Release Date: Jul 1, 2014
Record label: Warp
Genre(s): Electronic, Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Synth Pop, Electro-Acoustic
In 2010, the announcement that Brian Eno had signed to Warp Records was an event. His decades-long history of groundbreaking electronic music had a lot to do with Warp even existing at all, so the fact he was going to be working with the imprint known for taking the torch in the 1990s and 2000s brought dreams of great things. Lost in the excitement was the memory that Eno had for a number of years been making low-key records that made little impact outside of his cult.
Apparently Karl Hyde and Brian Eno needed to record a full album together before they could get really get warmed up. The pair’s May 2014 release Someday World was pleasant enough but felt like the two songwriters involved were still feeling each other out, unsure about how to completely commit to this creative process. There’s nothing of that sensation on High Life.
Shortly after releasing Someday World in May, ambient music master Brian Eno and Underworld's Karl Hyde produced a second joint album over five days by recording and processing live improvisations in front of a group of journalists. High Life feels a bit more Eno than Hyde, though the Underworld singer's penchant for New Romanticism is evident in the winsome melodies and artfully droning guitar that punctuate Eno's obsession with North African polyrhythmic pulsations. By dispensing with typical pop structure in favour of improvisation and repetition, the pair achieve and maintain an openness and momentum that Someday World lacked.
High Life, the second collaboration between Brian Eno and Underworld's Karl Hyde, began immediately after the completion of Someday World. Its release follows a mere two months later. While some traits of the former are present here -- a heavy reliance on African-sourced rhythms, and hypnotically repetitive keyboard and bassline -- it is a very different companion.
The second album that Brian Eno and Karl Hyde have made together in 2014 is probably the better of the two, but it’s also the more frustrating one. Unlike May’s Someday World, High Life has a consistent level of quality. But also unlike that record, this one mostly doesn’t hit the heights that Hyde and Eno managed to for about half the album. High Life is the inverse of Someday World in other ways too.
Leftovers for afters? High Life swiftly follows Someday World, May's debut excursion by ambient guru Brian Eno and half of Underworld, Karl Hyde, who would have you believe that these are not offcuts, just an excess of ideas that deserved release. They are right, though, especially on one count: DBF is a terrific, jazz-tinged, African-inspired funk workout made from looped guitars. Having named this album after a west African genre, used a picture of a hillside favela on the sleeve and invoked Fela Kuti and Steve Reich, you'd rather hope their systems/world music jams might be more wiggy than they are.
High Life is the second album from Eno • Hyde—a collaboration between Karl Hyde (of Underworld) and Brian Eno (of everything)—in as many months. Its predecessor, Someday World, was something of a surprise coming from them, considering its preponderance of pop melodies and forms. High Life feels like an extension of it, but is perhaps more of what we expected the first time around.
There are certain albums that much of the listening populace has written off — Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music, for one, plus a few ’70s goofs from Gregg Allman, Elvis, and Emerson, Lake & Palmer. Want an even better example? Just ask Greil Marcus what he thinks of Bob Dylan’s surreal folk disaster Self-Portrait — or read for yourself. Whether or not you choose to uphold these records’ redeeming qualities, the point is that great artists can, and do, make terrible albums.
In the same way that there's no such thing as a terrible Pablo Picasso painting, it's hard to imagine Brian Eno releasing a record worthy of dismissal, let alone contempt. Some of his 50-odd solo and collaborative albums may be more difficult than others. A few may require you abide by the composer's request that listeners experience them as background music.
Brian Eno & Karl Hyde High Life (Warp) On this second joint release in four months, studio sage Brian Eno and Underworld's Karl Hyde produce something otherworldly. Though the onetime Roxy Music synthesist remains lauded for production of U2, Coldplay, and Talking Heads, Eno's solo style defines eccentric, and the ambient godfather's aesthetic imprint weighs heavily on High Life. Clearly intended more for its makers' personal benefit than mass appeal, the LP's brazen from the get-go.
High Life is Karl Hyde and Brian Eno’s second album together in only a couple of months. That it was recorded and produced in just five days almost immediately after their first LP, Someday World, would seem to suggest a throwaway quality to the project you might not expect from such a high-profile collaboration. As such, High Life is something of a pleasant surprise.
Just weeks after the release of their first collaborative album, Eno (Brian) Hyde (Karl) have a second collection recorded, produced and ready for release. High Life follows Someday World, an electronic rock record that wasn’t particularly comparable to either artist’s previous output. While Eno is perhaps best known now for his production credits (with Coldplay and U2 sitting proudly at the top of the list), his solo albums have produced an unapologetically ambient sound, while Karl Hyde’s work as a member of Underworld has provided the world with some of the most iconic house anthems.