My Life in the Bush of Ghosts

Studio Album by released in 2006

My Life in the Bush of Ghosts review

My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts is a strange record

25 years ago, musical demi-gods Brian Eno and David Byrne decided to make a record together. Both were known for their diversity and innovation, having already significantly influenced the musical climate they dwelled in, and in working on Talking Heads' Remain In Light the pair had already established a creative relationship. The ensuing record, named after an African folktale written a further 25 years earlier, was My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts and took its listener on a sensory voyage around the far-flung corners of the world, beginning in the mind and ending in the middle of some dark, anonymous forest. The R2-D2 and C-3P0 of art rock took found voices they taped off the radio, from Egyptian disco singers to whacked-out American talk-radio preachers. Since sampling technology didn't exist yet, they used tape splicing to create similar effects, cutting and pasting the radio voices on top of jazz-fusion noodling from Bill Laswell and other friends. My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts is a strange record: fragments of found sound are laid over clattering African percussion; the voices hint at narrative but there are no songs, only moods.

The seven extra tracks here attach themselves easily to the record

Over the last decades, hundreds of artists in genres ranging from DJs to alternative to electronic have all borrowed from My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts’ ideas and claimed its influence. It is now being re-issued featuring seven previously unreleased tracks from the original album – but not Qu'Ran, a track from the initial release featuring Algerian Islamic chants, cut because of fatwa-dodging concerns that unfortunately still apply. The seven extra tracks here attach themselves easily to the record, and provide a metaphorical route back out of the jungle that My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts leaves you stranded in; Two Against Three’s optimistic pipes, simplistic tribal hook and handclaps pull you out of the supernatural gloom into life again, and Defiant reintroduces sliced up American voices into the melee. The last cut, Solo Guitar with Tin Foil, features someone, presumably Byrne, playing a haunting tune on a guitar with an impossibly clean tone – a fitting end to an album that, for all its transcontinental fingerprints, sounds strikingly free of impurities. These added outtakes are well-explored ideas rather than self-contained works, but they fit well on a record that pursues this very ethic from start to finish.

My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts still sounds fresh as a daisy

Though Eno and Byrne claimed the record wasn't based on the book it borrowed its name from, the narrative of a boy lost in a spectre-laden jungle for a quarter of a century is wordlessly borne out here, as the trappings of Western pop music are slowly filtered out, leaving the listener lost, alone and accepting, by the end, in an wilderness of sinuous, woody echoes. The songs on My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts present myriad elements from around the world in the same jumbled stew, without regard for race, creed, or color. My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts is a simulacrum; even as its snatched elements float anchorless throughout the record, they ring as true as if they were recorded by Eno and Byrne in their natural environments, and meld together into something quietly but instantly eye-opening that is less a scrapbook than a seamless journey. It still sounds fresh as a daisy. The content (Muslims chanting; US foreign policy on America Is Waiting) is eerily prescient. It's hard not to be astonished by the spirit of something like The Jezebel Spirit, which whisks a recording of an exorcism into a dance track. As an experimental project, My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts is clever and varied, and a vital chapter in the history of electronic music and sampling. As a pop record, it's tantalizing, sensitive and essential; if you don't already own My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts, the reissue's extra tracks make now as good a time as any.