23 compositions written and performed by James
and Brian Eno.
Comentaries by Brian Eno on the inner record sleeve:
"Improvisations are almost always the seeds for James"
songs. Before we started the formal recordings
sessions for what became the 'Laid' album I spent
some days working with the band in their rehearsal
room in Manchester, seeing extraordinary pieces of
music appearing out of nowhere. It occurred to me
that this raw material was, in its own chaotic and
perilous way, as much a part of their work as the
songs that would finally grow out of it. The music
was always on the edge of breakdown, held together by
taught threads, semi-formed, evolving, full of
beautiful, unrepeatable collisions and exotic
collusions. I suggested that, instead of working on
just one record (- the 'song' record, for which we'd
already agreed a very tight schedule) we find two
studios next to each other and develop two albums
concurrently - one of structured songs, and the other
of these improvisations. It seemed pretty ambitious
at the time, but we decided to aim for it. Generally,
we improvised late at night and in very dim light. We
worked on huge reels of tape, so that we could play
for over an hour without reel-changes. Strange new
worlds took shape out of bewildering deserts of
confusion, consolidated, lived gloriously for a few
minutes, and then crumbled away. We never tried
making anything twice. Once it had gone, we went
somewhere else. Ben Fenner, who was engineering,
attentively and unobtrusively coped with unpredictable
level and instrument changes in near total darkness,
leaving us to wander around our new landscapes. I
asked Markus Dravs, who'd worked as my assistant at
my place, to come down and occupy one of the studios.
I wanted him to to look at the improvisations and see
what he could make of them while we carried on with
the 'song' record. We'd select a promising section
from an improvisation and he'd investigate it. Using
bits of processing equipment and treatment techniques
evolved in my studio, he'd evolve new soundscapes
located somewhere at the outer edge of aural culture.
We were initially too busy in the other studio to
bother him much, which left him free to work with the
material in much the same spirit as it was originally
performed - by improvising at the console. As the days
passed and there became less group work to do on the
'song' record, people spent more time in the wild
studio, emerging from the jungle of interconnected
equipment in the early hours. We worked very long
days, but there was always enough going on to prevent
any loss of momentum. Things happened very quickly.
My mixes from the jams were all done in a single
afternoon: I was trying to get a little of each jam
onto DAT because there was so much new work flying
around that it was hard to remember it all. I made
fifty-five mixes that day and never mixed anything
twice. I wasn't expecting that we would use these
mixes in the end, but it turned out that this fast,
impulsive way of working was right in the spirit of
the performances, and the results often make a
cinematic, impressionistic counterpoint to the
elaborate post-industrial drama of Markus' mixes.
They set each other off well: the combination feels
like being at the edge of somewhere - where industry
merges with the landscape, metal with space,
corrupted machinery with unsettled weather patterns,
data-noise with insect chatter."
- Brian Eno, June 1993.
"Every song we've ever created was spawned from
improvisation. We'd go into a room and make a racket.
For the first few years of James, from three hours of
cacophany would come maybe two minutes of semi-
coherence. This would be the seed of a song which we
would attempt to repeat and This would be the seed
of a song which we would attempt to repeat and refine
and eventually reveal in public. Gradually we have
become more efficient in our method of extraction.
All the songs on "Laid" evolved from this process.
All but three pieces of "Wah Wah" are being born as
you hear them in an attempt to capture the moment of
creation spontaneously. With love."
- Tim Booth, July 1994.