Brian Eno’s Drums Between the Bells his second album on Warp Records in under a year is an interesting mix of Eno’s ambient, floating spacey electronic sounds, amalgamated with the words of poet, Rick Holland.
This experimental project exemplifies Eno’s ability to still keep afresh with new and exciting ideas at the age of 63, and let the music progress in his seemingly never ending career. The record is a mix of proper songs, and a collection of sound samples, with Holland’s poetry voiced over by various people.
Some of the finer moments include: ‘Pour it Out’, a delicate sensual poem describing the beauty of the nocturnal workings of a metropolis. Eno turns the poem into a wonderful song, through the use of heightened production, with a sweet female vocalist’s words almost glistening to the accompanying piano and sweet guitar riff in the background: “Subway hits the sky/ and New York hurtles by.”
While ‘Seedpods’, with its groovy baseline, is a poignant morning alarm call for the millions of workers who rise each morning to contemplate their own existence in the rat race world: ‘All over London/ the clicker of seedpods against passing buses / organism or prison half light divided, half sound machine.’
Holland’s words move from the visual, to deep philosophical questions. In ‘The Real’, another female vocalist against the background of dark minor chords (on a synthesizer that makes the listener feel like their floating through a vast empty uninhabited space) declares: ‘Seeing the real in things/ Really seeing the real/ Describing the exact actuality of what it is you see.’
It’s a mark of Eno’s confidence that he doesn’t seem to separate where the tracks on the record should go. For example, ‘The Glitch’, a magnificent electronic number that you might easily hear in a club in the early hours, sits next to the soft spoken word track of ‘Dreambirds’, which could easily make its way onto a day time nature programme.
Perhaps the most interesting track on the album is: ‘Fierce of Light’, where the eerie noises of industry and trains are poised against the words of random objects such as ‘train’, ‘corridor’ and ‘freight’. Eno’s ability to create an atmosphere on tracks like this, without necessarily melody, carry Holland’s words to a level they perhaps wouldn’t reach if they were simply read aloud or looked at on the page.
From start to finish this record opens up the mind to a million different possibilities, never quite settling on one idea, sometimes the beauty at the heart of Eno’s talent to construct such music.