I’ve been wrapped up almost entirely in hip-hop as of late, but a Brian Eno release through Warp Records is something that I will always examine; it was with a great deal of surprise that the collaborative release alongside Karl Hyde is both accessible and experimental at the same time.
Karl Hyde (of Underworld acclaim) and Brian Eno (of everything creative ever acclaim) created High Life in five days. Their second release together, the LP sounds rather different than May’s subpar Someday World. While the past release was cluttered with collaborations and seemingly rushed ideas, High Life is full of direction and cool. It takes guitar elements of drone and even afrobeat grooves to create a soundscape none different than one of Paul Simon’s early jam sessions. This is Rhythm of the Saints with more angelic “oooh”’s and lengthier reprisals.
Despite only being six songs long, half of the 45-minute exposition deceptively features songs clocking in at over seven minutes, some touching closer to ten. Although the tracks are lengthy, the LP is minimal and repetitive, more so than a great deal of Eno’s past releases (which are constant and across the board in regard to accessibility, acclaim, and appetite). But this mention of repetition is by no means a bad thing. High Life is merely a continual, gentle groove that begs to never stop.
This is easily the best project of Eno’s since 2005’s Everything Happens Today alongside David Byrne. And being his best release in the last decade is something, but High Life is more than that. It’s a consideration for one of the greater Eno releases, a 40-year history of music which spans from Talking Heads to Devo to U2 and so on. Much love to Grace Jones.
Eno, 66, and Hyde, 57, properly put on display an original creation that blends all of their past and present inspirations and influences: decades of eclectic styles and movements, all the while managing to keep it new and original while also sounding like something you once heard in a fever dream. The artwork resembles a technicolor shanty town, both international and unique. It is a fine complement to the music contained within.
“Time to Waste It” features a sleepy, woozy guitar riff over some robotic vocal distortions. Wah wah desires and late night meanderings. “Lilac” teeters closer to a Talking Heads jam session than anything else on the LP, speaking of flowers with minor switchups for nine-and-a-half minutes and somehow never showing signs of dismissal.
The only piece of the puzzle that fits unpleasantly is the second to last track, “Moulded Life,” which is full of moments of confusing distortions but also breakdowns of bliss. At under five minutes, it plays like a glitchy intermission, perhaps the experimental climax of an unseen film, before wrapping up nicely with closer “Cells & Bells,” a gregorian chant in outer space.
As High Life was completed in five days, it’s only right to assume that Eno and Hyde have more in the vault, gathering digital dust, waiting to be unveiled. Hopefully the universal praise for High Life will motivate further releases and cross-genre beauty from these two veteran masterminds.
4 out of 5
You can purchase High Life on Amazon.