My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts
[Sire SRK-6093]

This collaboration by head Talking Head David Byrne and avant-gardist Brian Eno represents another attempt on their part to draw on the power of primitive musics and cultures for their own highly cerebral, decidedly Western ends. In this effort, it is less successful than the most recent Eno produced Talking Heads' record, Remain in Light. Musically, it is most similar to, and about as fully realized as Eno's collaboration with John Hassell, Fourth World: Possible Musics.

As always with Eno, the conceptual thrust behind Bush of Ghosts is intriguing. The voice tracks for ten of the record's eleven pieces are drawn either directly from third-world contexts (tapes of chanting of the Koran, a Lebanese mountain singer, an Egyptian popular singer) or from primitive, antirational or populist sources within our own culture (tapes of an exorcism rite performed in New York, a New Orleans radio preacher, call-in radio show, Georgia religious singers). Eno edits and treats these tapes, and he and Byrne (with help from some visiting musicians) create atmospheric musical contexts for them, rooted in percussive funk rhythms and overlayed with techno-musical effects.

When Eno and Byrne manage to tap the spiritual conviction and intensity of their sources, as in "America is Waiting", "Regiment'', "Help Me Somebody", and "The Jezebel Spirit'', the results are startlingly effective. Too often, however, the works seem a bit too self-conscious, rather like the term projects of two extremely intelligent graduate students in ethnomusicology. If you were never entirely convinced that white boys could play the blues (and Eno and Byrne are without question the whitest musicians ever to put sound on vinyl), their jamming on chants of the Koran is hardly likely to allay your doubts.

But that's too flippant a dismissal. This record's own considerable virtues make it worthy of serious listening, as does the force it lends to the world music impetus already affecting many musical styles.

-Anthony DeCurtis