Brian Eno + David Byrne: My Life in the Bush of Ghosts

I have a decent sized music collection — 25,000+ tracks across all genres but EZ listening — that has largely evolved along lines of producers, artists, and genres. Following these kinds of lineages have led to some truly awesome bits of music.

I really like ambient music. Not that wishy-washy crap, but stuff with rhythm and lots of interesting samples and sounds that meld together to create seriously complex and mesmerizing textures. Moby struck me as a bit of pioneer, as does the Orb.

A couple of days ago, a friend introduced me to an album that is quite clearly a historical anchor in the realm of sampleriffic ambient textural rhythmic goo.

Brian Eno and David Byrne created My Life in the Bush of Ghosts in 1981. A combination of field recordings, world music, studio effects, and other bits of electronica (but no samples!), the result is a groundbreaking groove that presaged much of what would become standard fair more than a decade later (and with much better technology).

Awesome album. And an interesting combination of extreme artists. Some of Eno’s work can put a tweaking meth head to sleep and Byrne’s solo efforts often get inanely vocal. Together they seem to ground each other and the result is pure brilliance.

Update: davidf mentions that My Life in the Bush of Ghosts was produced around the time of Talking Heads’ Remain in Light. Remain in Light is another piece of flat out brilliances. Complex compositions with layers of effects and rhythms. Almost primal, at times. Unlike Bush of Ghosts, Remain in Light has lyrics, interesting stories told/sung by Byrnes on top of awesome soundscape produced by the Heads.

Another must have album. And, interestingly enough, there is a third album that is considered to be equally as masterful. Byrne did a soundtrack called The Catherine Wheel that was commissioned by Twyla Tharp.

Rob Bevan also wrote to say that there is an entire web site devoted to the Bush of Ghosts album. It contains multi-track downloads of some of the songs and a slew of user submitted remixes.

Very very cool stuff. Thank you for the links and pointers!

Update2: The thread not followed: Sometime in the late ’80s or early ’90s, I picked up a fabulous collection of songs put together by Peter Gabriel called the The Best of Music And Rhythm. Amazing collection of songs. As it turns out, the second song on The Catherine Wheel appears on that album! While I ran long on Peter Gabriel, The English Beat and a couple of the other artists on that album, I never got around to exploring the Byrne content.

Happily, that circle is now closed. Catherine Wheel is excellent!

7 Responses to “Brian Eno + David Byrne: My Life in the Bush of Ghosts”

  1. david says:

    It’s easily in my top 5.

    It was actually completed before the “Remain in Light” Talking Heads album – which used similar techniques – but was released after because it took time to get authorizations.

    “The Catherine Wheel” is another similar sounding album that Byrne did for Twyla Tharp for a dance piece.

  2. Rob Bevan says:

    And they recently ‘open sourced’ a couple of tracks, so the album has definitelt been enjoying a bit of a renaissance:

  3. David Buxton says:

    Recommend you track down an early pressing of this album which had a track called Qu’ran. It was deleted in later editions and unfortunately didn’t make the remastered version.

    It is the equal of any other track on the album.

  4. David Buxton says:

    By the way, the page for this entry is broken in a recent Camino nightly on my Mac OS X 10.4.9 machine. Looking at the source of this entry, line 288 has an opening SCRIPT tag but no closing tag, so the bulk of the page is treated as JavaScript, until line 427 where a different JavaScript chunk is closed correctly.

    Doing view source in Camino may make it clearer what I mean because the syntax colouring stops after the first broken SCRIPT tag.

    Hope this helps

  5. Carl Juarez says:

    Actually, it was produced both before and after Remain in Light, first being blocked by the estate of evangelist Katherine Kuhlman (who had been sampled in “The Jezebel Spirit”). Then once RiL was finished they revisited it and iirc made other changes. There’s a bootleg of the pre-released version, but the one I heard was such a poor-quality dub that I couldn’t listen to it, so I don’t know what the differences were.

    “Qu’ran” was on the original vinyl and early CDs but was taken off subsequent releases because of Islamic threats (around the time of The Satanic Verses). An EP-only release, “Very Very Hungry,” was added either then or to the recent re-release documented on the website mentioned above.

  6. bbum says:

    Thank you to all who have contributed to this thread.

  7. Steve says:

    I have the ‘Ghosts’ Bootleg, the original CD release with Qu’ran, and the new remaster.

    Here’s how the bonus tracks match up:

    Ghosts: “The Friends of Amos Tutuola”
    Remaster: “Two Against Three”

    Ghosts: “On The Way To Zagora”
    Remaster: “Pitch To Voltage”

    Ghosts: “Les Hommes Ne Sauront Jamais”
    Remaster: “Number 8 Mix”

    Ghosts Only:
    “Interview with Brian Eno” (Interview, not a song)
    “Into The Spirit Womb” (Katherine Kuhlman Jezebel Spirit)

    Remaster Only:
    “Vocal Outtakes”
    “New Feet”
    “Defiant” (An early version of Jezebel Spirit with different vocal samples than either the release version or the Katherine Kuhlman)
    “Solo Guitar With Tin Foil”

    Original Release Only:

    The “Ghosts” versions of the standard tracks are sometimes extended and slightly different than the finished version. These extended versions were used on the remaster, so the remaster has longer track times on Mea Culpa and the Carrier than the original release.

    Email me if you would like the mp3s from ‘Ghosts’ and ‘Qu’ran’


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