Released over 27 years ago, it wouldn’t be hard to imagine Brian Eno and David Byrne’s My Life in the Bush of Ghosts as a signpost for everything that eventually followed in its wake. By dabbling with samplers and using vocals taken from Arabic pop singles and recordings of evangelical sermons, the pair crafted a work that firmly embraced the static hum of an increasingly global world and reflected it back onto a decade that saw the rise of the personal computer, the games console and what turned out to be just the beginnings of new levels of sensory overload in mass entertainment.
Nearly 30 years on from the release of My Life… and, following a post-dinner conversation between the two, they’ve finally released a follow-up. With Eno exerting himself entirely on the music and Byrne focusing exclusively on vocals and lyrics, the result, Everything That Happens Will Happen Today, is an entirely different entity to the musical collage they crafted in the early days of the Reagan administration. Instead of once again immersing themselves in a game of cat and mouse with cultural odds and ends from around the world, these two once mighty iconoclasts revert to something far more familiar here: proper songs.
Its creators may label it ‘electronic gospel’, but what Everything… truly is, is the soundtrack of two veteran explorers seeking a welcome respite from the world they cleverly predicted on previous efforts. Some might view this as a worrisome turn towards the middle of the road, but when a man who recently transformed an entire building into a musical instrument gloriously sings “I’m looking for a home, where the wheels are turning…” over the glitch-fuelled guitars of opener_ ‘Home’ or “…nothing has changed but nothing’s the same”_ on the title track, it’s clear that this is not a case of once-great men resting on their laurels. Instead, what we’re given is a record produced by two individuals who understand that by inhabiting the space which stretches between the traditional and avant-garde, it’s possible to craft something that avoids being shackled by the weight of the past or feels compelled to embrace the shock of the new in order to stand on its own two feet.
Those in search of freshly broken ground may still find this record a disappointment. This is, after all, a gentle record filled with gentle songs that are unlikely to offer a roadmap for the following three decades to come. But for those exhausted by a modern landscape, where playing a game of spot the musical reference is de rigueur when approaching every new release, _Everything That Happens Will Happen Today _is certainly a welcome relief.
8Charles Ubaghs's Score