Fabrice Coffrini, AFP There are a myriad of genres one can associate with…
- Posted on Nov 1st 2010 12:30PM by Lonny Knapp
Jeff Chiu, AP
"It was the primary way we communicated; I have enough texts to fill a book," Lanois tells Spinner.
Lanois produced Young's recently-released 34th studio album, 'Le Noise,' and says he and Young exchanged hundreds of text messages and even adopted code names for each other.
"He was 'Pine Cone,' and I was 'Le Noise.'"
Lanois was "completely surprised" when Young chose his nickname to christen the album. Fittingly, that is exactly how many in the industry felt when news of the collaboration broke.
Daniel Lanois is an innovative knob-twiddler whose polished production work on seminal U2 recordings 'The Unforgettable Fire' and 'Joshua Tree' helped transform the Dublin rock band into an international juggernaut. His use of studio effects and inspired recording techniques to create lush soundscapes has earned him a place among the world's most sought-after producers.
Throughout his storied career, Young has steered clear of glossy production, and, with the exception of 'Mirror Ball' -- the Brendan O'Brien-produced mid-nineties album that saw Pearl Jam backing the godfather of grunge -- he has eschewed collaborations with big name producers. In the studio, ol' Shakey strives for authenticity, recording each song live off the floor in as few takes as possible to produce the expressive but imperfect performances to define his best recordings.
Musically, the two Grammy-winning Canadians seem to have little in common.
Lanois admits that in early discussions he and Young wanted to make different albums; he imagined "a massive production," whereas Young wanted to make a stripped-down collection of acoustic songs. But after swapping a slew of text messages, the artists found some middle ground.
Recorded live off the floor in "four three-day sessions under the full moon" at Lanois' Los Angeles studio, 'Le Noise' finds Young accompanying himself on heavily-wired acoustic and electric guitars, while Lanois extracts, loops, and carefully reinserts elements back into the mix in real time.
Videographer Adam Volick filmed the sessions, and his 38-minute black-and-white movie, 'Le Noise Film,' is an essential companion to the recording. To see Young -- a lonesome figure in silhouette, eliciting oceans of sound from a single guitar -- is to see the coffee house troubadour rewired for a modern age.
With the exception of the misguided yet predictive 1982 release 'Trans,' which featured Young disguising his inimitable voice through a vocoder and coming off like Steven Hawking on amphetamines, this is his most processed album to date. It's also his most intimate in years.
Recent recordings such as 'Living with War' and 'Fork in the Road' find Young in full protest mode, rallying against the war in Iraq, the failing economy, and America's foolhardy reliance on fossil fuels. In contrast, the eight-tracks that populate 'Le Noise' are decidedly autobiographical.
'Hitchhiker' with its laundry list of consumed narcotics is as heartfelt as 'Heart of Gold,' while 'Love and War' finds the protest singer questioning his ability to affect change through song.
On 'Le Noise' Lanois pulls inspired performances from an aging rock icon, and gets kudos for producing an album that not only stands up to, but also distinguishes itself from, every recording in the artist's expansive back catalogue. Known as the go-to guy for career revitalization, Lanois recently produced the solo debut from the Killers frontman Brandon Flowers, and has teamed with giants Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, and Robbie Robertson in transformative points in their careers, emerging with seminal recordings.
Lanois admits to being "awestruck" by the opportunity to work with a living legend like Young. And you get the feeling that this time, it was he who emerged from those session with a renewed sense of purpose.
"I have a huge admiration for him, and he's a great writer -- the tiniest thing will inspire him to finish a song," he says. "I gotta hand it to him, I know how much time I've spent in the recording studio, and I think Neil's spent longer holding the guitar and writing songs."