Spirit of Eden is one of those legendary albums. A complete change from their beginnings as Duran Duran contemporaries, about as far removed from standard rock/pop releases as you can get. Holed up in an abandoned church for 14 months their label were shocked with what emerged. The public were indifferent while critics raved for years afterwards.
Funereal in pace, and indeed in lyrical content, Mark Hollis was undergoing problems with heroin addiction at the time and this probably accounts for much of the mood. Tim Friese-Greene, while not an original member, had now formed, with Mark hollis, the driving force behind the band. He produced and played 4 of the 20 odd instruments(or vocals) mentioned on the record.
Listening to this at night with no distractions, the emotion of this record gets to you. Mark’s tortured voice conveys in fragments the despair of his life at the time.
The music is wholly made up of organic instruments. The synthesisers present on previous releases are completely absent. but we do have piano, harmonium, organ, dobro, mesican bass, double bass, trumpet, violin, shozygs, bassoon, oboe, clarinet, car anglais, as well as the standard guitar, bass, drums and the choir of Chelmsford cathedral.
Every track starts off very slowly and simply before building, not in speed but in presence, revealing a magnificence to the arrangments, with each of those instruments coming in at seemingly random moments. This record is all about atmosphere, not about catchy choruses.
There are times when, a drumbeat say, on Inheritance, kicks in and you salivate at the sheer natural beauty of the sound.
The recording is all analogue and without fault. The pressing is solid, but its getting difficult to find one of these in mint condition. This album and the ‘Laughing Stock’ followup are begging for the audiophile reissue treatment. They don’t need to be improved upon, they just need to be available.