soundstreamsunday: “Warszawa” by David Bowie

bowieenoForty years on it seems like it must have been inevitable, obvious even, the crossing paths of Iggy Pop and David Bowie and Brian Eno and Robert Fripp, in service to Bowie’s Berlin Trilogy.  In Act Two of their collective careers, they became in the late 1970s the center of a wheel spoking to progressive rock, art rock, post punk, and new wave, the albums coming out of Bowie’s residency in Berlin among the richest, most genre-defying rock records created, documents of a grasp catching up with its reach.  “Warszawa” is from 1977’s Low, the second Berlin collaboration (after Pop’s The Idiot, for the trilogy is really a quintet, taking into account the records Bowie produced for Iggy during this period) and a document of Bowie’s dissolving spirits.  Here is where he throws the hammer at the mirror, where all his past characters like Ziggy and the Thin White Duke are shown the door.  The sound is fresh, with Eno, coming off his work with Cluster, applying broadly-stroked synth washes straight from the school of Moebius and Roedelius, encouraging Bowie to approach the music with deliberate freedom.  The result, like on the song “Sound and Vision,” is raw and buoyant.  It can also be wild and studied, as on the constraint-driven “Warszawa,” an exercise in composition employing  Eno’s planned accidents and oblique strategies.  In it, as on much of the album, you can hear an origin story of bands like U2 and Echo and the Bunnymen and Joy Division/New Order, and a second-wind promise Bowie himself would continue to fulfill, off and on, for the rest of his life.

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One thought on “soundstreamsunday: “Warszawa” by David Bowie

  1. A very concise and informative review, Craig. I’m less familiar with the original, but I’ve always loved Philip Glass’ treatment of the Bowie themes from this album in his “Low Symphony.” If you’ve not heard it, it’s worth a listen. Glass seems to do his best work when he can apply his compositional technique to something concrete, such as already extant melodies. Bowie’s dark mood offers some weight to the writing as well.

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