On 2016's Goodbye to Language, veteran producer Daniel Lanois and frequent collaborator Rocco DeLuca team up for an album of shifting experimental soundscapes created with lapsteel guitars. The album is far closer to Lanois' pioneering ambient works with Brian Eno, Harold Budd, and Michael Brook from the 1980s than his subsequent, more rootsy singer/songwriter albums. As the album's title suggests, there are no lyrics here, and the feelings evoked by this music can't accurately be expressed by words anyway. As simple as the idea of an ambient steel guitar album sounds, there's a lot going on here, and it never feels like mere background music. The guitar playing itself tends to be gentle, but it's filtered through a wide array of effects and subtle manipulations, resulting in a surreal hallucination of Americana. The album brings to mind any number of recordings featuring B.J. Cole, as well as Evil Graham Lee's steel guitar playing on the KLF's Chill Out, and while it evokes a spiritual journey similar to that iconic album, it feels far more fragmented and abstract. There are numerous moments where the guitars rapidly cut out, cluster, or change timbre as if they've been edited musique concrète-style. It's very disjointed, and there's no way to mistake the sudden, jarring shifts, but somehow it still manages to flow smoothly, even (for the most part) peacefully. Only one piece on this album ("Deconstruction") was recorded by Lanois solo, and it's easily the darkest, eeriest cut, with strange rifts bubbling under the desolate melodies and waves of abrasive distortion rivaling Fennesz or Tim Hecker. Goodbye to Language is a powerful, intoxicating album and one of Lanois' best works in at least a decade.
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AllMusic Review by Paul Simpson