Sign up for our mailing list Real artists creating records on their own terms

Sign up for our mailing list


Wednesday, June 8th, 2005

The New York Times covers Daniel Lanois

Daniel Lanois's songs don't sound composed so much as hewn: roughly carved out of some sturdy primordial material like hardwood or, perhaps, rock.

They're not fancy; they still have unpolished spots. They let laconic melodies arise out of a few standard chords, to be repeated with modest variations for the length of a piece. They don't rush, and when they settle into a rhythm it's usually as basic as a march, a waltz or a reggae beat. For Mr. Lanois, musical simplicity leaves open spaces to be filled by wordless emotion.

Skip to next paragraph Enlarge This Image

Billy Tompkins for The New York Times Daniel Lanois playing guitar at the Hiro Ballroom.

Forum: Popular Music At Hiro Ballroom on Tuesday night, he performed material from his new album of instrumentals, "Belladonna" (Anti), which was released Tuesday in Canada and is due July 12 in the United States. Playing guitar, pedal steel guitar or a hand-held keyboard, he led what he called an orchestra: drums, guitar, bass or keyboard, and, for a few songs, a trumpeter and a female singer. It was orchestral enough; the songs welled up to fill the room for a spellbound audience. Behind him, video screens showed angels, open roads, kaleidoscopic patterns and, for one song, live images of the drummer, Brian Blade.

Mr. Lanois has a thriving career as a producer for, among others, U2, Bob Dylan and Peter Gabriel. His own music reflects the contemplative side of what he does with them. There's Celtic music in his open chords and picked patterns; there's spiky blues syncopation and the choppy primitivist rock of his fellow Canadian Neil Young. When Mr. Lanois switches to pedal steel guitar, the songs take on a just a hint of country, but he also makes each hovering chord appear and vanish like an ectoplasm. And when Mr. Lanois set the beat aside now and then, to toy with sustained chords and shards of tunes, there was a trace of Indian music in the ways a melody gradually emerged from a mode.

The pieces developed through texture: the way Mr. Lanois teased out a note or gave it a distorted edge, the way Mr. Blade's cymbals filled out a sustained phrase like wind in a sail, the way a bass line became a counterpoint or an almost unnoticed pulse. One piece, "Oaxaca," was just a melody repeated in unison, each time starting out almost tentative and then turning richly inevitable. The music was pensive but never glum: more awestruck by its own imaginary landscapes. And when Mr. Lanois finally sang - on past albums he has written songs with words - it was to announce, "I feel joy." It's the joy of making music that seems selfless but is unmistakably handmade by a very distinctive hand.

By JON PARELES Published: June 7, 2005

Facebook | Twitter | Google Plus

Browse by Artist

1514All Artists 95Tom Waits 61Mavis Staples 52Neko Case 51Lost In The Trees 50Sean Rowe 48Dr. Dog 41Jolie Holland
40Bettye LaVette 38The Milk Carton Kids 37Man Man 33Tim Fite 33DeVotchKa 31Islands 31Grinderman 30Tinariwen 27Galactic 27Wilco 27Son Little 24Michael Franti and Spe... 22Bob Mould 22William Elliott Whitmo... 22Saintseneca 21Nick Cave & The Bad Se... 21The Frames 20Joe Henry 19Booker T. Jones 19Sage Francis 18Doe Paoro 17John K. Samson 17Yann Tiersen 16Ramblin Jack Elliott 16Jason Lytle 15Christopher Paul Stell... 14Glen Hansard 13Daniel Lanois 13Billy Bragg 13Andy Shauf 12Xavier Rudd 12Xenia Rubinos 12Peter Silberman 11The Weakerthans 11Lyrics Born 11Rain Machine 11Mose Allison 11Roky Erickson 11The Antlers 11Calexico 11Prism Tats 10The Swell Season 10The Melodic 10Delicate Steve 9Marianne Faithfull 9N.A.S.A. 9Deafheaven 9So Much Light 9Cameron Avery 8Solillaquists of Sound 8Greg Graffin 8Cadence Weapon 8The Coup 7Elliott Smith 7Eddie Izzard 7Dead Man's Bones 7Alec Ounsworth 7Beth Orton 7Kelly Hogan 7Title Fight 7Jade Jackson 7Los Angeles Police Dep... 6A Girl Called Eddy 6Busdriver 6Os Mutantes 6Kate Bush 6Broken Twin 6The Drums 5One Day As A Lion 5The Field 5Keaton Henson 5Beat Connection 5Japandroids 5The Dream Syndicate 4Ersi Arvizu 4Marketa Irglova 4Pops Staples 3Danny Cohen 3Sierra Leones Refugee... 3Petra Haden 3Cass McCombs 3Girlpool 3Curtis Harding 3Ben Harper and Charlie... 2Various Artists: RANGO 2Jeff Tweedy 1Tricky 1Joe Strummer And The M... 1Youth Group 1Blackalicious 1Antibalas 1Porter Wagoner 1Various Artists: ROGUE... 1The Locust 1Rogue's Gallery 1Kronos Quartet with Br... 1Simian Mobile Disco 1case/lang/veirs 1Merle Haggard 1Un Blonde 1Rafiq Bhatia
See Full List+