Eno * Hyde
From its title, it would be easy to assume Brian Eno—egghead, professional deconstructionist, collaborator, and producer to DEVO, David Bowie, U2, Robert Fripp, and Coldplay, to name just a few—was choosing to highlight the Afropop he first hit upon for 1981’s My Life in the Bush of Ghosts with David Byrne, and little more. High Life is the second undertaking of Eno and Underworld mastermind Hyde in 2014, the first being May’s odd-pop assemblage Someday World and its miniaturized, reedy take on Juju, trance, and Middle Eastern funk. Someday World is brilliant. High Life just happens to be better, particularly because, more so than his last forays into full-length albums, the vocal Eno is prominent. The lizardy charms of “Baby’s On Fire,” the blissful “I’ll Come Running,” the jazzy, energized harmonies of Wrong Way Up: it is this Eno that appears throughout High Life.
Certainly, the new album’s rhythmic aplomb, and the wobbly repetition afforded its droning guitars (courtesy Karl Hyde on songs such as its opener, “Return”) signaled a return to the influence of West Africa’s hypnotic, pitchy, brittle funk. The slow, woozy “Time To Waste It,” and the angular, scuffed-up, dance-soul of “DBF” sound off similarly. But to assume anything is as it seems with Eno is to make an ass of yourself. For he marches forward while looking back (Eno * Hyde‘s High Life sounds remarkably fleshy, even analog, in its recording), lends ambient space great weight, gives the solidest rock its airiest temporality, and makes even the most romantic notion ripe with enmity and vice versa. Perhaps buoyed by his membership in an informal a cappella group, the luster of lush harmonies against bleeps and blorps on “Lilac” and the rich chorale of “Cells & Bells” show that Eno’s life, high as it is, focuses on the purity of the voice and the pleasures it brings.
Then again, I’m assuming.