The Quietus JANUARY 28, 2020 - by Bernie Brooks


Brian Eno, Laurie Anderson, and Ebe Oke craft a transporting case against leading a cloistered artistic existence on the vinyl-only Dokument #2, says Bernie Brooks

I have a vague, half-baked theory that the artists who have the longest, most interesting careers are the avid collaborators - that it's the collaboration, the regular influx of new perspectives and approaches, that keeps their work fresh. Now, I know this is the sort of thing that's next to impossible to prove. Correlation versus causation, right? Is collaborating just something that restless, intellectually curious makers do? A by-product of the sort of curiosity that is itself the root cause of these long, electric lifetimes of art-making?

Anyway, like I said, unprovable - a real chicken-and-egg situation. But if you wanted to try, you couldn't ask for a better case study than Brian Eno, who's spent the better part of his career making interesting music with people he thought were interesting, occasionally elevating the careers of younger, less famous artists along the way. The newly released Dokument #2 finds Eno teaming up with fellow legend Laurie Anderson (herself no slouch in the collabo department: Burroughs, Giorno, Jarre, Zorn, Reed, Kid Millions, etc.) and Ebe Oke.

For most listeners, the London-based, American-raised Ebe Oke will be the unfamiliar third of this trio. Despite a slim discography, the composer and multidisciplinary artist boasts legit avant-garde bona fides: he studied with Stockhausen and considers Eno and Anderson to be "personal mentors." Indeed, he's been curated into Anderson's Synth Nights at The Kitchen in NYC and into Norway's Punkt festival by Eno.

Dokument #2, released by Kjelfred & Lentz in a very limited run of five hundred copies pressed up by Nordsø and unavailable via streaming services and digitally, was culled from recordings made during a five-day studio session in Copenhagen back in 2016. It's clear from first listen that this was an anything goes affair - a sense of freedom is palpable throughout. Vocals aside, it's not often possible to tell who's responsible for what, which is arguably as it should be: three collaborators working as one whole, egos seemingly disregarded. Perhaps most exciting is the feeling that the artists were almost entirely unconcerned with notions of what a "Laurie Anderson record" or a "Brian Eno record" should be or sound like as they put this thing together.

Instead, the album is, if not overly referential of, then certainly in conversation with the current heavy hitters of experimental music. The spare instrumentation and disquieting whispers of the album's opener call to mind Félicia Atkinson, while the burbling nature sounds and weird, processed vocals of the second cut recall the playful oeuvre of Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith. Broadly speaking, these modes set the tone for the bulk of the record, which, with the exception of a couple of propulsive jams that are actually quite thrilling, is a contemplative outing - albeit an odd one. And maybe it's a huge stretch, but I can't quite shake the spectre of a much, much gentler Billy Bao's Lagos Sessions when I think about how Dokument #2's discrete soundscapes, abstracted vocalisations, and fragmented instrumentals are often stitched together internally and over each of the record's sides.

None of this is to say Dokument #2 is derivative. It seems almost impossible to conceive of the artists mentioned above - Oke's contemporaries - without the work of Eno and Anderson, even if they weren't directly influenced by them. If anything, the LP is a lovely illustration of the cyclical nature of influencing and influencers, a transporting argument against leading a cloistered artistic existence. It's a shame that, for whatever reason, this is such a limited release. Dokument #2 feels like more than just a curio in the expansive catalogues of its two most famous makers, marks Ebe Oke as someone well worth watching, and is ultimately deserving of a wider audience.