The Daniel Lanois Tiny Desk Concert


The latest episode of Bob Boilen’s NPR Tiny Desk Concerts features a live performance by Daniel Lanois and his trio. 

Lanois’ latest release, Flesh And Machine, was initially conceived as an ambient album, building on his work with Brian Eno on classics like Ambient 4: On Land (1982) and Apollo: Atmospheres And Soundtracks(1983)

But the album – and this live session –  also explores Lanois’ idea of taking the ‘studio as an instrument’ concept to the world of live performance.

Here’s what Boilen has to say about the session:

I came to know Daniel Lanois through his instrumental collaboration with Brian Eno, Apollo: Atmospheres And Soundtracks, in 1983. I fell in love with Lanois’ own music through his singing and the heartfelt, textured songs on albums like 1989’s lovely Acadie (with its New Orleans flavor) and 1993’s For The Beauty Of Wynona (with its haunting sounds and stories). Most fans know Lanois as a remarkable producer for the likes of Bob Dylan, U2 and Peter Gabriel.

What Daniel Lanois brought to the Tiny Desk recalled that early work while still sounding new: He led an all-instrumental, somewhat improvisational trio based on the sort of studio processing for which he’s become famous. In essence, he brought the studio out of the studio — with the aid of two great players, drummer Brian Blade and bassist Jim Wilson — and directly to my desk. The title of Lanois’ new album, Flesh And Machine, describes the music well. He never says a word, but he sculpts some serious, hypnotic sounds.

Set List:

  • Sci Fi
  • Elevator
  • Apres Calypso

Here’s a ‘rig rundown’, via Premier Guitar, in which Lanois discusses his live setup. Note that this covers his entire live rig; the section that focuses on his electronics starts at about 21:00 into the video:

Lanois’ new album, Flesh and Machine, is available via Amazon, iTunes and other music retailers.

25 thoughts on “The Daniel Lanois Tiny Desk Concert

  1. What a remarkable juxtaposition between musicianship and f*ckin’ around. Brian Blade is awesome. Lanois usually can play the snot out of anything, except a mixer, apparently.

      1. Ahh, the comment section: home of the world weary poseur.

        I guess musicians more accomplished than they aren’t allowed to have fun or try something different, eh?

        1. There is nothing wrong with having fun and trying something different. When you do it in front of an audience you invite judgment. I am quite entitled the opinion that this effort is wildly unsuccessful. The album Lanois is promoting through his latest round of appearances is quite another story, though. It’s wonderful from start to finish.

      2. Oh please. A 5 year old would have blown up the whole rig in about 30 seconds with feedback.

        There’s a lot of really cool, subtle stuff going on here that you missed, especially on the last song where he’s using the Prime Time to take 8-bit samples of the bass and drums while they play off it, among other things that are coming off the laptop in the back.
        Killer rhythm section, but did GG Allin come back from the dead to play bass here?

  2. That rug really tied the room together, I mean: The drummer really tied the music together. If anything this reminds us of the importance of a good drummer (or some funky drum machine programming).

  3. This is an excellent and really innovative approach to performing. I liked every second. Thanks for posting it. One of the best ever.

  4. Incidentally, Underworld have been playing a mixer for twenty years, and I’m sure Rick Smith wasn’t the first to think of it.

  5. On-U-Sound/Adrian Sherwood and many more have been doing this for a long time and Lee Scratch Perry before that….its non reggae dub….its pleasant enough to listen to but far from innovative….I like it though

  6. First of all, I’ve been a Lanois fan for a long time. This was a wonderful post. I have always believed that one can “play the studio”. Sometimes the right processing, effects, or lack of any can make an entirely different musical experience AND statement. Lanois (along with Kraftwerk, Eno, Fripp, Czukay etc) prove that there is an art or even MUSICality, -ness, to “knob twiddling”. … and thank you for posting this!

  7. When you say mixer is the last thing that is creative go listen to Muslimgauze, man. It is a more instrument than a sequencer, for example (which is electronic equvalent to tape recorder. not really creative). Its like you don’t listen to music. What they play on above video is above par of most current electronic/live bands. His sonic aesthetic is mature, cohesive and arty. Not radical, but sampling ISIS is not for everyone either

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