Release Date: Sep 9, 2016
Record label: Anti-
Genre(s): Electronic, Ambient, Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Experimental Rock
The pedal steel guitar is a remarkably complex instrument, both a marvel of modern engineering and a stubborn beast. It’s predicated on the idea of a hard cylinder skating up and down the fretboard, and all the tradeoffs required to bend notes and chords around its sleek but unforgiving axis. To allow the notes to glide the way they do, while still letting players modulate chords in the fashion of a conventional guitar, workarounds had to be built into the instrument as it developed over the years: a mind-boggling array of foot pedals and knee levers, plus multiple necks of 10 or even 14 strings each.
On 2016's Goodbye to Language, veteran producer Daniel Lanois and frequent collaborator Rocco DeLuca team up for an album of shifting experimental soundscapes created with lapsteel guitars. The album is far closer to Lanois' pioneering ambient works with Brian Eno, Harold Budd, and Michael Brook from the 1980s than his subsequent, more rootsy singer/songwriter albums. As the album's title suggests, there are no lyrics here, and the feelings evoked by this music can't accurately be expressed by words anyway.
If one of Daniel Lanois’s solo albums ever happened to be instrumental, it tended to be securely anchored in some kind of subgenre. While Belladonna built its mood in an Americana-flavored haze, Flesh and Machine took the noisy route to constructing sound collages. For Goodbye to Language, the legendary producer has done away with such anchors. This is Daniel Lanois completely weightless, in space, without a beat to be heard.
You likely know his name from production work on albums by mega-artists including U2, Bob Dylan, Peter Gabriel, and Willie Nelson. You might also know him from his spacious soundscapes with Brian Eno. But did you know Daniel Lanois is also one helluva pedal steel player? I didn't..