When David Byrne and Brian Eno released their collaboration My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts in 1981, to some critical acclaim it has to be said, few predicted far-reaching consequences. At the time it was an oddity, a one-off, an intellectual, muso summit meeting of two of the most artful art-rockers of their day and, arguably, still to this day. In order to buy it, you'd have needed to locate the New Age section of any large record store, and root through any number of whale noise and Tibetan chant albums.
Were we to attempt a conversation with the id/ego of either Byrne or Eno,
I wonder, honestly, would we get a word in edgeways? It is my understanding
that the project was originally the brainchild of composer Jon Hassel who was
promptly dumped by the other two on recognition that they could realize Hassel's
vision without his input. On release, MLITBOG garnered mixed
but mostly favourable critique for its blend of afro-funk, ambience, and sampled
vocals. Neither man had even read the book of the same name.
This brings us to Jash, one of a growing number of musicians putting the intelligence back into dance music and in this case, putting the id into IDM. On this clever record, mashed up beats perform tribal dances around eerie melodies and the odd sample. Most of the 12 tracks are a hypnotic groove, repetitive and heavily percussive. Tom Toms feature prominently with no better example than the fantastic Sometimes dreams divide, where their warm rhythms play nicely off against stark, moody electronics. Shirofungus is arguably the most club-friendly track in evidence.
Later, things take a turn for the transcendental. Groovinda is dub-trance
with Eastern leanings. "Vibe" may be one of those four letter words when it
comes to music reviewing? Do we care? This record is loaded with vibes. Dreams
inside pushes the envelope still further, only here the electronics bring
to mind other 80s cut-up pioneers Pink Industry. On occasion, vocals are noticeable
by their absence and I get the sense of somebody like Sylvian straining at
the leash to layer his rich voice over the top of these compositions. But it's
Jash's sound, and when he delivers sheer quality on the scale of something
like Aesculus flava nobody can argue. This delicious slice of gentle,
swaying loveliness could be the soundtrack to the most wonderful hug in the
world. It'll certainly be one of my tracks of the year.
So the grandchildren of Byrne and Eno finally come home to roost. It's taken a quarter of a century, but now a whole scene is spreading up around one legendary album. So when MLITBOG was re-released this year, Jash and his fans could wallow in the delicious irony of the timing. 25 years on, theirs is an id you can converse with.