Eno – Hyde: Someday World UK 2xCD 
- The Satellites
- Daddy’s Car
- A Man Wakes Up
- Strip It Down
- Mother Of A Dog
- Who Rings The Bell
- When I Built This World
- To Us All
- Big Band Song
- Brazil 3
- Titian Bekh
Sacre Coeur! This delightful package arrived via air mail a few weeks ago and I was in the middle of the Moofgest thread that I only broke for a few re-runs while I was out of town for the bulk of a week recently. Suffice to say, that this little DLX package accompanied us in the car trip to neighboring states. Let’s not beat around the bush; this is my favorite Eno recording since “Wrong Way Up,” made in collaboration with John Cale in 1990. The balance and range of music makes for a perfectly realized album that provides 45 prime minutes of entertainment and keeps you wanting more.
That chief collaborator Karl Hyde has always been linked with Eno in my mind for 30 years, owing almost entirely to his choice of couture while singling lead in personal heroes Freur. Here is is an invaluable foil [along with Fred Gibson] for Eno to approach pop at this later stage in the game. Eno and Hyde each carry lead vocals on a roughly equal number of tracks, with each being prominent in the backing vocal department when the other is on lead.
Opener “The Satellites” was a dandy foretaste for the project, with the throbbing motorik of Eno’s pulsing bass synths and drum box providing a delightfully updated Krautrock vibe that brought to mind Bowie in Berlin. What I had thought were synth horns, were an actual horn section formed of Mady Mackay and Georgia Gibson. Ms. Gibson’s baritone sax interjections have the whiff of Bowie on sax, so that did nothing to dispel the comparisons I’ve made.
“Daddy’s Car” saw Hyde taking the mic for a funky, percolating track that had strong hints of latin jazz rising up in the fleet footed arrangement. The lightest touch of a breakbeat was present here, and the coda, which saw the core trio joined by Marianne Champion for electric backing vocals that saw the voices split into two lines, with the smoother vocals brilliantly offset by the rhythmic unison vocals that ended the song on a cold note and the rest of the track faded down. Why not listen?
Providing more than his dulcet vocal tones, Hyde contributed most of the guitars here and they are a bright and varied lot. “A Man Wakes Up” offers loads of clean, African tone, but there are also dustings of acoustics used throughout the album. “Witness” has touchstones to earlier Eno songs, but it coalesces into something stronger that the tentative experiments that perhaps preceded it. Hints of the “Wrong Way Up” sound echo here most strongly, but the song’s electric middle eight pulls in DNA from the last Eno “pop” album [“Another Day On Earth”] to a much stronger effect. At that point, the song drops down to a drone and Kasia Daszykowska recites a list of of words cleanly and dispassionately for several bard before the rest of the song returns for the finale. It reminded me of the vocals on “Another Day On Earth’s” closing cut “Bone Bomb,” but more fully realized her for its delightful contrast.
Fans of Eno’s cheeky credit descriptions will smile at the “tolkien synth” that “Strip It Down” offers, and Neil Catchpole, a veteran of the “Wrong Way Up”‘ sessions again contributes his violin and viola stylings here. Hyde’s robust carrying of the choral verses provides the song with a memorable hook that has seen it lodged in my brainpan for the better part of a week now.
The tone of the album changes for “Mother Of A Dog,” with its spare, percussive sound suggestive of Native American music. The addition of Hyde’s subtle harmonica appears here for the first, but not last time on the album. The track’s crystalline coda has sequencers of synths creating a Philip Glass-like rhythm that recalls cicadas singing along. Fred Gibson’s gorgeous backing vocal harmonies along with his “crescendo guitar,” bring this track to a delightful conclusion.
My immediate favorite song here was the superb “Who Rings The Bell,” and while I love all of the tracks of the album, none have manages to dislodge this one from pole position. In the end, it all comes down to the interplay between the plaintive lead vocals by Hyde with the euphonious backing vocals from Tessa Angus, Darla Eno, and the aforementioned Ms. Champion. It makes this song the stuff of dreams.
The tone shifts most strongly for Eno’s “When I Built This World.” I’m not quite certain what to make of this track. It sounds interesting. It begins with anxiety-inducing dissonance that sets an appropriately apprehensive tone for the song, which posits a narrator reeling with regret over the terrible decisions he’s made. The glitchy vocal production suggests that everything is careening off the rails for this person. The experiments with Auto-Tune that surfaced perhaps arbitrarily on “Another Day On Earth” at least have a proper context here. Then the song abruptly shifts tone to continue in what I can only call a Gypsy funk vein until it’s midpoint. There, the first verse was repeated, albeit in a slightly more upbeat fashion followed by a repetitive groove coda that has the non-committal vibe of a Philip Glass composition that begins to approach triumph; albeit with glacial slowness. After 2:40 of this coda, then track ends on a cold note, but by this time, my ears were ready for the track to end for a good 90 seconds.
Fortunately, Eno brings it all back home with the nearly breathtaking finalé, “To Us All” which is a song that makes one wish that it was at least twice as long as its 3:27 running time. It’s all sunshine and warm vocals, evoking summertime redemption following the spiritual malaise of the previous song. The cut ends the album proper on a lilting up note that’s hard to top.
Perhaps wisely, the bonus four track EP doesn’t attempt to be anything other than what would have been B-sides in an earlier time. “Big Band Song” features a steady mechanical rhythm that gets progressively glitched out as the song progresses to its shambolic end. “Brazil 3” is all Eno with a track that’s largely percussive and remains slight even in its 1:47 running time. The gift on this EP is the final track, the only song here with vocals, “Titian Bekh,” wherein Karl Hyde give our ears the kind of English folk song that we knew he had in him after hearing “Get Us Out Of Here.” It’s all acoustic guitars and the last thing most would expect from the singer from Underworld Mk II.
Were these four cuts appended to the album, it would have clipped its wings somewhat. Tellingly, these four tracks are largely solo efforts by Eno or Hyde. They exist to illuminate the scope of the collaboration by contrast. The nine track album proper is much stronger in its sequencing and listening arc than it would have been with these sketches. Discerning shoppers wouldn’t be missing too much by running with the stock album, though the mini-hardcover/slipcase presentation is very nice. But that advice aside, listeners of Eno or Hyde should do themselves a favor and track down this effervescent album as soon as possible. It rewards frequent play like the champ it is, and suggests that the rumors of another Eno•Hyde collaboration* will give us more gifts in the months ahead. I can see a spot on my top releases of 2014 list already with this one.
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* Fortunately for us, it’s not a rumor, see here; paragraph three.