NPR released a new "Tiny Desk Concert" on Wednesday featuring Daniel Lanois (electronics), Brian Blade (drums), and Jim Wilson (bass). Up front, I must share that I am a big fan of Daniel Lanois' ambient work. For me, it all started with his pedal steel contributions to the massively enjoyable Brian Eno release, "Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks" ( Amazon | iTunes ) and was cemented with the release of Lanois' own "Belladonna" ( Amazon | iTunes ). As NPR's Bob Boilen notes in the info published with the video:
I came to know Daniel Lanois through his instrumental collaboration with Brian Eno, Apollo: Atmospheres And Soundtracks, in 1983. I fell in love with Lanois' own music through his singing and the heartfelt, textured songs on albums like 1989's lovely Acadie (with its New Orleans flavor) and 1993's For The Beauty Of Wynona (with its haunting sounds and stories). Most fans know Lanois as a remarkable producer for the likes of Bob Dylan, U2 and Peter Gabriel. YouTube
Here. Here. I say.
The most recent "Tiny Desk" installment features a Lanois-led trio rolling through three very atmospheric and ambient tracks: "Sci Fi"; "Elevator"; and "Apres Calypso." To-date I have not found any of the tracks played on any recording currently available, so I am guessing that these were new and/or previously unrecorded compositions. Lanois did release in 2014 the ambient, "Flesh and Machine," ( Amazon | iTunes )and the tunes featured on this Tiny Desk set sounded like something realized during that session. Also, some of these tracks have been played live previously. For example, "Sci Fi" was recorded live for WFUV and can be viewed here.
I found so much to enjoy during this "small set of music in a small space." To watch Lanois, an artful master of anything with a knob and slider, create his sonic soundscapes in real time was a special treat. On many of his ambient recordings he includes his deft and atmospheric pedal steel guitar (as one small example, watch this video, which also features Brian Blade), but here Lanois opted to go all-in with a techno-focus that not only makes for great theater (the watching of it all unfold, live) but also added a very compelling, trippy flavor that flowed seamlessly. He was beautifully supported, no less, by the ever-limber, totally-grooving-the-small-kit-and-smiling, Brian Blade on drums. Lanois and Blade are regular collaborators and the comfort and familiarity they share, musically, is clearly evident. Added to the mix was Jim Wilson's relaxed bass playing, which held the low-end, and along with Blade's drumming, helped to ground the more ethereal moments, rhythmically. A fine set all around, highly enjoyable, and strongly recommended.