Before My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts
came into being, Brian Eno and David Byrne had worked together on Talking Headís Fear Of Music
and Remain In Light
, with Eno handling production duties. Bush Of Ghosts
started through their fascination with tribal music and culture. Originally, this project was going to be a field recording from a fake tribe. Byrne once said "We'd invent a whole culture to go with", and from their original plans, it isnít hard to believe it.
However, these plans were drastically changed when they decided to weave in disco-funk, and even further when became obsessed with American radio hosts, callers to call-in-radio-shows, and evangelistic preachers. Their obsession was only with American radio, because the people in charge of the airwaves were nutters. Upon being asked what made radio hosts, and particularly evangelists so fascinating, Eno stated "when people speak passionately, they speak in melodies." This is certainly evident on Bush Of Ghosts
, as it uses tape splicings of many of these people. While the boundary between talking and chanting is crossed on "The Jezebel Spirit" and "America Is Waiting", the reverend Paul Merton on "Help Me Somebody"; almost seems to burst into song. This chanting has a suprising amount in common with the other half of tapes used: Egyptian pop singers, and Lebanese mountain singers.
The most sophisticated tape splicing is used on "Mea Culpa" in which an "inflamed radio caller&"; is on some sort of a talk show, to a "smooth politician". It opens with layers of these two talking, one on top of the other, sped up immensely into incomprehensible, hyperactive babble, then slowed to an also incomprehensible drone and repeated.
Musically speaking, Bush Of Ghosts
brings together African polyrythms, Arabic music from north Africa, and Disco-funk. Itís a sort of complex, jazzy, tribal synthĖfunk that is very bass and purcussion dominated. Itís complexity stems from what Simon Reynolds calls "rampant texturology".I'm not sure that textureology is a real word, but it describes the sound rather well--Bush Of Ghosts
is a constantly shifting sonic tapestry weaved together from layers upon layers of simplistic disco-funk bass lines, tribal drums and percussion, choppy, post-punk guitar riffs, and synth effects. Each instrument is fed though various effects pushing past the limit of their normal sonic capabilities.
Possibly the most complex song, "America Is Waiting"is created from single guitar notes, synth blips, funky bass lines, and gradually evolves as Gang Of Four-esque guitar lines, and piano parts steadily appear.
Despite their plans for a fake tribes field recordings changed, Bush Of Ghosts
is still very strongly influenced by tribal music. Instruments as varied as bodhrans, batas, congas, agong-gongs and sticks are used. Iím not sure what all of those instruments are, but they sure bring a very tribal sound to this album, and fit in with the incantations of ďThe Jezebel Spirit" and the Arabic singers.
Another element crucial to the sound of Bush Of Ghosts
is layers of ambient effects overlapping the music. Eno calls it "psychedelic wash", and it does bring an almost psychedelic feel to the album. This effect is used extensively throughout on songs such as "Very, Very Hungry"(Which also happens to have the best title of all time). It is, however most prominent on the closer, ďMountain Of Needles", where it creates an almost ambient effect.
From listening to My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts
, it';s easy to see why it is cited as one of the most influential albums in World, Electronica, and Hip-Hop music. It is, however, rather difficult to say quite how influential it was (Hip-Hop acts had started use tapes around this time. Would a Hip-Hop star really listen to music made by 2 skinny white guys? Even if they did, would they admit it?) it has cemented itself in music history. Damn, Eno and Byrne ***ing rule.