Pop experimentalist [lastfm]Brian Eno[/lastfm] joined with lyricist [lastfm]Rick Holland[/lastfm] on a new six-track EP that blends spoken word poetry with delicate electronic soundscapes. For fans of Eno’s earlier work, including Another Green World, Panic of Looking engages the darker, ambient spectrum of his production toolbox.
A “counterpart” to his latest full length, Drums Between The Bells, Panic offers a quick glimpse into Sir Eno’s sonic repertoire. Each track displays a delicate balance between Rick Holland’s spoken-word lyricism and Eno’s signature atmosphere that coalesce over the course of the EP.
“in the future” opens the EP with plaintive chord progression and dewy notes that ping-pong across the stereo field. Layers of instrumentation and voices gather atop each other as “future” progresses, mimicking the gentle growth of a sunrise. Curiously, Panic does not start as it means to go on; the warmth of “future” fades to twilight in a galactic rain forest. Chirps and whirls encircle “not a story” as Holland describes his “sex face,” “tracts on [his] veins,” “kinetics” and other abstract terms that serve little than to delineate a myriad of dark imagery. Only slightly longer than “future,” “not a story” floats by faster than you’d expect, a trait that occurs throughout the EP. It’s as if Brian is aware of this record’s experiment, aware of a layperson’s automatic disdain for spoken word over obfuscated instrumentation. Sir Eno was right to do so – by the end of each song, I found myself wanting to go back and listen through again, but continued for the sake of the overall experience.
The EP’s titular track (stream it above) is Nosferatu in song. Gothic, creeping, shadowy and poetic, “panic of looking” descends into a bone-chilling refrain that repeats the phrase, “a panic of looking at the what that we’ve got.” “if these footsteps” hits a top mark for me, it’s gravely rhythm and barely-there ambience a perfect backdrop for Holland’s description of (what I believe to be) the perpetual march of a tired, graying working class.
“watch a single swallow in a thermal sky, and try to fits its motion, or figure why it flies” flips the EP’s format on its head. Holland does not say a word, and yet still his lyricism affects the music with the song’s elongated title. “sparrow…” and “west bay” both feature classic, Eno-ified compositions that beguilingly combine equal parts hopelessness and serenity. Though the latter features a distorted, warbling vocal (not Rick’s) while “sparrow” remains instrumental, the two achieve what the songs prior did not. The first four tracks invoke otherworldly settings through bespoke synthesis and field recording, but the final two evoke those perfect dreams we’ve all had that , upon waking, we yearn to experience again. Fortunately, you can listen to Panic Of Looking as many times as you like.
[lastfm]Brian Eno[/lastfm] & [lastfm]Rick Holland[/lastfm] – Panic of Looking (Warp)
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1. in the future
2. not a story
3. panic of looking
4. if these footsteps
5. watch a single swallow in a thermal sky, and try to fit its motion, or figure why it flies
6. west bay