INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
The Observer MARCH 19, 2006 - by Jason Cowley
BRIAN ENO AND DAVID BYRNE: MY LIFE IN THE BUSH OF GHOSTS
The first crossing of intelligent pop with strange samples still startles...
In the late '70s, Brian Eno began to work as producer and motivational guru with Talking Heads but soon became virtually the fifth member of the band. This collaboration is perhaps the best of what he achieved during that intense, exciting period when the can-do aesthetic of punk combined with emerging technologies to enable the creation of a new kind of music.
The album takes its title from a novel by Nigerian writer Amos Tutola, and what differentiates it most obviously from the Heads sound is that David Byrne doesn't sing on it. He is present all right, in so many interesting ways, but never in voice. In fact, there are no real singers at all: merely an assemblage of sampled and taped voices, displaced spirits adrift in this particular bush of ghosts.
When the album was released, in February 1981, it sounded like very little that had gone before. There were antecedents - Holger Czukay's wonderful song Persian Love, with its radio samples, from his album Movies - but not many. Its fusion of the austerity of the new electronics with funky back-beats, of sprightly guitars with West African percussive rhythms, its pioneering use of sampling techniques and experiments with ambient sound-scapes - all of this would, in time, come to seem merely routine (if not on one single album) but, back then, the effect was startling. What's more, you could even dance to some of it. Just about.
Eno has spoken of how he and Byrne were trying to make 'collage music, like grafting a piece of one culture onto a piece of another' and to make them work as a 'coherent musical idea'. This would do as a kind of early definition of the cultural slippages and mergings with which we are so familiar today, in music as in food and so much else.
For a time, after the release of Bush Of Ghosts, one could hear its influence everywhere in the work of young artists of ambition, from David Sylvian to Kate Bush. And you can still hear its long influence even today in some of the best of Massive Attack, Moby and Thievery Corporation.
Remastered by Byrne, this version does not include Qu'ran, on which Algerian singers chanted verses of the Koran. This track featured on the first pressing but was later withdrawn. It does, however, have seven outtakes, none of which is remarkable but, taken collectively, they all act as a fitting coda to one of pop's great adventures in sound.