I realised I was crafting the images and the colours to match up with what I was hearing. So that's how the cover images came about..."

Calore says that "The spoken bits aren't for everyone. They take an excellent, moody ambient album and add a different textural spin, either elevating it or sinking it depending on your tastes. (Just in case the vocals don't suit you, the second disc of a special two-CD version of Drums Between The Bells will contain instrumental mixes of all the tracks.)"

For me, Drums Between The Bells is a worthy successor to Small Craft On A Milk Sea, 77 Million Paintings and Another Day On Earth, making it once again, a joy to experience Eno's brilliant talent for creating sound-scapes with music, electronics, photographs and words.

E. "Doc" Smith is a musician and recording engineer who has worked with the likes of Brian Eno, Madonna, Warren Zevon, Mickey Hart, Jimmy Cliff, and John Mayall among others. He is also the inventor of the musical instrument, the Drummstick.