PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.

Music

Daniel Lanois: Belladonna

Pierre Hamilton

Daniel Lanois' instrumental voyage willingly pitches us into an ocean made turbulent by conflicting emotions.


Daniel Lanois

Belladonna

Label: Anti-
US Release Date: 2005-07-12
UK Release Date: 2005-06-06
Amazon affiliate
Amazon
iTunes

Get this: Talking is not only overrated, but in this post-modern global collage of cell phones, instant messengers, and fragmented, newfangled slang dialects, words just don't cut it. Yackety-yak don't talk back. Babbling about incessantly as we do -- almost always saying nothing at all -- the pace of our lives has reduced the English language to near-stupefying levels of superficiality. And, if this is true of everyday conversation, it has certainly infected music. So let us cast off this burden of words in music. Electronica did it. Instrumental hip-hop mounted an instrumental rebellion. There are plenty of things left to say and Daniel Lanois has found a way to say them without words.

Belladonna begins with its head underwater, submerged and held down by Lanois on the "Two Worlds". Unable to breathe, let alone speak, the mind and body recoil. Below the surface where murky waters obscure the landscape, he urges you to unleash the untapped geyser of your imagination. There and only there, in the absence of words, gorging on images, do we brush up against the beauty that is seldom seen but often heard. By the second track, "Sketches", your muscles surrender, breathing slows and air bubbles scurry to the surface. Early on, Lanois proves to be a master of navigating ambient nuances.

As the journey progresses, Lanois controls the current, introducing swirling layers of tension. His melodies sway like underwater vegetation in every Jacques Cousteau 2000 Leagues film you don't have to see to imagine, underpinning what he's done, which is to score the album by stealing the rhythm of the sea. Venturing closer to the surface, he hymn-like "Oaxaca", where the sun penetrates the water, engaged in a slow, deliberate dance that echoes in the soul.

Lanois is a malcontent, unwilling to stick with one formula he docks this album in Mexican shores on "Agave". Horns cry out, muffled by the ocean's indifference, during the short (1:58) mariachi funeral number. Most of album is in fact tinged with Mexican rhythms and upon flipping the press release over and reading the reverse side, I discover the album was born during a year-long "sojourn" in Mexico. There Lanois found solace, bringing in drummer Brian Blade (Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell), vocalist Darryl Johnson, who reaches up from the ocean floor to lends his voice to the siren song "Oaxaca", to record Belladonna -- a poisonous and deadly Eurasian herb, in case you wondered.

One thing I should mention (ripped right from the press release) is that it is Lanois' "majestic pedal steel that redeems even the album's most troubled moments." It radiates, as he says, "a glimmer of hope," which, though tough to grasp, is all you have when you're drowning in mystery's misery.

Of all my favourite things to do as a teen, one was to dunk my head underwater and hold it there for as long as possible. In doing so, I not only tested my willpower but also my desire to live. I am not so full of hyperbole and bullshit to suggest that's what's happening on Belladonna but it is. And by the time your raise your head from "Todas Santos", gasping for air and drenched by the experience of Lanois' journey, you'll realize I'm full of shit for trying to write (what I already told you) words cannot say.

8

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.

Books

Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.

Music

'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.

Music

Jazz Composer Maria Schneider Takes on the "Data Lords" in Song

Grammy-winning jazz composer Maria Schneider released Data Lords partly as a reaction to her outrage that streaming music services are harvesting the data of listeners even as they pay musicians so little that creativity is at risk. She speaks with us about the project.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 100-81

PopMatters' best albums of the 2000s begin with a series of records that span epic metal, ornate indie folk, and a terrifying work of electronic music.

Books

The Power of Restraint in Sophie Yanow, Paco Roca, and Elisa Macellari's New Graphic Novels

The magical quality that makes or breaks a graphic novel lies somewhere in that liminal space in which art and literature intersect.

Books

'People of the City' Is an Unrelenting Critique of Colonial Ideology and Praxis

Cyprian Ekwensi's People of the City is a vivid tale of class struggle and identity reclamation in the shadows of colonialism's reign.

Music

1979's 'This Heat' Remains a Lodestone for Avant-Rock Adventure

On their self-titled debut, available for the first time on digital formats, This Heat delivered an all-time classic stitched together from several years of experiments.

Film

'The Edge of Democracy' and Parallels of Political Crises

Academy Award-nominated documentary The Edge of Democracy, now streaming on Netflix, lays bare the political parallels of the rise of Bolsonaro's Brazil with Trump's America.

Music

The Pogues' 'The BBC Sessions 1984-1986' Honors Working-Class Heroes

The Pogues' BBC Sessions 1984-1986 is a welcome chapter in the musical story of these working-class heroes, who reminded listeners of the beauty and dignity of the strong, sooty backs upon which our industrialized world was built.

Music

Mary Halvorson Creates Cacophony to Aestheticize on 'Artlessly Falling'

Mary Halvorson's Artlessly Falling is a challenging album with tracks comprised of improvisational fragments more than based on compositional theory. Halvorson uses the various elements to aestheticize the confusing world around her.

Music

15 Overlooked and Underrated Albums of the 1990s

With every "Best of the '90s" retrospective comes a predictable list of entries. Here are 15 albums that are often overlooked as worthy of placing in these lists, and are too often underrated as some of the best records from the decade.

Books

'A Peculiar Indifference' Takes on Violence in Black America

Pulitzer Prize finalist Elliott Currie's scrupulous investigation of the impacts of violence on Black Americans, A Peculiar Indifference, shows the damaging effect of widespread suffering and identifies an achievable solution.

Music

20 Songs From the 1990s That Time Forgot

Rather than listening to Spotify's latest playlist, give the tunes from this reminiscence of lost '90s singles a spin.

Film

Delightful 'Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day' Is Good Escapism

Now streaming on Amazon Prime, Bharat Nalluri's 2008 romantic comedy, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, provides pleasant respite in these times of doom and gloom.

Film

The 10 Best Horror Movie Remakes

The horror genre has produced some remake junk. In the case of these ten treats, the update delivers something definitive.

Television

Flirting with Demons at Home, or, When TV Movies Were Evil

Just in time for Halloween, a new Blu-ray from Kino Lorber presents sparkling 2K digital restorations of TV movies that have been missing for decades: Fear No Evil (1969) and its sequel, Ritual of Evil (1970).

Music

Magick Mountain Are Having a Party But Is the Audience Invited?

Garage rockers Magick Mountain debut with Weird Feelings, an album big on fuzz but light on hooks.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.