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Brian Eno - Brian Eno & J. Peter Schwalm: Drawn From Life CD (album) cover


Brian Eno


Progressive Electronic

3.57 | 31 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars While it's accurate to say that Drawn from Life has a fairly ambient, minimalistic sound, it is at the same time orchestral and rich. Fans of SIGUR ROS' album Agaetis Byrjun would probably find a lot to enjoy about this one. There are definitely synthesizers here, but they merge well with the very real strings mixed into a lush, reverb- saturated atmosphere without becoming overdone. Also (somehow!) merged into the music are various computer-manipulated voices that in all cases but one work incredibly well with the music, sounding artificial but not jarringly so in the context of the rest of the music. Even if you're not always a fan of BRIAN ENO's more ambient work, this one may be more accessible and appealing to a wider audience.

From the instant I heard the transition from "From This Moment" into "Persis", I knew I was hooked. In fact, "Persis" may well be one of the strongest songs on the entire album as well as a favorite--"hypnotic" hardly even begins to cover it. The production is absolutely perfect...there's a lot of reverb, but not in a cheap-sounding way at all. The two parts of "Like Pictures" are also enjoyable, and this is the first introduction to those vocoded vocals I was talking about before. Here some strange effects are applied to a female voice--subtle at first, but quite attention-getting. The string work is pleasant and almost Arabic-sounding. "Night Traffic" is a real stunner--here, the synth even successfully creates the sound of a truck backing, but that's almost the only sound effect in there used to evoke the mood in the title. I really appreciate that kind of subtlety--how only one tiny element is used to call up the proper imagery. I particularly love the vocoded voice at the end; the way in which it is manipulated is much more careful and artistic than what I usually hear. "Rising Dust" follows in a similar vein, where the synth-voice is taken from a fairly normal style, then manipulated into an Arabic singing technique with all of the little quavers and jumps in pitch that demands--and then into something entirely inhuman. For some reason I find this truly fascinating. "Intenser" is an interesting one...very dark, sultry, and for some reason reminding me of the kind of music you hear in the background of a luxury car commercial. A very handsome-sounding male voice (yes, people, your dear prog reviewer is female!) really adds to this slick, commercial-without-being-commercial atmosphere by reading the kind of poem that seems as if it's geared to entice one into buying without ever once naming the product.

Up until this point, had the material continued with such strength, I have no doubt I'd be giving Drawn from Life five stars. Unfortunately, the album really starts to lose momentum. "More Dust" is certainly a listenable track, but less memorable than what preceded it. Even its title suggests an addendum more than anything. As for the first rendition of "Bloom"...I simply don't like it. The voices--which sound like recordings from a kitchen with a father and small child--get on my nerves. I can't even explain why, but they do, and it really takes away from what could have been an interesting song idea. Then after this...don't be fooled by the track times; there's a huge gap of silence on the CD that I have no idea why it exists. Then there's "Two Voices". Here the synth-voices backfire in a huge way, and while the little poem they're reciting isn't bad, I simply don't like the sound of it. And then there's another one of those unexplained gaps of silence. Fortunately the album ends on a good note--thankfully, there is a fully instrumental version of "Bloom", which I really enjoy.

Overall, this is an album I enjoy quite a bit...and who knows--perhaps some of you out there will even enjoy the two tracks I didn't, because there does seem to be something there even if I can't get into them.

FloydWright | 4/5 |


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