The duo explores an inverted, shifted relationship between words and music.
David Stubbs 2011-11-09
Eno’s third collection for Warp, and his second collaboration with the poet Rick Holland following Drums Between the Bells, is an EP on which the duo again explores an inverted, shifted relationship between words and music in song.
Eno’s backdrops, on In the Future for example, are spare, darkly turquoise, semi-ambient, yet insinuate themselves into the foreground, like a servant overshadowing the master. Holland’s words, meanwhile, are placed discreetly but tellingly in the mix, as if somehow ‘soundtracking’ the music. The collaborative effect is most telling on West Bay in which the words "alone on this island with only the stones" somehow underwrite the isolated, carefully placed and plotted piano notes dropped by Eno.
In a tradition that goes back to St Elmo's Fire on Another Green World and Julie With… on Before and After Science, there's a faintly nautical air to some of these tracks, a hint of salt and faded shanty on the wind as these tracks lilt and breeze. That said, If These Footsteps has a distinctly urban, bustling, strobe-lit feel, an abrupt and vivid shift in mood, while Watch a Single Swallow in a Thermal Sky, and Try to Fit Its Motion, or Figure Why It Flies, an instrumental ironically, lives up practically syllable by syllable to its title.
As a concept, Panic of Looking is open to interpretation – but in a ‘post-everything’ era in which the desensitising blur of the sheer flow of data from all sides is greater than ever before, this album acts as a corrective. It attempts to create a context of isolation from all that, an aquarium-like zone of contemplation, in which audiovisual detail can be savoured, in stillness and without fear of missing out for a few seconds on the relentless info-stream of modern life.