During the 1980s there was a space where contemporary art and music could overlap: where the borders sometimes hardly existed. Wim Wenders, Derek Jarman, Peter Greenaway, Throbbing Gristle, Arthur Russell, Laurie Anderson proudly displayed their critical and art-house credentials. The overarching principle was that art was resistance, a cultural King Canute challenging the tide to advance inward.
The 90s saw the erosion of this space. Music became preoccupied with itself. As digital distribution exploded, cataloguing systems called for some way of ordering up the information. Genre became common parlance, resulting in music and film starting to look inwardly at style, attempting to understand the nature of the form rather than the message. And lack of message led to lack of aftertaste for us, the listeners; the experience was often reduced to merely remembering or forecasting the highs and lows of these musical stylistics. Endlessly discussing tangential details.
2011. Can music have a message anymore? Eno thinks so, and ‘Drums Between the Bells’ is his wake up call, a year zero; it tells us to materially and expressively log-off and jog on. Eno’s revelation is: lyrics must be our poetry; they should abandon the battered pop memes of ego, power, or wealth. They must aspire to the directness of haiku, and talk of tiny revelations like seed pods clickering against commuter traffic. They must call for freedom of creation for our brilliant young! Politics, time and data are this album’s various ruminations. Rick Holland providing the words to Eno’s sound.
The sound field is a compendium of many aspects of Eno’s output – evolving ambient textures, brittle plastic funk, sonorous plucked arpeggi, anthemic faux-orchestral, reversed and time-altered reproductions. Most venture into locked major key explorations, or single note drones, varying the rhythms to refract the light differently upon the smooth surfaces. This work has distilled the essence d’Eno, the like of which we’re not sure we’ve enjoyed so much in years. This feels like a work born of many years of graft, many abandoned false starts; work that is cut, re-cut, re-made, re-thought. It feels pin sharp, like cold rain, or maybe a new typeface. It feels simultaneously dreamlike and up-in-your-grill hyperreal. A bewitching and provocative call to arms for us all.