Pixelsound – Geometry Come to Life Fifty-eight
Apr 302006

Eno, Byrne, Hassell — My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts

“Au Sein De La Famille”

There are few things we find “at the heart of the family”—a familiar prayer, a piano, a cherished piece of furniture, a story told over and over so that anyone can mouth along with the highlights, a favorite holiday, a piece of music.

Growing up in the Vermont Koniuto home, that anchoring piece of music may have been Ravel’s Bolero, which my father would bring out now and again—ceremoniously, to my memory—on his old reel-to-reel. Or Art Blakey’s Drum Suite: this one frightened us as children, then got us dancing. There are others, but few.

There is a record at the heart of the Red Sun Soundroom family that gets this clan dancing and dreaming of other possible worlds. We’ve been living with My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts for some time, and just this month it’s been re-released with a new (and much improved) mastering job, as well as previously omitted tracks now included. Brian Eno, David Byrne, and Jon Hassell stacked found-object percussion into driving, pounding, hypnotic rhythms. Arranged over these beats are some of the earliest examples of sampled voices—from radio and archived field recordings—edited and treated to explore an entirely new world of story-telling through sonic manipulation. Before the ubiquitous use of digital samplers these artists worked with razor blades and countless splices of magnetic tape. The results, to this day, are spellbinding.

This seminal recording clearly has had its impact in the Soundroom, both aesthetically and in terms of performer attitude. From the production chair there is sometimes heard the imperative, “More Africa! Less office cubicle!”—though, admittedly, there may be more Africa to cubicle community life than what first meets the eye. “More barn, less high rise. More wood, less linoleum.”

These are by no means calls for anything like less sophistication in favor of something more “primitive”. Quite the opposite. They are appeals that stipulate—in the creative world—the mind must connect with muscle, the atmosphere need converse with earth, the spirit will know the beating heart when most awake.

On My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts technology looks archetypal rhythm in the eye and nods. There is an intrinsic agreement in these pieces, an understanding that the parts do not make the whole without innovation and soul searching alike. This is a precedent that holds a sacred place within the walls of the Soundroom. Music-making here requires the awareness of both the pulse of pumping blood and the flow of active electrons.

“The body is the big brain,” indeed. It’s about creating with your everything.

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