In completing a year of soundstreamsunday, I turn away from the “infinite” in the project’s subtitle (“a weekly infinite linear mixtape”) and towards the analog finite-ness of the cassette mixes that so defined life pre-ipod. In my early creative life this was my primary medium, the 90-minute blank TDK, bound to its two-sided loop, on which I could conduct a mix corralling the works of others. The collage confines of the mixtape start with a four-cornered frame, defined beginnings and endings that are also transitional and act like the Mobius strip, so the loop, if constructed well, becomes more suggestive of a continuing spiral. As the last two-sided audio medium developed, the eraseable cassette tape shouted its message: do what you will, the ending will take you to the beginning.
In this context, Brian Eno’s “An Ending (Ascent)” from Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks (with Daniel Lanois and Roger Eno) is one of many possible natural links between U2’s “The Three Sunrises” and the first song in the series, Sun River’s “Esperanza Villanueva“; and, as I write this, it also occurs to me that the song’s title reflects what I’m trying to achieve, a pivot, a soft stop in a rising continuum. In the words of one of Eno’s Oblique Strategies: “Repetition is a form of change.”
Eno is a theorist/strategist, a rock and roll Zelig moving through the histories of glam, punk, ambient, prog, and new wave. His is an intention minus the contrivance. He locates boundaries so as to cross them, so as to observe them, to flip the within and the without. To conflate the end with the beginning.
*Images above of Eno’s “Oblique Strategies” cards. First published in 1975, the deck’s pithy advice on jumpstarting the creative process is one indicator of Eno’s wizardly musical midwifery.
soundstreamsunday presents one song or live set by an artist each week, and in theory wants to be an infinite linear mix tape where the songs relate and progress as a whole. For the complete playlist, go here: soundstreamsunday archive and playlist, or check related articles by clicking on”soundstreamsunday” in the tags section above.
Thirty years ago this month and next, U2, Brian Eno, and Daniel Lanois were putting the finishing touches on what is arguably one of the greatest rock albums ever written, THE JOSHUA TREE. That “the album wears well,” even three decades later, would be a tragic understatement. Frankly, though I have listened to it repeatedly over the past 29 years, THE JOSHUA TREE sounds as fresh at the end of 2016 as it did in the spring of 1987. It’s possible that nostalgia—“the rust of memory,” as the great sociologist Robert Nisbet once proclaimed it—clouds my judgment, but I don’t think so. Other albums from that time that meant almost as much to me then sound dreadfully tinny and dated now.
So, my continuing and continuous awestruck response to THE JOSHUA TREE can’t be complete nostalgia.
AllAboutJazz.com has a fascinating interview, conducted by Nenad Georgievski (writing from Macedonia, of all places), with legendary producer and musician Daniel Lanois. Here is an excerpt:
AAJ: When it comes to production, what are the things you look for in people’s music which will decide whether you produce them?
DL: I look for points of strength. It’s nice if there is a singer in the band and for the singer to have a big personality, something unique about their voice. I also look for commitment and a lot of heart and soul, because in the beginning what we do, which is representing the artist, plays a big part in the equation. Yes, you can apply a lot of muscle and you can pay your advertising after, but essentially it needs to have a lot of soul and it needs to be in existence for the right reasons. So, authenticity is the beginning, and then advertising comes later (laughs).
AAJ: Where is the meeting point between the artist’s ideas and the producer’s ideas about the outcome? Is your primary aim as a producer to help realize an artist’s vision, or to expand it?
DL: I think the producer’s job is to produce something magical within the offering of the artist. And I find that a vision comes together quite quickly when a magic moment appears. When that magic moment appears, a new vision comes into play and I don’t think people should assume that people are coming into studio with a small vision and that it’s all we operate by. I think people are hoping that they are going to bump into something fresh. When that happens then we get to be naive all over again in terms of freshness, and then a brand new vision comes into play for both parties.
AAJ: With some artists you’ve worked with over a series of albums (like U2, Gabriel, Dylan), does your function alter as you get more familiar with each other?
DL: There is no doubt that there is a relationship that develops and people’s roles change. When I first started working with U2 I was to be the engineer of the project, and then everybody in the camp realized that I was very musical. And I was able to make contributions with harmonies, understanding of rhythm and the arrangements -I was able to enter the world of music with them and not just sitting in the technician’s chair. Everybody in that camp is very smart, so they realized that my talent was such that I was able to be as much a musical producer for the record making process as Brian Eno is. So that became the strength of that relationship. Everyone knows how to work with equipment to a certain degree, but what is most important to that relationship is the evolution of our musical minds. That’s it; you are able to work with the strengths of the people in the room.
AAJ: What is it that keeps people like U2, Dylan, Gabriel, Neil Young, hungry to keep doing it at this point in their careers?
DL: That is a very fundamental question and that question applies to the whole world and not just the artists that I work with. What keeps us interested in innovation? We are human beings, we evolve and we like new ideas. With my current work I want to invent sounds that take us to the future. If there is anything that I have learned from all of the artists that I’ve worked with, it’s that they have a similar appetite to know what lies ahead, around the bend, what’s over the mountain. It’s just the way it is. Even after 60 years of rock and roll we still have an appetite to know what might be the new thing, what expression still needs to be expressed, and so on. So, as we grow and as we grow through life we look things differently when we reflect on our work.
Daniel Lanois: It’s a very technologically driven record and I use a lot of sampling and dubbing. But I sampled my own instruments and my own voice. Well, I sampled other people’s records as well (laughing). This allowed me to have a very unique personality and for the record to find its own direction. I have dreams to step into the future with my sonics, so I decided to go after symphonic or orchestral results but without the sound of familiar orchestral instruments. I wanted brand new ones that haven’t been heard before. So that was part of my driving force and criteria.