Lanois's Latest Is an Ambient Guitar Extravaganza

Daniel Lanois begins this instrumental excursion with a great wash of flanged psychedelic backwash, ribbed with pedal steel guitar in an upward thrust of musical birth that oozes from the speakers like sonic Cool-Whip.

That fades into a murky underwater cavern splashed by the shimmering light of the great jazz drummer Brian Blade. The Louisiana native has worked with Lanois before as well as with Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Wayne Shorter and many other musicians in both jazz and rock.

If you’re familiar with Lanois’s collaborations with Brian Eno, you will hear many similarities in the desolation of the treated, cave-dwelling keyboards, but Lanois adds touches of Mexican Mariachi and sprinkles of tremeloed Hawaii among the musical spices.

Also contributing are pianist Brad Mehldau and a number of other musicians who have collaborated with Lanois in the past.

It’s not all free-falling mood swings: there’s a strong beat on the reggae/Hawaiian fusion on “Frozen,” but whatever’s happening rhythmically you can rely on hearing Lanois pushing the dynamic envelope with his pedal steel. Sometimes the effect is so strong you feel as if your ear drums might get sucked out during the vibrato.

This is a relatively short but consistently engaging sonic spectacular redolent of organic, “tubey” sounding even order harmonics that help give the picture a warm, vibrant cast. The recording is remarkably transparent, with big wet, ultra-vivid central images and great gobs of front-to-back depth.

Unfortunately, while the pressing is a nice, thick 180 grams, the quality of my copy was terrible: full of pops, clicks and other crud indicative of poor QC throughout the pressing process. I doubt this came from RTI. I have my suspicions as to where this was done, but unless I can find out for sure, I’m not willing to stick the blame on anyone.

I like supporting the LP, but an album of mostly quiet instrumental music had better be ultra-quiet to compete with the CD: ambient music was made for the format.

A short series of experiments, but an album that can magically wash the stress from your body in a single play. Worth a listen every few days.

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