Review: Drawn From Life

Source: Uncut: Take 49, June 2001

By: Stephen Dalton


Mid-life mellowness from ambient Zen master and fellow eggheads

When not corralling rock superstars into blind alleys and oblique strategies, Eno finds time for a small but steady trickle of solo projects, multimedia dabblings and low-key collaborations. Having worked with Schwalm, a Frankfurt-based DJ and percussionist, on a Japanese release last year, the pair have come together again on this polished work which soothes the ears but adds little to the experimental thrust of Eno’s career arc. The pop professor is coasting a little here.

After the twitchy excursions into "unwelcome jazz" on his 1997 solo album, The Drop, Eno has steered back towards ambient waters. Compositions drift and intermingle like slow-moving mist while minimal micro-melodies gradually loom through the dewy twilight. "Persis" conjures up distant heat hazes, weeping strings and vaguely tribal rhythms. "Night Traffic" unrolls a glittering carpet of pizzicato strings and languorous, avant-dinner party trip hop. And the pointlessly two-part "Like Pictures" twinkles like some New Age relaxation tape as (oh yes) Laurie Anderson crops in to coldly intone "I’m right behind you." The post-modern pantomime season starts here. What, no Robert Fripp?

So far, so pleasantly forgettable. But then Eno and Schwalm amp up the other-worldly decor a notch or two with "Rising Dust", an Eastern-flavoured ethno-tronic tapestry featuring tweaked vocals transformed via a Cher-style voice-felcher into eerily beautiful non-English non-language. More sublime still is "More Dust", which evokes a virtual Desert Island Discs with treated Hawaiian guitar, robotic birdsong and softly lapping waves.

Two versions of "Bloom" bookend the album’s closing triptych of amniotic dub, heartbeat pulses and synthetic Gregorian chants. Four minutes of silence are also built into these tracks, possibly to encourage Zen-like rumination on being and nothingness. Or perhaps just to annoy those of us born with only one brain each. Drawn From Life is mostly Eno doing Eno without the spiky, dissonant bits. lnessential, but achingly lovely at times, this is Eno as self-conscious one-man brand. Classic Eno. Vintage Eno. But progressive or not, it is still sense-soothing head music par excellence. Lie back, chill out — you are tuned to Eno Gold.