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One of those albums which many people claim is highly influential, but fewer people have actually heard. So I came to it tentatively, expecting not to "get it", but it's indeed good stuff. It does have a conscious air of coolness, with African-flavoured beats constantly bubbling underneath. Eno's synth effects and pings weave in and out between Byrne's jerky funk guitar and slap bass, and it's all held together by a crystal clear production.
The coolest part of the sound must be the snatches of sampled voices, especially the mad exorcist in "The Jezebel Spirit". It's doubtful that this is a forerunner of hip-hop, more like a distant relation. Their techniques wouldn't be so revolutionary now in the days of computer sampling, but it's still impressive that they did it with bits of tape. Some Arabic sounding vocals here and there also add to the worldly coolness.
Although it's not continuous, the tracks flow into each other so smoothly that it's easily seen as one long mix of music, maybe like a DJ set. Although some tracks have their own distinctive atmospheres. "Very, Very Hungry" is neat, with this great plucked tune that's in a completely diffent key to the backing music. The spaced-out pinging Eno sound, as on U2's Joshua Tree, comes out in "The Carrier". There's hints of the ambient work he's renowned for on "Mountain Of Needles". "Come With Us" even sounds like something Aphex Twin or Autechre would be doing 15 years later.
February 11, 2004