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Talk Talk - Spirit Of Eden CD (album) cover

SPIRIT OF EDEN

Talk Talk

 

Crossover Prog

4.09 | 228 ratings

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CaptainWafflos
5 stars I don't think that anyone who listened to Talk Talk's mediocre synth-pop albums of the early '80s could have predicted their complete evolution into the band who released the masterpiece that is Spirit of Eden. Mark Hollis, the prime creative force behind the band, draws more from Erik Satie, Maurice Ravel, Claude Debussy, Miles Davis, and german kraut rock band Can than from any of their contemporaries at the time.

Spirit of Eden is undeniably progressive in the literal sense. Perhaps the main reason for the mode of composition used for this album, which was pretty much unheard of at the time of its release. Talk Talk, using their record label's large budget and the funds they drew from their other records over the years, hired a dozen and a half sessions musicians utilizing various instruments and had them improvise to various pre-formed song structures. As a side, since few bands these days have the budget to produce an album of this magnitude, and since those that do doubtfully had the artistic motivations that Talk Talk possessed at this point, I doubt we'll be seeing another album like Spirit of Eden or Laughing Stock in some time. At this point, Hollis and producer/unofficial band member Tim Friese-Greene took the improvisations and mixed and matched them to their final positions on the disc. With this in mind, I find it pretty fun to listen to this disc and attempt to pay attention to only the raw skeletons of the songs rather than the copious improvisations inserted all over the disc.

It's difficult to describe the music on this album. As I stated in the previous paragraph, I don't think anything similar to this existed prior to the album's release, nor do I know of anything similar that exists after. The music, as I stated before, is based on minimalistic song structures with improvisational segments from various instruments tastefully placed whererever the music is sparse. The music is "organic," as Hollis describes it, featuring predominantly acoustic instrumentation with an emphasis on ... earthliness ... if that makes any sense. I would also describe it as deeply meditative and introspective music. The album relies heavily on dissonance for its effect, and indeed it seems as though improvisation parts are chosen simply for their dissonant effects.

It would be pointless to describe the individual function of each instrument on this record as there are so many, but the predominant ones are definitely piano, drums, and Hollis' voice. Yes, Hollis voice functions much more as an instrument on this album than as a conveyor of lyrics. While the lyrics themselves are by no means anything to be shunned, Hollis tends not to enunciate fully, and I would be extremely surprised if anyone is able to understand more than half the words on this album from the music alone. Hollis' voice and keyboard melodies are for the most part unimprovisational and provide for most of the predetermined song structure, while drums are used for keeping the beat and giving the album an all-in-all cohesive feel. Drumming here is not to prove virtuosity: to do so would be like tearing the ocean out from under a boat. The simplistic and often unchanging drumming provides a foundation for rest of the music. That's about all it does, but it works well enough.

The first three tracks form a three-part suite, each track flowing into the next. From the getgo, it seems like "The Rainbow" is going to be essentially formless, but as electric guitar chimes in, this feeling is shattered as a rhythm begins to manifest itself. Enter drums, and the rest of the suite takes off from there. The song continues, oscillating back and forth between pre-formed sections of music and periods of improvisation. The next two tracks, "Eden" and "Desire," seem a bit more structured. "Eden" features an extremely climactic chorus and some of the best lyrics on the album. "Desire," on the other hand, features a very cool organ part and one of the only parts of the album that could legitimately be classified as heavy.

In contrast to some of the other reviewers here, I think the second half of this album is as good if not beter than the first. The latter half seems a bit more ... sparse than the former. "Inheritance" has some of the most heart-breaking vocals I've ever heard uttered. "I Believe in You" is probably the most restrained and beautiful song on the record, which is probably why it was chosen as a single. "Wealth," the last song, is minimal almost to the point of ambience. Perhaps because of the barren structure of this song, it has probably the most emphasis on improvisation on the album. The album closes with a prolonged, droning organ dissonance that drifts the listener off to sleep.

I believe Spirit of Eden to not only be a superlative album but one of the crowning achievements of the latter half of the 20th century. It achieves this greatness not only in its inherent quality but also in its influence on later works: Spirit of Eden influenced many of today's post-rock bands. I also hear some Talk Talk influence in Radiohead's later works, among others.

This album is a masterpiece. Put on the disc, whip on some headphones, and listen to it as you drift off to sleep. Recommended to any lover of experimental music.

CaptainWafflos | 5/5 |

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