Daniel Lanois is a name that deserves to be mentioned alongside the finest sonic experimenters of the 20th century – and the 21st century too. Whatever you’re listening to – whether it be acoustic or electronic, roots or futurist, underground or pop – if you listen closely you’ll hear traces of the sonic signatures of Daniel Lanois. And what’s more he’s still experimenting as eagerly as he ever has, creating music as beautiful and new as ever before.
It is a refusal to sit still, a constant hunger for new ideas and techniques, that has defined both his work as a world renowned producer and his solo works. Most recently, he has hit a rich creative seam, so apparent on the gorgeous, weightless album Goodbye to Language, which comes out this September 9th.
On this new album, and its widely acclaimed predecessor Flesh and Machine, Lanois connects the most forward-looking instincts that constant contact with studio technology can develop with the natural rootedness that only a lifetime in music can give a person.
The work he did on Brian Eno’s ambient albums has entered into legend and would lead him onto working on some of the biggest selling records of the time. Working with Bob Dylan he brought out a roland TR-808 drum machine to use as a compositional tool – kickstarting the groove of the Oh Mercy album, and helping make it one of the most dramatic creative reinventions in Dylan’s career. A few years later, he and Eno helped bring the electronic music culture that they themselves had helped to inspire into U2’s Achtung Baby.
Goodbye to Language is the perfect joining of the dots, through the world-changing experiments of his early days with Eno, through his flights through the most rarefied atmospheres of the mainstream of music. Constructed entirely from the sounds of the pedal steel guitar, Daniel on the pedal steel and his mate Rocco Deluca on the lap steel with compositional rigour that recalls the 20th century dreamscapes of Ravel and Debussy, with a sense of sonic futurism and yet also with the naturalness that can only come from someone rooted in centuries of grassroots music.
And while fusions of influence can sometimes lead to homogenisation in the blending of source material, this record does precisely the opposite: it’s about highlighting the highest common factors from a lifetime of influences. Or as he succinctly puts it: “I operate under the banner of soul music – music that just feels right and comes from a truthful place.” When a musician with as much expertise and experience as Daniel tells their own personal truth, you should really listen closely.