The majority of significant music producers have been behind-the-scenes craftsmen, content to express themselves by way of the featured artists they collaborate with. Daniel Lanois doesn?t fit that mold. A world-class studio wizard, he?s helped guide to fruition such iconic albums as Peter Gabriel?s So and Bob Dylan?s Time Out of Mind, as well as The Joshua Tree by U2, a band he?s continued to work with 20 years on. But Lanois is also his own man: an exceptionally talented multi-instrumentalist, composer, and recording artist. His new Here Is What Is arrives as both an album and a filmed documentary (both separately available). Lanois?s songs, as suggestively poetic as they might be, seem inseparable from his signature studio craft. Constructing a sonic environment that’s equally rootsy and ethereal, Lanois conjures up spooky music that?s hard to shake off. His guitar playing — particularly his exquisite work on the pedal steel guitar — speaks more eloquently and effectively than his somewhat limited vocalizing. Interspersed spoken comments (drawn from the film) from frequent Lanois cohort Brian Eno act mainly as come-ons to the worthy documentary. Here Is What Is, the film, traces Lanois?s international wanderings as he constructs the album and squires projects with U2 and Sin‚ad O?Connor. Refreshingly free of self-aggrandizement, the documentary may be most intriguing for its focus on Lanois?s trusted collaborators, particularly the accomplished drummer Brian Blade and Eno, in his role as roving philosopher. And each time the camera settles on the studio savant and his pedal steel, cinematic and musical joy are guaranteed. -
About the Author
Steve Futterman writes the "Jazz and Standards" listings for The New Yorker.